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Customer Review

on May 1, 2009
Neil MacFarquhar has gone where few Americans have dared to go--to the Arab and Islamic Middle East with an open mind. Maybe it's because he grew up in Libya, the son of an American oil engineer. Maybe it's because, as the New York Times Middle East Correspondent for many years, he's professionally wired for objectivity. Maybe it's because he's just a damn good storyteller, with a keen eye for detail and nuance. Whatever, MacFarquhar has written a witty and incisive survey of life in the contemporary Middle East, with deep dives into the worlds of Kuwaiti sex therapists, Lebanese hashish farmers, survivors of Moroccan political prisons and much more. He doesn't ignore the angry radicalism, the omnipresent secret police, the draconian limits on speech and assembly he finds. In fact he describes despicable acts in grim detail, unsparing in his condemnation. But what makes this book so important is that MacFarquhar manages to uncover a wide subculture of committed reformers from Cairo to Tehran. He leaves readers with a convincing case--foreshadowing Pres. Obama's inauguration speech--that the U.S. must hold out an open hand of support for all those struggling for decency in this all-too-often indecent part of the world.
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