Religion is a big piece of the fabric of Arab society. Arab are inclined to focus solely on the ritualistic part of religion and ignore the foundation of religion which is the faith in the Almighty God. Sadly, Arab have never deeply absorbed the true teaching of God.
In the time of Jaheliah- time before Islam-, Arab used to feel ashamed of having a baby girl. Thus, they used to bury the girl alive.
The strict adherence to the practice of virginity has kept the Arab woman in such miserable place . Psychologically , virginity represents to a man that he is the first conqueror of a woman, as if he is in battle and the blood from deflowering woman represent his victory.
Arab are inclined to overemphasize the significant of the words and pay less regard to action. That can be also a result of the psychological replacement of action by words .
Throughout history, Arab have been traders. Thus, their way of thinking is inclined to be in terms of benefits and losses, and that has been reflected in the way how they deal with each other.
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The Psychology of the ArabThe Influences That Shape an Arab Life
By Talib Kafaji
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Dr. Talib Kafaji
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIs There Such A Thing As Arab Psychology?
The science of psychology began with the founding father of experimental psychology, Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920). Then Sigmund Freud, in the middle of last century, revolutionized the whole concept of the human behavior. These men and others like them offered distinctive perspectives about human behavior by factoring in cultural practices, family upbringing, economic conditions and educational level.
In other words, an individual is born in a specific place in a specific time and under certain circumstances; all of these factors have a tremendous impact on the formation of his psychological makeup. Throughout much of the 20th century, psychology remained embedded in these European and North American patterns of thought.
In recent decades, however, our planet has become more of a "global village". Therefore, many cultures took the science of psychology and tailored it to suit their prevailing values or cultural practices. Carl Jung accentuated the impact of the collective conscience, which mostly is comprised of the cultural practices people inherited from their ancestors.
In answer to the question, "Is there such thing an Arab psychology?" yes, there certainly is, just as there is a Japanese psychology or a Chinese psychology. Each group around the globe: 1) lives in a specific geographic location; 2) shares the same historical struggles; 3) eats certain foods; 4) wears a certain type of clothing; 5) follows the same customs, traditions and cultural practices; 6) speaks a specific language; 7) shares the same religious beliefs; and 8) has a particular educational system. All of these components work collectively to shape the individual psychology for each group, differentiating it from others living elsewhere with a different set of values and cultural practices. Although there is the above universal principle that shapes behavior in a similar fashion worldwide, it is equally meaningful to conceive of culture as a system that has its own dynamic bounds. These boundaries can create phenomena that appear contradictory to the universal notion of how humans function in their locale, or how their world should be understood by the outsider.
Nevertheless, the psychology of Arabs who lived a hundred years ago was diabolically different from the psychology of Arabs today. It's very similar to saying the people who live in the Amazon region in Brazil are completely different than the people who live in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The surrounding environment can shape the psychology of its inhabitants. Thus, there IS a psychology of the Arab, and it is a very complicated one. The tenet of this book is to explore all facets of Arab psychology.
The psychology of the Arab has been shaped by living in the desert; by its shifting sands, which make the Arab temperament volatile. It is shaped by lack of water, causingArabs to be nomads who move from place to place, to look for water and food for human and animal alike. This is why the Arabs do not have strong alliances to their land; they like to move and immigrate to other places in the world.
The psychology of the Arab has also been shaped by a strong affinity to the tribe to which he belongs. Thus, the concept of nationality is a relative one, because Arabs' alliances must first be to their tribe or community.
It is also worth mentioning that the psychology of the Arab has been shaped by their pompous language, which is very rich in descriptions of their lives in the desert, or their lives under abusive rulers, or their glorious lives in the distant past. Linguists around the world agree that language can sculpt the depth of the psychological structures of people; it is thus with the Arabic language. The Arabic language carved its place in the psyche of the Arab, because it is the language of the holy book, the Quran. English-speaking peoples do not attach to the English language because it is not the language of Christianity. The language of Christianity is Aramaic, the language that Jesus Christ spoke. Aramaic is now spoken by a group of Iraqi Christians called Chaldean.
Moreover, Arab society is a collectivist one, meaning the individual self-concept can be derived from community approval or community acceptance or recognition. It is not the individualistic society as in the West, in which a person derives his own self-concept from his personal merit, or his personal accomplishments and achievements. This factor alone can shape the Arab individual differently from others. Arab culture may be similar to Japanese culture, which also focuses on community. The benefit of society is placed ahead of individual interests.
All these factors collectively characterize the Arab individual and make his psychology unique. The study of the individual within the content of his environment gives a clear picture about his uniqueness. People do not live in isolation; they are surrounded by an environment or culture that influences each reciprocally. There is fluid dynamic interaction among all the cultural factors that make up an Arab psychology, which makes it worthwhile to investigate such a psychology. The purpose is to develop some understanding of why the Arab people behave as they do. Once that is understood by others, they can be less harsh in their judgments, and more compassionate toward Arabs, because they have been through hellish conditions.
Exploring the Arab psychology may give Arabs themselves a fresh looks at their behavior through psychological lenses. In addition, they may try to arm themselves with some courage to change what one might consider neurotic inclinations, which dominate their behavior and make them unhappy people.
Certain views and attitudes can be found in any culture, and these views or attitudes normally characterize people who are living in that culture. If those attitudes are positive or helpful it can color the society with such positivism, as may be seen in Norwegian or Danish society; they have scored very high in the scale of well-being. However, if those views or attitudes are negative then such negativity may become contagious, as we see in Arab society.
Complaints are the prevailing norm in any Arab conversation. You do not see two people getting together without reciting a list of complains over many things in their daily lives. From the poor educational system to poor infrastructure, from lack of sanitation to daily humiliation at the hands of the regime, not to mention the embezzlement of the nation's wealth, Arab culture is infected with many negative elements. Therefore, it is essential to study Arab psychology and shed some light on such psychological phenomena, and therefore help people to have a clear understanding of the causes of Arabs' pain and agony.
Often cultural conditioning allows for the construction of a false sense of self, which may be based on fears. The creative part of the self normally is based on love of life. This is clearly what this book is about: analyzing whether the culture of fear has limited individual possibilities, and manufactured a person who is ruled by neurosis and tyranny.
Chapter TwoThe Psychology of Arab Leaders
The Pathology of Narcissistic Personality Disorder
If the country is governed with tolerance, The people are comfortable and honest. If the country is governed with repression, The people are depressed and crafty. If you want to govern the people, You must place yourself below them. If you want to lead the people, You must learn how to follow them. Tao Te Ching
For the last hundred years or more, since or even before the Ottoman Empire, the Arab people have suffered from ruthless, despotic and tyrannical leaders. Often, people around the world wonder why Arabs are attracted to such leaders, the majority of whom seem to suffer from some traits of personality disorders. Even Arabs are questioning this trend, which has baffled them for a long time. The trend has cost them an inordinate amount of suffering and agony.
In this analysis, we will try to gain some insights and perspective into such phenomena that have plagued the Arab world for years.
Arab leaders have a grandiose sense of self-importance. Undoubtedly, many of them believe they are essential and indispensable to the survival of their people. For example, Hosni Mubarak said to the people of Egypt, "If I leave the country, it will be in shambles". He has left and the country is functioning well. The other example is Tunisian Ben Ali, who said, "There is no way the people can have a country without me". There is a plethora of examples in this regard.
Moreover, those leaders are preoccupied with the idea that their success with their people can never be duplicated, and would never be seen in other countries. This is a clear case of delusional thinking.
They also see themselves as very powerful. The people around them give them the feeling of omnipotence, as with Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The Iraqis around Saddam made him believe he was so important, that they put his picture everywhere, even on the dishes the Iraqis used.
The leaders also get the feeling that they are brilliant. Saddam once said, "Iraq's infrastructure is far better than any country in the world". Yet, most of the cities in Iraq under Saddam had shortages of electricity, no sewage systems, and lacked clean water. Even so, he governed Iraq for more than 35 years.
Arab leaders are exploitive. They use any means to exploit others, and usually surround themselves with a group of like-minded people. Thus, the people around him tend to feed into his pathology, and he feeds into them. There is reciprocity between the leaders and the people around him, nurturing the dysfunctional behavior of one another. This creates a vicious cycle from which neither is able to break away. This is why the Arab rulers tend to stay in power for such a long time. They surround themselves with a group of people who are in most instances dishonest and who lack a sense of compassion.
Arab leaders require excessive amounts of admiration from their people, surrounding themselves with those who write poetry and songs about how their important leader brought prosperity and good fortune to their people. On the contrary, they brought pain and misfortune to their people. The other part of their psychology is that they think they are special and they are God's gift to the populace. Even when Kasim ruled Iraq in 1960, the masses believed they saw the picture of Kasim in the moon. Of course, that is delusional thinking, and the leaders keep feeding into it.
Moreover, the majority of Arab leaders need a sense of entitlement from their people, to assure the leaders of automatic compliance by the populace. No one questions anything, or raises any objection because the people have to believe that the leader's messages are the law. The leader will say, "I know what is best for the people and I know this is why you must let me rule forever". For example, the president of Yemen changed the constitution to his liking so that he could rule the country for the rest of his life.
Furthermore, the rulers and the people around them are characterized by unbridled greed and the ultimate self-centeredness. Empathy, as in understanding the people's needs, is a very strange concept to these rulers. They have never entertained such thoughts when dealing with their subjects. For example, Gaddafi of Libya described his nation as rats and rodents, while Assad of Syria described his people as "bacteria who do not deserve to live". Even he had no respect for human values.
These rulers are inclined to lack sympathy, and are not willing to recognize the feelings of their people. If anyone might raise his voice or object to what someone has said, that can be considered a grave violation of the dignity of the rulers. This is why the leaders tend to be ruthless and savage when they see any uprising from the people.
They have a strong lust for power and that can blind them from seeing the good for their people.
Being arrogant is one of the characteristics of an Arab leader. They are not 'down to earth' with the populace. However, there was one exception. Sheik Zayid, he may rest in peace, was the last ruler of the United Arab Emirates. He was a special case in that the Arab people remember him with reverence and fondness.
The other personality trait Arab rulers may espouse is that they are very sensitive to any criticism, and even the slightest criticism can be considered a horrific mistake; then that person has to be punished severely. They are impulsive in their decisions and in their reactions to all events. They are not good listeners, nor do they read their history. In addition, they do not learn from their own mistakes or the mistakes of others. Perhaps their grandiosity gets in the way and does not allow them to see the truth of life.
Undoubtedly, they also have some antisocial elements, in which they lie to their people, and have no remorse in their heart with respect to human rights or human dignity. For example, Gaddafi told his people, "l will kill anyone who wants to remove me from my post; and if they insist in doing so I will deliver Libya as a barren place, as I will burn everything to the ground".
As far as the sense of entitlement is concerned, they allow themselves to take or to abuse the wealth of the nation without any accountability. They believe that the wealth is for them and thus do not give any to the people, which is considered theft, rather than just a flaw in their ruling. For example, most of the rulers have stashed huge amounts of money in different investments around the world, and no one can utter any word about it, because this is the right and the privilege of being a ruler and they have no qualms or guilt about it.
Arab rulers are suspicious of others and definitely have paranoid tendencies. At any doubt of someone not being faithful to them, that person will be eliminated from the face of the earth. For example, after the American invasion of Iraq, many mass graves were found. Leaders are preoccupied with conspiracy theories against them. If there is any revolt against them, they tend to blame foreign interventions, because they do not have any insight to reflect on their conduct or how they govern the country. Blame can be used as a defense mechanism to block them from knowing the truth about their nature. If they took a deep look inside themselves, they would know they have to change.
However, the majority of them are not willing even to entertain such thoughts. Insult is part and parcel of their treatment of people around them, and this is why the people who surround these leaders are fearful and cowardly. They are unable to face their leader, so they conform to the letter of the law. Of course, the rulers always want their people to massage their egos; for example, Gaddafi has people meet with him on a monthly basis, and they have to say to him: "you are the greatest of all times". Because of such a dynamic, Arab leaders may live in complete darkness and total ignorance of what is going on in their nation's life.
Shielding themselves from their people is a technique they use to separate/isolate themselves from others, and that is considered having prestige. Transparency is foreign to Arab leaders, and they like to surround themselves with an aura of enigma, with no accessibility. For example, Saddam did not allow even his ministers to meet with him.
As far as Arab leaders' education level, the majority of them are military personnel, and their education mainly consists of Army training. (Kings however are educated and trained in the civilian world.) Thus, other than those who are royalty, these leaders are not educated in human history. Most do not have wisdom in dealing with the challenges they may face with their people. A few of them are even illiterate.
The other inclination, as far as Arab leaders are concerned, is to have inflated, mammoth egos and to feel that people should serve them in any capacity. They are not the servants of their people, as in some parts of the world. In the Arab world, heads of state are self-absorbed with superior attitudes. Thus, there are serious chasms between them and their people. The prevailing view overall is that the people see the rulers as their enemy, and the rulers see the people as their enemy.
Excerpted from The Psychology of the Arab by Talib Kafaji Copyright © 2011 by Dr. Talib Kafaji. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter One Is There Such A Thing As Arab Psychology?....................7
Chapter Two The Psychology of Arab Leaders....................11
Chapter Three The Place of Women in Arab Society....................21
Chapter Four Learning Helplessness in Arab Lives....................28
Chapter Five The Psychology of Arab Religion....................33
Chapter Six Arab Thinking Processes....................38
Chapter Seven Factors That Influence the Psychology of the Arab....................42
Chapter Eight The Psychology of the Desert Inhabitants....................48
Chapter Nine The Psychological Makeup of Arab Society....................52
Chapter Ten Arab Family Structures &....................62
Chapter Eleven The Psychology of Emotion....................67
Chapter Twelve Psychological Structure of Arab Society....................72
Chapter Thirteen The Dynamic of Oppression....................79
Chapter Fourteen East is East ... West is West, The Twain Shall Never Meet....................84
Chapter Fifteen Arab Self-image and Identity Formation....................91
Chapter Sixteen The Psychology of Language....................94
Chapter Seventeen Social-Cognitive Learning Theory of the Arab....................99
Chapter Eighteen The Psychology of Defense Mechanisms In Arab Daily Lives....................102
Chapter Nineteen The Psychology of Stigmatizations In Arab Culture....................110
Chapter Twenty The Recent Phenomenon of Terrorism in Arab Lives....................114
Chapter Twenty One The Recent Developments In the Arab World....................119