The Arab World: Past, Present, and Future

The Arab World: Past, Present, and Future

The Arab World: Past, Present, and Future

The Arab World: Past, Present, and Future

Excerpt

There are peoples in the wide world whom it is our bounden duty to know. There are also peoples whom it is a delight to know. There are peoples whom it is both a duty and a delight to know-- and such by all counts are the Arabs.

Our Arab neighbors for centuries have given character, meaning, and flavor to the entire Middle East--a character never dull, never mean, never quite obvious, which some have called a trifle enigmatic, with its own dimensions of majesty and depth, its own capacities for that union of reason and passion which is the life of history. They hold the cross-roads of three continents, and their political decisions will affect the course of world-history-including our own history--for years to come. We need to know them from many angles--that of the scholar, the diplomat, the man of business, the man of letters, the artist, the philosopher--and that of the woman, who may be all of these things and surely more.

It has been centuries since the Arabs could be identified with a habitat or origin in the Arabian peninsula, as they were for the Greeks and Romans--centuries, too, since the Arab nomad with his camel could symbolize any large fraction of the Arab people. Yet the physical fascination of that difficult terrain, which has done so much to shield historic Arabia from interested intruders, favoring the quiet and immediate intercourse of the human solitaire with the infinitudes of distance and the deep mysteries of the night sky, can never be wholly severed from the suggestion of the word 'Arab': one is reminded of the saying which Walter Bagehot applies to the life of nations, that "all great things are prepared in secret," sheltered in some geographic womb from the vicissitudes of irrelevant world-affairs.

Neither can the Arab peoples be precisely identified with the Moslem faith, for three reasons: Islam has far outgrown the Arab world; the Arab peoples include many Christians and other non- Moslem Arabs; the Moslem of today is making his own accounts with the modern spirit and with the problems of strict observance. Yet it was the electric spread of Islam that created the classical Arab domain, and with the aid of the Arabic language--and a mar-

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