agrees there is something wrong in the Middle East. To western eyes it is a
troubled region of dictators and extremists. Arabs, on the other
hand, often blame centuries of western interference. To many – both east and west
– the root problem is a lack of freedom, but
what exactly does that mean? Is it just a matter of toppling
autocratic regimes and holding free elections?
Looking beyond the turmoil reported on our TV screens, journalist Brian
Whitaker examines the "freedom deficit" as it affects Arabs in
their daily lives: their struggles against corruption,
discrimination and bureaucracy, and the authoritarianism that
pervades homes, schools and mosques – as well as presidential
palaces – stifling fresh ideas and initiative.
Based on his experiences as Middle East Editor for the Guardian
newspaper, together with new research conducted specially for this
book, Whitaker argues that the solution lies mainly in the hands
of Arabs themselves. Intervention by western governments brings
limited benefits and can easily become counter-productive. In
order to enjoy peace, prosperity and full participation in
today’s global economy, Arabs must escape the prison of their
own history and embrace not only political change but far-reaching
social and cultural change too.
Brian Whitaker is the author of Unspeakable Love: Gay and Lesbian Life in the Middle
East, (Saqi Books) and The
Birth of Modern Yemen (an e-book available online).
"A passionate call for political and social change in Arab countries ... and a stern critique of the status
Jeremy Bowen, BBC Middle East Editor
[Should] be required reading by Arab elites from the Atlantic to the Gulf... This book will anger some and excite others. It is one of the most ambitious attempts in recent years by a western writer to analyse what is really wrong with the Middle
Patrick Seale, al-Hayat
Whitaker writes with empathy and insight about the many ills that afflict Arab society ... a lively, highly readable and illuminating survey.
Avi Shlaim, The Guardian
“Brian Whitaker knows the Arab world. At a time when various media are closing their bureaus in the region and resort to parachuting in journalists,
his latest book comes as a welcome breath of fresh knowledge and insight. He doesn’t pontificate to Arabs but gives voice instead to the wide network of Arabs he knows well. The kaleidoscope of views and voices he’s gathered here disarms lazy
generalisations about the 'Arab Street' and shows that for all its problems, the region has plenty of men and women who want to fix what’s really wrong with it.”
Mona Eltahawy, columnist and public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues.
"The book represents such a disturbing notion of cultural bias that it would be
unsavoury for any God-fearing Arab to open it."
Sumayyah Meehan, Elan website
(Europe, Middle East)