Two concluding observations.
One: The Arab world is on the verge of another major change, the onset of an era of peace agreements with Israel. All of these (including the Palestinian) either have been or will be negotiated by leaders all of whom will be seen as doing so from a position of weakness and, in some cases, great unpopularity. Having for years been bombarded with official rhetoric of extreme hostility toward Israel, most Arabs are not prepared for normalization. Egyptians have remained either indifferent or adversarial about Israel, despite the fifteen-year-old peace. So one should expect new unrest, religious and secular, in the years to come: this will deepen probably, not alleviate, divisions between rich and poor, ruler and ruled, men and women.
Two: The Arab world is now more obviously inside the American (and Israeli) orbit than ever before. The United States’ continuing bombardment of Iraq (in January and June of 1993), its condoning of Israel’s late July invasion of Lebanon, the presence of U.S. troops in the Gulf and the Horn, the appearance of a patronizing U.S. attitude toward the Arabs and their rulers-all these exacerbate the gulf dividing the Arabs and the West, the United States especially. There is no dialogue at all; there is vassalage and peremptoriness.
Thus both the era of an impending (and quite imperfect) peace and the continuing pressures of what is in actuality an imperial policy add to the already inflamed situation inside the Arab and Muslim worlds. But it is important to remember that these are secular realities, in which not just “Islam” is involved.
Published in the New York Times Magazine, November 26, 1993.
The last paragraph of The Other Arab Muslims an essay from the book: The politics of Dispossession 1969-1994 by the Late Edward Said.