Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Arab Mind by Raphael Patai

Every now and then, I light up with joy over some book that really makes a huge difference in my understanding. Raphael Patai’s, The Arab Mind; Hatherleigh Press; ISBN: 1-57826-117-1; Revised Edition, 2002, was one of those books.

It never was hard to understand the philosophical principles of Islam. In fact, one of the reasons for its success, in my view, is its simplicity welded into its ability to govern ALL aspects of an advocate's life. Still, something was missing.

It is one thing to break down some body like Islam into its components. It is a very Western thing to do, and it is how we understand so much. Much, much harder, however, is figuring out HOW THESE PRINCIPLES GET INTO KIDS AND DEFORM THEM INTO MUSLIMS IN GENERAL AND JIHADISTS IN PARTICULAR. Then came Patai.

Books are like movies--few do I reread any more than reseeing most movies. Not so with Patai's book. There have been things new on every page on each reading, and rereading has been easy because the book has been so well written.

To follow is a portion (excerpts) of that review. All of the review is on our website 6th Column Against Jihad.

As I dug ever deeper into Islam after the events of 11 September 2001, I realized that my understanding of Islam needed something to supplement it, to make it more complete. Of course, I had needed to understand Islam itself. For this, I turned, among other places, to the books of Robert Spencer (Islam Unveiled and Onward Muslim Soldiers), Ibn Warraq (Why I Am Not a Muslim), and others. As valuable as these were, and they were, and are, magnificent, I needed something else, something qualitatively different.

After I read Raphael Patai's, The Arab Mind, I knew that I had found an exceptionally important explanation of the other component of the Islam problem: the Arab mind itself. In Dr. Patai, I had found an explanation of how Islam works on the Arab mind to produce its characteristic persona. In fact, I had found a key to being able to develop an explanation of how Islam takes normal human beings and turns them into killer robots (kill-bots) set relentlessly onto jihad. I regard this book as one of the most important books I have found about Islam and Arabs.

Dr. Patai wrote before the disease of "political correctness," spawned in the philosophical sewers of the 1960s and 1970s, had taken hold. Nowadays, he would be accused of racial stereotyping by writing about the Arab personality. However, he defined his subject and the boundaries of his examination. He asked, "What can be common to a group is a specific feature, or a set of specific features, that social psychologists and anthropologists have reference to when they talk about national character or modal personality?" He adds, "The basis of modal personality or national character studies is the observation that human beings who grow up in a common environment exhibit, beyond their individual differences, a strong common factor in their personality."

It is this modal personality or national character that he addresses. "I would, therefore, venture to define national character as the sum total of the motives, traits, beliefs, and values shared by the plurality in a national population" (his emphasis). That is why and how he can identify, study, and conceptualize the Arab mind, and he is as correct today as he ever was, regardless of the tenor of our times. This is the basis for our recognizing and separating peoples as belonging to nationalities, races, genders, and so on, based on common characteristics, and none of this involves the devaluation of any member because of it. The context of who is an Arab is very simple: "Persons whose mother tongue is Arabic may be brought up in a non-Arab culture (e.g., in French culture in North Africa), and still consider themselves Arabs and be so considered by others." Identity comes from language for these people. Islam and the Arabic language are seamlessly fused: Islam shaped Arabic; Arabic shapes Islam; and both shape Arabs.

This book is so rich with material that it cannot be contained in any review...I will focus on some of the key elements of the book which opened my mind to the nature of the Arab.

Arabs put exceptionally high value on their language, and they are exceptionally influenced by it. Dr. Patai likens Arabic to music because of how extensively is the language linked to the emotions of Arabs. Arabs tend to be wordy, or, as Dr. Patai says, they engage extensively in "rhetoricism." Linked seamlessly to rhetoricism is their proneness to verbal exaggeration and overemphasis. If we wish someone a "speedy recovery," the Arab will tend to say "May there be upon you nothing but health, if Allah wills." Our mutually exchanged "Good Morning" becomes something like "May your day be prosperous," and you likely will receive in response, "May your day be prosperous and blessed." During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Iraqi Prime Minister proclaimed to the Arab joint chiefs that all they needed were a few brooms to drive the Jews into the sea. We know, however, what really happened.

Dr. Patai explains this exaggeration as the mental phenomenon "... [I]n which the desired event is represented as an accomplished fact." This is pure primacy of consciousness epistemology which says something is so because I want it. Baghdad Bob was a shamelessly typical user of Arab exaggeration and overemphasis [in essence, "Pay no attention to those American tanks behind me. There are no Americans in Baghdad, and we have vanquished the infidels totally."]. He sounded comical to us, but Baghdad Bob was deadly serious. If we do not learn how Arabs think, we can never deal with them effectively.

Read all of the review, minus the excerpts, here.


hutchrun said...

Arab Muslims and presumably others because Islam has more than a billion adherents, divide the world between themselves and what they call Dar al Harb, literally, “the world of war.” So, you are either a Muslim or you are an infidel and, by definition, a threat to Islam until you convert or are killed.

This may seem harsh, but true believers in Islam hold all other religions in contempt. The view of Judaism is psychopathic. Christians do not fare much better. The contempt for Hindus and Buddhists, religions deemed not to have “a book”, completes the utter certitude of Muslims that they alone are truly religious.

You might feel that way, too, if you were compelled to pray five times a day, at dawn, midday, late afternoon, sunset, and nightfall. There are five prescribed prayers and all are in Arabic, a language Arabs will tell you is superior to all others. Verbal grandiosity is greatly applauded by Arabs. When facts are trumped by “ideas”, however, you have entered Alice’s bizarre Wonderland.

friendlysaviour said...

Thankyou hutch. You said it right.

George Mason said...

There are many ways that young minds are deformed into becoming Muslims. Patai's book covers many more than space allowed mentioning, but his information does not include everything. Anyone is a danger to Islam until the deformation reaches the stage when all questioning ceases and one's identity becomes the Islamic ummah.

Every human operates from a complex of ideas. That comes from human nature. Most people never sort out the ideas they absorbed growing up without even being aware of them or the difference they make. Ignoring these throws hugely important facts out with the bath water, so to speak.

dag said...

George, it's good that you brought this text to our attention. It tends to get lost in the growing pile of books on Islam. Many of the better works are long out of print and refused entry into the tombs of our public libraries. To bring this title back to the public is to do us all a favor-- if only we can find copies of it somewhere.

Cubed © said...


I got my copy from Barnes&Noble; it was copyrighted in 2002, and although I haven't checked recently, it may still be available on line from any of the major booksellers.

You said, "Most people never sort out the ideas they absorbed growing up without even being aware of them or the difference they make."

That is so right. You absolutely highlight the most important reason for teaching our kids from an early age, and not just allowing the postmodernists to have their way with our kids.

If we don't teach our kids the right ideas, then they will just learn, as you say, by absorbing what's available, and unfortunately, most of what's available is some pretty sick stuff.

George Mason said...


Happily the book is IN PRINT, and the link to at least one site, B&N.They are offering it for $15.25.

Read the reviews as well. They will confirm that this is truly a fine book because most of the reviews are written by the professorial "politically correct" and those ol' truth tellers, Muslims. Neither likes the truth, and both think that their hollow accusations will undercut the truth in the pages and discourage buyers. At least these reviewers offer a little comic relief.

Always On Watch said...

Patai's book is of supreme importance. I bought my own copy and constantly refer to it.

dag said...

Hey, thanks for the input. I hadn't seen or heard ot the book for 20 years or more and assumed it was long since gone from our times. I'll get a copy soon. Good work. Nice to know we can make this kind of info available to people around the world. There's always something I miss that others pick up on and let me know.

Thanks again.

Regards, Dag.

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