Saturday, September 24, 2005
On Arab public opinion: I get quite irritated when I read some lazy writers on the Middle East claim that it is quite appropriate for them to generalize about all Arabs and all Muslims simply because there are no public opinion surveys in their region. Bernard Lewis went around the US after Sep. 11 beginning his recycled speeches by telling a lame joke about some cab driver in Cairo (he changed the city occasionally). And he always justified this bizarre footnote by saying that there are no public opinion surveys in the region. First, there are public opinion surveys in the region, and Mark Tessler of University of Michigan--to his credit--has been studying Middle East public opinion for decades, and has conducted surveys in a number of Arab countries. Public opinion firms and pollsters are now present in a number of Arab countries. Secondly, some argue that in countries where there are no public opinion surveys, it is justifiable to generalize about the people (as in Syria or in Libya). No, I say. Also, not justifiable. People in Syria or Libya or in Algeria also write poetry, novels, make TV serials, appear on satellite channels, publish underground literature, etc. Just because you don't (or can't) read or listen to what they have to say, is your problem, not theirs.
Posted by As'ad AbuKhalil at 3:16 PM