Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Arab Psyche and American Frustrations

Academic journal article Middle East Quarterly

The Arab Psyche and American Frustrations

Article excerpt

The Arab Psyche and American Frustrations. By Monte Palmer. Charleston: self-published via CreateSpace, 2012. 327 pp. $20, paper.

Palmer, professor emeritus at Florida State University and former director of the Center for Arab and Middle Eastern Studies at the American University of Beirut, has written a compelling book to "help Americans and Europeans better understand how the Arabs view the world, and why they behave the way that they do." Written in conversational English, the author covers a range of variables, which Westerners fail to comprehend, that shape the behavior of an average Arab. Authoritarianism, spiritualism, conformity, acquiescence, religious fervor, and the repercussions of sound defeat interact to produce an indignant and angry Arab character, whose behavior makes little sense to politically developed Westerners.

Palmer's analysis begins with the endurance of tribalism among Arabs as a result of its symbiosis with Islam. Tribalism and Islam continue to define Arab identity although they are no longer affiliated with a religious state to give them weight and shelter. Arabs are thus left with a tribal psyche unequipped to cope with the challenges of modernity and the outside world.

Much of the cognitive dissonance between Arabs and Western world-views is attributed to an uneven relationship spanning fourteen centuries. Islam's claims to universalism, its empire building and decay, Western colonization of Muslim territories, and the flawed outcomes of various nationalist independence movements feature prominently in Palmer's analysis. …

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