Understanding Arabs: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society / Edition 5

Understanding Arabs: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society / Edition 5

by Margaret K. Nydell
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Understanding Arabs: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society / Edition 5

The Definitive Guide to Understanding Arab Culture Now Completely Updated with Expert Arab Spring Coverage and Insight

With the Arab Spring causing ripple effects throughout the world, a solid understanding of Arab history, culture, and practices has never been more important. For over twenty years, top diplomats, scholars, and business people have relied on Dr. Margaret Nydell's seminal work Understanding Arabs as the essential guide to comprehending an immensely varied culture. Covering all aspects of Arab life - from religion and society to social norms and communication styles - this all-encompassing guide reveals what the often misunderstood culture is really like.

With updated polls and statistics throughout the book, this highly anticipated fifth edition of Understanding Arabs expands upon:

Islamic Fundamentalism


Arabs and Muslims in the West

The similarities and differences between Arab countries

The Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Syria, and more

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780983955801
Publisher: Quercus
Publication date: 04/16/2012
Edition description: 5th Edition
Pages: 228
Sales rank: 441,583
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Table of Contents

A Message from the Author xi

The Arab Spring xii

Terrorism xiv

Looking to the Future xx

Map of the Arab World xxii

Preface xxiii

Introduction: Patterns of Change xxix

Modernization xxix

The Arab Human Development Reports xxxiv

The Effects of Change xxxiv

The Muslim View xxxvi

Islamic Education xxxvii

Facing the Future xxxviii

Chapter 1 Beliefs and Values 1

Basic Arab Values and Attitudes 3

Basic Arab Self-Perceptions 4

Chapter 2 Friends and Strangers 5

The Concept of Friendship 5

Reciprocal Favors 5

Introductions 7

Visiting Patterns 8

Business Friendships 10

Office Relations 11

Criticism 12

Intermediaries 13

Private and Public Manners 14

Chapter 3 Emotion and Logic 17

Objectivity and Subjectivity 17

Fatalism 18

What Is Reality? 18

The Human Dimension 20

Persuasion 21

Chapter 4 Getting Personal 23

Personal Questions 23

Sensitive Subjects 24

Social Distance 25

Gestures 27

Names 28

Chapter 5 Men and Women 33

Social Interaction 33

Displaying Intimacy 35

The Status of Women 35

Women's Right to Vote 38

Women in Government Positions 39

Women's Power in the Family 39

The Headscarf and the Veil 40

Polygamy 43

Traditional Gender Roles 44

Western Women 45

Looking Toward the Future 46

Chapter 6 Social Formalities and Etiquette 47

Hospitality 47

Time and Appointments 49

Discussing Business 50

Sharing Meals 51

Smoking 54

Rules of Etiquette 55

Chapter 7 The Social Structure 59

Social Classes 59

Image and Upper-Class Behavior 60

Dealing with Service People 61

Chapter 8 The Role of the Family 63

Family Loyalty and Obligations 63

Relations Among Family Members 65

Marriage 67

Divorce 68

Child-Rearing Practices 69

Talking About Your Family 70

Chapter 9 Religion and Society 73

Religious Affiliation 73

Religious Practices 73

The Religion of Islam 75

Sunni and Shia 79

The Sharia, Islamic Law 79

The Qur'an and the Bible 81

Passages from the Qur'an 84

Chapter 10 Communicating with Arabs 87

Varieties of Arabic 88

The Superiority of Arabic 89

The Prestige of Classical Arabic 90

Eloquence of Speech 91

Speech Mannerisms 93

Pleasant and Indirect Responses 94

The Power of Words 94

Euphemisms 95

The Written Word 96

Proverbs 97

Chapter 11 Islamic Fundamentalism (Islamism) 99

Definitions and Numbers 99

Jihad 104

Islamists and Muslim Society 105

Mainstream Muslims 108

Chapter 12 Anti-Americanism 111

Reasons for Arab Anger 113

Arab/Muslim and Some Western Views 113

Some American Views 116

They Hate Our Freedom, Values, Way of Life 116

They Hate Our Success 117

They Don't Know Enough About Us 117

Anti-Americanism Is an Excuse 119

We Share a Long History of Hatred 119

Arab/Muslim Views on American Culture 121

Views on Western-Style Democracy 122

Islam 124

Anti-Islam Comments 124

Defense-of-Islam Comments 125

Chapter 13 Arabs and Muslims in the West 127

Arabs in the United States 127

Muslims in the United States and Canada 128

Muslims in Europe 130

The Image of Arabs and Muslims 134

In America 134

In Europe 138

The Future of Islam in the West 142

Chapter 14 The Arab Countries, Similarities and Differences: The Arab Countries in Africa 145

The Maghrib 148

Morocco 149

Algeria 152

Tunisia 154

Libya 157

The Nile Valley 160

Egypt 160

Sudan 164

Chapter 15 The Arab Countries in the Center 169

The Levant 169

Lebanon 170

Syria 173

Palestinian Territories 176

Jordan 181

Iraq 184

Chapter 16 The Arab Countries in the Arabian Peninsula 189

Saudi Arabia 190

Yemen 194

The Arabian Gulf States (Persian Gulf) 198

Kuwait 199

Bahrain 201

Qatar 203

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) 205

Oman 207

Conclusion 211

Appendix: The Arabic Language 213

Colloquial Arabic Dialects 213

Attitudes Toward Dialects 215

The Structure of Arabic 216

Transcription 217

Arabic Writing 218

Calligraphy As an Art Form 220

Social Greetings 220

Notes 223

Bibliography 247

Index 265

About the Author 277

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Understanding Arabs: A Contemporary Guide to Arab Society 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
AskingQuestions More than 1 year ago
This is the most eye-opening books I have read in a long time. It argues that the Arab world-view differs from those in the "West" in fundamental ways. It would be easy to describe her characterizations of Arabs as racist, and I have no idea if her thesis is true. However, she writes with much professed sympathy for Arab viewpoints, has worked in Arab countries for a long time, and has not attracted criticism as other books on Arab norms have (such as The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai). So what is the Arab world-view? According to Nydell, truth, fairness, and freedom have radically different meanings and values than in the "West." How you treat someone depends on their relationship to you; for instance it is normal for a bureacrat to deny a service to a stranger but provide the same service on behalf of a friend. If you ask your friend for a favor and the friend thinks it is impossible, he will not tell you so but will at least go through the motions of granting the favor. Being clear with people is wrong if it might hurt their feelings, while lying to them is right if it will spare their feelings. Finally, what is permissible to desire or work for is strongly constrained by tradition, the opinion of elders in your family, and your family's social class. The book also describes many benign features of life in Arab countries. But the views described above have tremendous implications for politics. What Americans would call corruptions seems to be virtually required by this set of values. Similarly if all but the most veiled constructive criticism is considered a bad thing, then it will seem natural to curtail freedom of the press. Finally, if your treatment of people depends on who they are, ethnic warfare and allegiance to the local militia rather than a national government are proper. All these attitudes exist in the "West" and probably were stronger here in the past. The difference lies in which ones dominate the culture. It is also possible that the attitudes Nydell describes are simply rational responses to repressive conditions in Arab societies; yet they seem likely to perpetuate that repression. If Nydell's assessments are correct, her book is essential reading for understanding the Middle East.