The World Through Arab Eyes (Hardcover)

Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East

By Shibley Telhami

Basic Books, 9780465029839, 240pp.

Publication Date: June 11, 2013

List Price: 27.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Once a voiceless region dominated by authoritarian rulers, the Arab world seems to have developed an identity of its own almost overnight. The series of uprisings that began in 2010 profoundly altered politics in the region, forcing many experts to drastically revise their understandings of the Arab people. Yet while the Arab uprisings have indeed triggered seismic changes, Arab public opinion has been a perennial but long ignored force influencing events in the Middle East.

In The World Through Arab Eyes, eminent political scientist Shibley Telhami draws upon a decade's worth of original polling data, probing the depths of the Arab psyche to analyze the driving forces and emotions of the Arab uprisings and the next phase of Arab politics. With great insight into the people and countries he has surveyed, Telhami provides a longitudinal account of Arab identity, revealing how Arabs' present-day priorities and grievances have been gestating for decades. The demand for dignity foremost in the chants of millions went far beyond a straightforward struggle for food and individual rights. The Arabs' cries were not simply a response to corrupt leaders, but were in fact inseparable from the collective respect they crave from the outside world. Decades of perceived humiliations at the hands of the West have left many Arabs with a wounded sense of national pride, but also a desire for political systems with elements of Western democracies—an apparent contradiction that is only one of many complicating our understanding of the monumental shifts in Arab politics and society.

In astonishing detail and with great humanity, Telhami identifies the key prisms through which Arabs view issues central to their everyday lives, from democracy to religion to foreign relations with Iran, Israel, the United States, and other world powers. The World Through Arab Eyes reveals the hearts and minds of a people often misunderstood but ever more central to our globalized world.

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.

Praise For The World Through Arab Eyes: Arab Public Opinion and the Reshaping of the Middle East

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

“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

“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

“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)

“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

“[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

“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