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Re: P.C. Salzman's Book (Culture and Conflict in the Middle East)

Reader comment on item: The Middle East's Tribal Affliction

Submitted by Jerrold Terdiman (United States), Jan 24, 2008 at 10:46

Dear Dr. Pipes,

How can one reconcile Salzman's observations with the historical record of Islam's earlier cultural achievements? Great advances were made in science, mathematics, philosophy etc. This was later followed by a return to the Arabic desert mentality (described by Salzman). What is the explanation for this turnaround?

Thanks for your insights.

Jerrold Terdiman MD ( jterdiman@aol.com)


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Daniel Pipes replies:

Excellent question.

The answer builds on a passage in my column:

That most Middle Easterners retain this us-versus-them mentality dooms universalism, the rule of law, and constitutionalism. Trapped by these ancient patterns, Salzman writes, Middle Eastern societies "perform poorly by most social, cultural, economic, and political criteria." As the region fails to modernize, it falls steadily further behind.

In earlier eras, universalism, the rule of law, and constitutionalism were not required and a tribally-based culture like that of the Middle East could compete successfully with other civilizations. No longer.

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