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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Television is insufficient
The Middle East has been a source of politically interesting news for Americans for a long time, and since September 11, the discussions have become more passionate, and more judgmental. And despite the area's growing influence on our consciousness, our understanding of the peoples there and who they are is one of vague categories.
Bernard Lewis does not offer a...
Published on November 26, 2001 by Pumpkin King

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good, but not an easy read.
Lewis' has written a good book, albeit not an easy read. "The Multiple Identities of the Middle East" is based on three of Lewis' papers held at different conferences during the period 1989-1995. For this book, these papers were combined with material from articles and other conference papers Lewis has written.
The book is divided into nine chapters, covering topics...
Published on August 18, 2002 by Hilde Bygdevoll


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Television is insufficient, November 26, 2001
This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
The Middle East has been a source of politically interesting news for Americans for a long time, and since September 11, the discussions have become more passionate, and more judgmental. And despite the area's growing influence on our consciousness, our understanding of the peoples there and who they are is one of vague categories.
Bernard Lewis does not offer a history in this short book, but rather a discussion of how people in the Middle East perceive themselves, and how they create and define their identities. We often tend toward the simplified assumption that political boundaries contain single ethnic groups, linguistic groups, religious groups, but as Lewis shows, these groups are overlaid in complex ways.
People who have only a Western perspective of the Middle East, and want to understand the area in a much more complex manner, should find Lewis' book to be a great introduction to the depth of the history and conflicts that exists there.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An academic treatment of "Mideast" culture, November 29, 2000
Lay readers like myself who are simply looking for a new insight on the cultural roots of the Mideast problem might find Multiple Identities of the Middle East a bit heavy (the chapter on "nation" for example, consists almost entirely of a discussion of the word's origin in the Jewish, Persian, Turkish, and Arabic tradition, tracing the roots back to their linguistic origins.)
But although the book at times delves into a level of detail above and beyond that which will interest the casual reader, it is direct and clearly written, and in its short 160 pages Lewis does provide some valuable insights. Lewis gives us a concise historical overview which highlights the differences and similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and the varied cultures and societies of the region. And most importantly, he highlights the fact that these different cultures view the world from very different viewpoints. Within the "Middle East" (a term which he uses for the sake of familiarity, then quickly discards as being meaningless) both conflict and cohesion arise from these conflicting viewpoints.
An informative read which taught me many things.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting overview of the Middle-East, September 19, 2001
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This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
This book gives an interesting background to much of the modern attitudes of the middle-east and their historical basis. It explains how traditonaly society in the middle east has based itself around family/clan ties then religion and then state last of all.
In fact the concept of people belonging to and owning loyalty to a state is quite new to the region in many places as they don't have the long history of it that Europe has. It also explains how long standing traditions within holy law govern such things at the correct treatment of non-muslim minorities (in theory).
If you really don't know much about middle eastern and arab culture this book is a good introduction, to a society that is in many ways fundimentaly alien to western culture.
It should be noted that this book is ONLY an introduction and in many ways has a lot of generalisations, but it's a good starting point if you don't know much about arab culture (like me).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Useful, July 26, 2001
This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
I found this book enlightening and easy to read. I also used it in my upper division course on Asian politics that I taught in north-western Louisiana, and the response to this book was good, even though the students were new to the subject. The book is not overly technical and is accessible to any intelligent general reader. I am not sure that I can endorse the entire thesis, which seems to state that until very recently religion was the most important thing about one's identity in the Middle East. So much so, that other characteristics almost paled in significance. I am not an expert on ethno-cultural history of the Middle East, but it seems that the role of such factors as race, region, and ethnic and tribal origins has been a bit understated. Overall, I highly recommend this book.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent challenge to Western preconceptions, November 18, 1999
The purpose of this short, but comprehensive work seems to be as much about challenging Western preconceptions, myths and colonial attitutdes toward the Middle East and Islam as it is about presenting the spectrum of identities that have developed in the region. Lewis does an excellent job in this respect by taking aspects such as religion, language, country, nation, state and others, which help to define a person's identity collectively and individually. He regards each of these aspects individually and together and shows how they are understood in the West and how they have impacted and been understood in the region. In this way he is able to paint a picture of identity and belonging that seems alien to western paradigms. However, for all that Lewis debunks western myths and prejudice, there is a constant suspicion that he nevertheless finds himself still living in that colonial world. The worry is even portrayed in the title of the book, where the term Middle East is used without apology or explanation despite being the first and often attacked misnomer that Lewis claims is used throughtout the West. Because of this Lewis's work, though excellent and highly recommended, falls short of the magnificent studies of The Arabs and The Middle East by Peter Mansfield, who never falls into the trap of portraying himself as an 'Orientalist.'
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good with comments, May 31, 2007
This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
I like to read Bernard Lewis books although I don't agree with all his ideas. This book has covered the different concepts that create an identity in western point of view.

What I liked in this book which usually lacked in his earlier or later books, is that he acknowledged that the western point of view is not the only one, and the middle eastern or Arabic or Islamic point of view of identity is another point of the view beside others in Europe, Russia ...etc.

After reading Bernard Lewis for a while, I notice that his books are flawed in two ways:

1- His is more knowledgeable on the Turkish and Iranian cultures than the Arabic culture. He misses a lot of Arabs' achievements or attributes it to Turkish and Iranian influences.

2- His book theme complies with the political situation. This book was written in the mid 90s (ME peace process was flourishing)so you can see him talking about Islam and Judaism as two religions in peace. If you read him before that or after that (after 9/11) his books message is that Islam is in conflict with the west (Judeo-Christian Culture).

Nevertheless, I still like to read his books, because his books influence western scholars, academics and politicians views of the middle east.

I recommend it and recommend to read Edward Said books on the middle east too.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent survey of the Middle East, July 5, 2014
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This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
Excellent survey of the Middle East, focusing on the various ways by which the people identify themselves. Lewis presents an eye-opening case for looking at the Middle East not according to geographical boundaries (which were in many cases imposed by European powers), but by religious and cultural bonds which reach much farther back in history than the creation of present borders. Although written well before 9/11 this study is still most relevant and informative, especially in light of the most recent campaign by ISIS.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Identity Crises, October 31, 2012
This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
Identity Crises

Bernard Lewis' work "The Multiple Identities of the Middle East" examines how issues of identity figure in the domestic, regional, and international tensions of the modern Middle East. He also describes how Western concepts, such as liberalism, nationalism, fascism, socialism, and others, have permeated customary Arab notions of community, self-perception, and aspirations.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An informative study of religion, race, and nation, January 29, 2005
By 
Jill Malter (jillmalter@aol.com) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
This book characterizes the main groups of people in the Middle East and traces some of their aspects from earlier times to the present.

It begins by explaining that the population exchange of Greek Orthodox people for Muslims between Greece and Turkey after World War One was just that. Those who were sent to Greece were primarily Turkish-speakers, while those who were sent to Turkey generally spoke Greek. Similarly, the Jews in Arab lands tended to speak Arabic. We see a similar contrast in Israel as well. Lewis explains that the dividing line is not really between Jews from Europe and those from Africa or Asia but between Jews from Christian cultures and Jews from Islamic cultures.

The author claims that there is relatively little racism in Arab society. There's plenty of bias, but Lewis says it is mostly religious. On the other hand, his chapter on aliens and infidels shows what religious bias means. It means the dhimma, and relegating religious minorities to "second-class citizenship." For many centuries, that made Islam relatively tolerant, as Christian lands relegated religious minorities to "no citizenship at all." But present Western liberal ideas are not consistent with limited rights any more, and thus the dhimma is now regarded by many Westerners as a form of religious intolerance. The author explains that at the same time, many Muslims are regarding even the limited rights of the dhimma as too much and too dangerous.

There are interesting discussions of country, nation, and state. Again, the attitudes about such concepts are different in the Middle East from what they are in, say, Europe. One excellent example that Lewis gives is the following. Consider the names we Americans (as well, as those in European nations) give for the countries of Europe and their languages. Germany-German. Norway-Norwegian. Finland-Finnish. Hungary-Hungarian. France-French. Malta-Maltese. Greece-Greek. Albania-Albanian. Spain-Spanish. Sweden-Swedish. And so on. In many cases, the names are quite different from the names the natives of those countries call themselves. But we have that correspondence in a huge number of cases between country and language.

That's not so true in the Middle East. One of the few exceptions is Arabia-Arabic. But Arabia is not really a country. Saudi Arabia is. Yemen is. Qatar is. Oman is. Arabia is a peninsula. And there is the almost-exception of Persia-Persian. But Persia is not a country. Iran is. And I'm not sure how much we use the word "Persian" to describe the language any more (and we certainly don't use the word "Iranian" to describe the language). That leaves Turkey and Turkish, but the name Turkey is of European origin and is of a country that is partially in Europe. The correspondence between country and language is far less in the Middle East than in Europe.

The book includes a discussion of symbols, and the author points out that the Muslim crescent and the Jewish six-pointed star do not have anything like the significance in these religions that the cross does in Christianity. And what about the Veil? For pious women, the garments are a symbol of submission, for emancipated women, they are a symbol of repression, and for Western Muslim women, they are often proud symbols of identity.

This is an excellent and very informative book and I highly recommend it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good, but not an easy read., August 18, 2002
By 
Hilde Bygdevoll (Stavanger, Norway) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (Paperback)
Lewis' has written a good book, albeit not an easy read. "The Multiple Identities of the Middle East" is based on three of Lewis' papers held at different conferences during the period 1989-1995. For this book, these papers were combined with material from articles and other conference papers Lewis has written.
The book is divided into nine chapters, covering topics such as Religion, Country, Nation, and the State to mention some of them. Rather than giving us a brief overview, the author goes deep, deep into details. For this reason, this book might be less accessible for the lay reader than other books in the same genre.
I am curious to the world in general, and I picked up this book because I wanted to understand more about the complexities in religion, culture and nations in an area of the world which I have yet to visit. Since I am one of those lay readers I talked about, I am not sure if I picked the right book as my introduction to the topic.
On a more personal note.. It's funny how the author chose to use the term "The Middle East" in the title of this book. This term is only used by people from the West. One thing I picked up from the book was that the "The Middle East" is probably the most misgiving label one can use. "The Middle East" is not a country, not a nation, and definitely not a race. Yet we use it to cover all of that...
A very good read if you already know the subject.
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The Multiple Identities of the Middle East
The Multiple Identities of the Middle East by Bernard Lewis (Paperback - January 30, 2001)
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