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The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East Hardcover – June 11, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 5.12.2013 edition (June 11, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465029833
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465029839
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #721,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“At a time when some pundits see crises in Syria and elsewhere leading to the marginalization of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the region’s politics, Telhami forcefully pulls readers back to it, labeling it a ‘prism of pain’ through which Arab publics view the region – even if their leaders do not.”
Foreign Affairs

“Research on Arab public opinion is growing rapidly. Much of it is nationally based and little of that is published in English-language sources. This makes especially welcome a book that reports on a series of surveys encompassing six countries: Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE over ten years, using greatly similar survey instruments. It allows readers to observe trends and also to see the impact of contemporaneous events on Arab attitudes.... [T]here is plenty of information in this volume on which to base a more accurate and nuanced picture of contemporary Arab attitudes. Black and white thinking about ourselves and our Arab neighbors is harder to sustain after one has read it.”
Middle East Media and Book Reviews Online

“Amid a burgeoning cottage industry of Arab Spring analysis, [The World Through Arab Eyes] stands apart because it doggedly listens to uncomfortable answers to difficult questions.... [T]he frank assessment Telhami provides offers the best way forward because it opens genuine dialogue.”
Books and Culture

“[Telhami’s] closing chapter on how Arab public opinion will influence the reshaping of the Middle East is the best summary of the likely implications of the current awakening and activation of Arab public opinion that I have seen to date, blending the hard facts of public attitudes with the unpredictable nature of political and social change.”
Rami G. Khouri, Daily Star (Lebanon)

“Employing solid public polling methods, and focusing largely on Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon, and the United Arab Emirates, Telhami has listened deeply to shifting pan-Arab opinion. The results are at once predictable and surprising, and nearly always critical to sane policy development.... Social science can be imprecise – one fear is that Western readers disregard Telhami’s findings because of that imprecision. But belief is not uniform or static. It is thematic, and Telhami’s work helps reveal the interlaced patterns of recent and current Arab thought that give rise to action and inaction, progress and retreat, war and peace. It behooves us to listen.”
Plain Dealer

“Most of [Telhami’s] findings about what ordinary Arabs believe, developed through years of face-to-face, Arabic-language surveys will not surprise specialists in the region, but they should be required reading for everyone in Washington’s national security and defense establishments.... Telhami has given us a laudable guide to understanding the world views of a people about whom Americans in general know too little.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

The World Through Arab Eyes by Shibley Telhami could not come at a more opportune time. The recent Arab Spring heralds the beginning of participatory politics in several states of the Middle East and North Africa, and has spurred the unelected monarchs of other countries in the region to launch democratic reforms. What ordinary Arabs think matters more than ever.... [Telhami] distills a decade of polls into this essential handbook on average Arabs’ opinions of everything from US foreign policy to Sharia.”
Boston Globe

“[Telhami’s] findings are sometimes discouraging but always insightful. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand what drives events in the Middle East.... Telhami bases his thoughtful analysis on extensive polling data, and the result is a book that offers solid insights about the complex realities of the Arab world.”
Dallas Morning News

“[Telhami’s] new book, The World Through Arab Eyes, offers a masterful summation of more than a decade of his systematic public opinion research across the Arab world.”
Marc Lynch, Abu Aardvark’s Middle East Blog, Foreign Policy

“[The World Through Arab Eyes] is a timely, cogent account of the values and beliefs that are driving profound change in the Arab world.... Telhami’s book is an excellent guide to the forces that are reshaping the Middle East.”
Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)

“Drawing upon a decade’s worth of polling data, Telhami has written a fascinating and extremely useful book on how Arabs see the world around them and what their aspirations are.... This book will be extremely useful for students of the contemporary Middle East as well as policy makers and journalists who deal with the Arab world.”
Library Journal

“A finely calibrated study of public opinion in the Middle East.... Telhami weaves mountains of data into a lucid, thoughtful account of shifting attitudes, one that registers the impact of the Internet and Al Jazeera in changing attitudes and the growing influence public attitudes exert over government policy, especially since the Arab Spring. The result is an unusually rich portrait of the Arab worldview.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Arab public opinion, newly codified and relevant.... An intriguing, revealing study of Arabs’ changing views of themselves and the world as their countries open up – deserves a wide audience.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Too much debate on the future of the Arab world is based on outdated ideas about what Arabs want. In The World Through Arab Eyes, Shibley Telhami captures the prisms through which Arabs see the world. He combines the knowledge and perspective of a major scholar with a treasure trove of Arab public opinion. This book will be valuable to anyone hoping to understand this rapidly changing region.”
Jimmy Carter

“America’s leading interpreter of the Arab world, always judicious in his judgments and penetrating in his analysis, has written a book that every American concerned with the challenges that American foreign policy faces in the Middle East should read.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski

“Not since Edward Said’s Orientalism has a scholar so effectively distilled the Arab collective self and its complex relations to ‘the others’, as Shibley Telhami has in The World Through Arab Eyes. Unlike hundreds of speculative books written about Arabs and Muslims since 9/11, Telhami has meticulously managed to get the Arabs to tell their stories in facts and figures—providing crisp analysis along the way. The book is a must read for students, scholars, policy makers, and anyone interested in the Middle East.”
Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egyptian Sociologist and Human Rights Activist

“A wonderfully thoughtful and penetrating exploration of Arab attitudes at an epic turning point for the Middle East. Shibley Telhami, a world-class political analyst, provides original insights that will be tremendously important in understanding where the region is headed—and why. A must read for anyone interested in the world’s most volatile and strategic arena.”
Robin Wright, author of Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World

“A powerful and definitive guide to Arab attitudes, answering questions that Americans have posed since 9/11. Eschewing hyperbole and drama, Shibley Telhami systematically dissects Arab views about themselves and their identity, toward Israel and the United States, and regarding democracy, women’s rights, and the uprisings. Policy makers must read this book, and so too should Americans still puzzled by the politics and attitudes of Arabs.”
Daniel Kurtzer, S. Daniel Abraham Professor in Middle East Policy Studies, Princeton University, and former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt and Israel

“Telhami brilliantly inserts his sophisticated and commanding understanding of the Arab world into discourses that have for too long neglected to accurately portray the preferences of ordinary Arabs. This magisterial book should serve as the primary resource guiding academic and policy debates about the attitudes of Arab citizens.”
Amaney Jamal, Associate Professor of Politics and Director of the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Princeton University

About the Author

Shibley Telhami is the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and a Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution. He is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a founding member of the Board of Directors of Education for Employment (EFE), and previously served on the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch and the United States Institute of Peace. The author of The Stakes: America in the Middle East, Telhami lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Haysoose Hopps on June 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Shibley Telhami manages to thread the needle of public discourse--writing in a way that is clear to lay audiences and edifying to insiders. He provides not only original polling data but also the analysis that brings the information to life. The World Through Arab Eyes is packed with fascinating questions and responses that reveal many of the divisions within each of six distinct Arab lands. This is a book every literate American--perhaps every literate person the world over--should read to better comprehend the beliefs, the baggage, the fears, and the aspirations that drive the shifting moods of a suddenly dynamic region of the world.The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on April 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Shibley Telhami has been polling the Arab world for 2 decades. He explains how he samples opinion in countries where many worry about repercussions of their response. Sometimes he works with Zogby, other times he'll sample postings on major message boards. Since people cannot be questioned head on about policies in their own country; respondents are asked about other countries, for instance, whom they admire outside of their country, which country represents the best democracy, etc.

Telhami must have a lot of data but tends to present more narrative. For example, selected answers for the question about what country respondents would like to live in is given as a narrative on p. 44. This question is revisited on p. 122, also in a narrative. On p. 180, finally, a chart shows two sample years in aggregate. In place of the text, I'd have preferred the full longitudinal answers for each of the 6 Arab countries polled.

While the data comes from 6 countries, most of the charts have it all aggregated. There are no break downs by gender or age. I did not know such identifiers were used until it appeared (in the narrative) in the text half way through the book.

For those informed about this area of the world there are some new insights but no surprises. For instance: the graphs on p. 90 show the different views in the 6 countries on who won the Lebanon-Israeli war; the graphs on pp. 160-161 show opinion on the role of clergy in government. No informed person should be surprised that in these 6 countries resentment of US is not that freedoms are hated, it is that the US supports Israel; No one should be surprised that people in these 6 countries do not believe that the Iraq war was about democracy.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By William Garrison Jr. VINE VOICE on December 5, 2013
Format: Hardcover
(Partial comments from a review by David Pollock in the Winter 2014 issue of “Middle East Quarterly”):

Telhami offers in The World through Arab Eyes a valuable if unavoidably imperfect attempt at illuminating the hearts and minds of the Arab world as revealed through public opinion polling. .. it also suffers from occasional problems: methodological flaws, unsupported or questionable single-sourced assertions, and strained interpretations that go beyond the available evidence. …

On the positive side, the book provides interesting and well-organized survey data on certain broad major topics. …
The book suffers from scattered methodological omissions as well. The first is simply the failure to spell out several important procedural approaches. Were all these surveys true probability samples, or were some based on quota or even merely "convenience" samples? If the former, what precisely were the methods adopted in each case— multi-stage, stratified, geographic probability? Random walk? Household interview selection? Statistical/demographic weighting? If these were not all standard probability samples, how truly scientific or reliable are the resulting numbers? Regardless of sampling method, how much host government supervision, permission, or intimidation took place, which might have distorted the findings?

A different deficiency is in the choice of the countries surveyed and in the decision to stick with purely urban samples, which thereby excludes half or more of a country's total population… As a result, the book has little to tell us about the great contest between the Islamist and the civil-military segments of society now underway in Egypt or about the prospects for stability or instability in Saudi Arabia, Morocco, or Jordan.

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Loyd E. Eskildson HALL OF FAME on November 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The author's efforts to understanding Arab minds began as the cold war ended and Saddam Hussein was emerging as the perceived winner of the Iraq-Iran war. Then Arab governments and people were apprehensive about an impending era of American dominance, w/o the counterweight of the Soviets. Specifically, they were concerned that America would then be free to intensify support Israel, leaving Arabs more vulnerable. Ever since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, the U.S. had been the principal supplier of cutting-edge weapons to Israel, a substantial provider of economic aid, and its protector at the U.N. The majority of cases in which the U.S. used its veto power in the Security Council during the cold war related to Israel. The prevailing sentiment was the American support Israel stood in the way of compelling Israel to withdraw from the Arab territories it occupied in 1967. Saddam Hussein expressed these concerns more often and more forcefully than other Arab leaders - despite significant U.S. military and intelligence support in his eight-year war with Iran. Others stated views such as a 'pro American' former Egyptian ambassador to the U.S. - 'Arabs are sick of their governments pathetically begging the U.S. to plead with Israel to please let them have peace.' Yassar Arafat commented that 'pro-American Arab leaders, especially King Fahd of Saudi Arabia, looked weak and vulnerable.' Saddam's decision to send forces into Kuwait was partially based on a belief that regional rulers, especially the Saudis, would not risk the anger of their people by inviting American troops onto Arab soil. However, he learned the Arab rulers would choose what they perceived as the lesser of two evils.Read more ›
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