Robert F. Worth is currently a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he is working on a book about the 2011 Arab uprisings and their aftermath. He is a frequent contributor to The New York TimesMagazine. (October 2014)
The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation Is Changing the Middle East
by Juan Cole
Temptations of Power: Islamists and Illiberal Democracy in a New Middle East
by Shadi Hamid
The educated youth who kicked off the revolutions of 2011 are not necessarily the vanguard of a new and more secular Middle East. They are one party in a bitter conflict over fundamental issues of identity and social order, a conflict whose outcome is far from certain.
The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia
by Gregory D. Johnsen
High-Value Target: Countering Al Qaeda in Yemen
by Edmund J. Hull
Yemen is an ancient country on the southern heel of the Arabian peninsula, the crucible of many of the peoples and customs we now think of as Arab. But to most Westerners, it is little more than a code word for bizarre terror plots.
Five years after the September 11 attacks, Osama bin Laden is a diminished figure. President Bush has started mentioning him again in recent speeches, but mainly to highlight American success in crippling and isolating al-Qaeda’s leaders. Last year, the CIA disbanded Alec Station, the unit assigned to hunt down bin …
Early manuscripts of the Koran are now on display, under glass, at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., together forming an ur-text in fragments. They are yellowed pages, splotchy at the edges, with lines of brown Arabic text in the stark, vertical script known as Hijazi. One of the striking features of the show is the visual progression of the Koran from the simplicity of early Arabian styles to ever more detailed and colorful traditions of graphic art, fed by Persian influences.
One of the most memorable moments in The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition, by Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, comes in the section on lions, which were still indigenous to the Middle East in Nuwayri’s time. He could scarcely have imagined that his book, written with such confidence from the heart of a mighty empire, would one day appear to us like that lion: a vanished, near-mythical creature at the desert’s edge.
Safa al Ahmad’s remarkable BBC documentary, Yemen: The Rise of the Houthis, is a rare close-up look at the most mysterious player in this agonizing and complex drama. The Houthi movement, which grew out of a deep sense of victimization by the state, has long been an enigma, even to many Yemenis, and it defies easy explanation.