Who Writes Arab History?
At a time of profound regional and international transformations that extend beyond the political, Middle Easterners in general and Arabs in particular ponder their future, as well as how to best preserve and protect their interests and, equally important, their cultures.
As non-Arabs interpret and opine about Arab civilization far more than indigenous thinkers, how can we understand what motivates scholars and opinion-makers, and how can Arab analysts highlight indigenous perspectives? What are the core factors that separate non-Arab scholars from their Arab counterparts? Can the perceptions of nearly 500 million individuals be mislabeled so frequently and so easily, and what ought to be done to repair the damage already done? Do Arab thinkers bear any responsibility for what may appear to be little more than a campaign to denigrate?
To answer these questions, this paper first offers an overview of the dilemmas involved, then identifies and analyses two major concerns—censorship and translation matters—and finally focuses on the case of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to test the assertion that books authored by non-Arabs, many of whom shroud themselves in the cloak of authority but, in reality, harbor a sharp dislike, if not outright hatred, of Arabs, dominate over works written by Arabs. The paper closes with a few recommendations that call on Arab thinkers to overcome existing academic as well as journalistic prejudices.