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The Future of the Middle East

by Robin Wright

Pub Date: Feb. 28th, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59420-111-0
Publisher: Penguin Press

An astute assessment of the state of the Middle East, by a longtime reporter and observer of the scene.

Washington Post foreign-policy correspondent Wright brings some good tidings from the region: “In the early twenty-first century,” she writes, “a budding culture of change is...imaginatively challenging the status quo—and even the extremists.” Some members of this culture—they’ve been called the “pyjamahedeen”—blog, write letters to the editor, protest on the street; others exercise subtle resistance, as with the Iranian women who wear their headscarves “precariously at the crown of the head to expose as much of a beautifully coifed hairdo as possible without falling off.” Whatever their form of protest, these men and women face much danger as ignorers of fatwas and potential heretics. Wright travels widely across the region to seek out these agents of change, though her profiles often concern those whom they are fighting. One militant, for instance, set the tone of decrying the supposed licentiousness of Western women half a century ago—his acolytes today press the charge, even as their female compatriots flock to see Hollywood movies and dress in Western fashions. That does not dissuade the true believers. As Wright notes, they’re still busily seeking to transcend the Arabic world with an Islamic superstate, a caliphate that will rule the whole of humankind—once they settle such pesky problems as whether Sunni or Shia Islam is to prevail, drive America out of Iraq and force women to don the veil. Despite them, and despite the overwhelming view that America will be defeated in Iraq, there is even better news. Wright reports that “the majority of the people in the Middle East still [want] the kind of political change that has swept the rest of the world over the past quarter century.”

A fine set of dispatches from the front.