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Understanding Arabs

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Understanding Arabs

A Guide For Westerners

Intercultural Press,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

How to get by in Arab society, realm of both hospitality and Jihad — where facts don’t count as much as friendship.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Margaret K. Nydell has recast this cross-cultural guide to getting along with Arabs in a new light in the midst of the war on terror. In so doing, she navigates sensitive territory, a no-man’s land stuck between understanding another culture, and becoming an apologist for its negative behaviors. Properly executed, cross-cultural guides enhance one’s awareness of the vast cultural gap between social norms and customs. Occasionally this volume lapses into cultural generalities, but that’s inevitable when you’re trying to explain norms of some 20 diverse Arab countries. Understanding Arabs will help you do just that, and although it may not shed a lot of light on the current conflict, it’s very timely. getAbstract highly recommends it to anyone who wants a better understanding of Islam and Arabs. As Nydell says in her introduction, seeking understanding should not be confused with appeasement.


One Nation, One World

The September 11 attack brought Americans together in a moment of clarity stemming from two truths: that we are one nation and that America is part of the world at large.

What Americans must try to understand are circumstances of the attack. The war on terrorism cannot be viewed simply as a "clash of civilizations," because the bin Laden group is not representative of the majority of Muslims.

Does Arab Equal Muslim?

Muslims and Arabs are two different things. Arabs are residents of countries whose citizens primarily speak Arabic. Muslims are practitioners of Islam. Of the 55 Muslim-majority countries, 18 to 20 are Arab countries (depending on one’s definition). Non-Arab Muslim countries include Iran, Pakistan, Turkey and Afghanistan.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and, due to immigration, it is the second-largest religion in both the U.S. and Europe. One of the ideas most closely identified with Islam is Jihad. Ironically, the concepts of Holy War (Crusade) and Jihad are essentially equal.

Why Americans Are Hated

Resentment toward America does not flow from its wealth and power. Mainstream...

About the Author

A teacher of Arabic at Georgetown University, Margaret K. (Omar) Nydell is an experienced trainer, teacher and Arabist, who consults with private and public organizations. Her posts have included director of Arabic language training at the Foreign Service Institute and its School of Arabic Language and Area Studies in Tunis. This book has been used to teach U.S. military academy cadets.

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