How the Middle East Differs from the West

(Fathom-BICOM) Asher Susser - British Middle East historian Malcolm Yapp notes that Middle Eastern societies are not societies of individuals - they are societies of groups. In Western societies, people organize politically as individuals. In the Middle East, you belong to a group - your extended family, your tribe, and your religious denomination. So you are, first and foremost, a Muslim, or a Jew, or some kind of Christian - Maronite, Greek Orthodox, or Greek Catholic. If you're Muslim, it makes a huge difference if you are Sunni or Shiite or something else like the Alawites or the Druze. The Americans invaded Iraq with the belief that it was a society of individuals and so would coalesce into democratic political parties which would vie for power. But the groups went to war with each other, which was only to be expected. Westerners saw Facebook and Twitter in Egypt but didn't see the Muslim Brotherhood. The story in the West was that the secular liberal intelligentsia were taking over Egypt. Then the commentators were shocked when the Muslim Brotherhood walked all over everybody. And the only people who are going to prevent the Muslim Brotherhood from walking all over everybody are the military, not the secular liberals. The writer is a senior fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Tel Aviv University.

2015-03-11 00:00:00

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