The West, and in particular America, has still not grasped a fundamental truth about the Middle East: The Middle Eastern world does not want to be Westernized. This is not to be confused with modernization, as in efficient sewers, clean water, cheap and reliable electricity, or abundant food and goods. The Middle East fundamentally rejects Westernization because we so often attempt to sell them on the notion that secularization, democratization, and prosperity are synonymous concepts.
In the West, sepia photos of Iranian, Egyptian, Syrian, or Iraqi college students in miniskirts sans hijab—I own similar ones of my parents in their younger years—are passed around the Internet with lamentations of, “They looked just like us, and now….” Laments are in order over the Middle Eastern world, but you know not what you mourn, my fellow Americans. Those photos of modern, “liberated” peoples were almost all taken in times of monarchies or political strongmen.
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