Read more about Keys to Understanding the Middle East

Keys to Understanding the Middle East

(9 reviews)

Alam Payind, Ohio State University

Melinda McClimans, Ohio State University

Copyright Year: 2017

Publisher: The Ohio State University Pressbooks

Language: English

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Reviewed by Lindsay Benstead, Associate Professor of Political Science, Portland State University on 3/9/23

This book is highly comprehensive from the point of view of a beginning course on Middle East area studies. For a graduate school or upper-level undergraduate course, it could be used for the first week or two focusing on the history and cultural... read more

Reviewed by Jessalynn Bird, Associate Professor, Saint Mary's College on 12/15/22

The book begins by comprehensively mapping out the linguistic and religious diversity of the "Middle East," with an emphasis on the importance of Arabic and Islam in the region, but then jumps from the era of the expansion of the Islamicate to the... read more

Reviewed by Selda Altan, Assistant Professor, Randolph College on 4/5/22

The book provides a bird's eye view of the Middle East but does not go into the details of the region's history. The focus is limited to religions, languages, and a brief discussion of imperialism and non-aligned movement. The glossary is... read more

Reviewed by Sevan Yousefian, Adjunct Professor of History and Geography, Massachusetts Department of Higher Education on 6/30/21

The text provides students with a comprehensive introduction to various themes and topics necessary for a better understanding of Middle Eastern culture, history, politics, and current events. The authors begin by discussing the approach and goals... read more

Reviewed by Nahyan Fancy, Professor, DePauw University on 10/17/19

For a short introduction to the Middle East, the book does an excellent job of being comprehensive with regards to linguistic and religious diversity. It also raises excellent theoretical discussions with regards to naming of Middle East,... read more

Reviewed by Gregory D. Young, Senior Instructor, CU Boulder on 7/1/19

A very good introduction to language, culture, religion and the impact of imperialism on the region. Certainly not an advanced text, but challenges the common misperceptions held by the West and often conveyed in the media. read more

Reviewed by Levi Thompson, Assistant Professor, CU Boulder on 7/1/19

The text covers all the areas it sets out to address appropriately, moving from a discussion of languages in the Middle East (ending with a discussion of Arabic), to the religious context (with a suitable focus on the diversity of religious... read more

Reviewed by Katie Herzberg Hachimoto, ESL Instructor, Open Oregon Educational Resources on 4/16/19

The book was very comprehensive. It explained more than just religion. It described the forms of government. The book also compared Islam to Judaism and Christianity. The resource also showed famous people and places of worship from all... read more

Reviewed by Jessica Malo, Adjunct Professor , Florida State University on 11/13/18

The textbook covers many important topics and subtopics for understanding the Middle East, especially pertaining to religion and languages, and therefore culture. There was a certain emphasis on Islam as a doctrine but less so as it is lived in... read more

Table of Contents

Chapter One: Languages

  • Languages
  • Linguistic Groups
  • Arabic's Influence in the Region
  • Islamic Expansion

Chapter Two: Faith and Religious Identity

  • Faith and Religious Identity
  • Diverse Religious Identities of the Middle East
  • Religious DIversity
  • Islam in Middle Eastern Societies
  • What is Shar'ia Law
  • Religious Pluralism
  • Prayer, A Part of Daily Life for Muslims Around the World
  • Shi'ism
  • The Mystical Tradition of Sufism, or Tasawwuf
  • Who are the Salafis/Wahabis?

Chapter Three: The Middle East and the Impact of Imperialism

  • The Middle East and the Impact of Imperialism
  • Defining the Term "Middle East"
  • National Borders as Foreign Intervention
  • The Impact of Imperialism on the Region
  • Modernization Versus Westernization
  • Gamal Abdul Nasser and Non-Alignment
  • Nation States and Stateless Nations
  • The U.S. and Post-Bandung Imperial Dominance

Ancillary Material

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  • About the Book

    This book is intended for readers who have never studied the Middle East, or experts who may wish to fill gaps in their knowledge of the region from other disciplines. Whether for establishing or deepening one's knowledge of the region, these fundamentals are important to know. The languages, cultural, religious and sectarian communities of the region, and selected turning points and influential people in history are starting points for gaining an understanding of the diverse contexts of the region. It isbased on introductoryand graduatecourseson thecontemporaryMiddle East, which the Center's director, Dr. Alam Payind, has been teaching for the past 30 years. The book's co-author,Melinda McClimans,hastaught these and other courses with him, as well as her own,for the past 15years. The material isintendedengage with diverse – even conflicting – culturaland historicalperspectives,andways of perceivingboth Middle Easternandworld historyfrom perspectives within the region. It is not intended to reinforce a monolithic or matter-of-fact perception of the region.For this and many other reasons, images are an important aspect of the knowledge presented. Each chapter starts with links to its image galleries, along with other visual aids and key elements.

    About the Contributors


    Dr. Alam Payind is the Director of the Middle East Studies Center (MESC), a senior teaching member of the International Studies Program and the Near Eastern Languages and Cultures department, a liaison for the Office of International Students and Scholars, and a member of University’s International Programs Task Force. Born and raised in Afghanistan, and previously a holder of government and academic positions in Kabul, he speaks Pashto, Dari and Urdu with native fluency. He continues to conduct field work, provide consultations on a regular basis in Afghanistan and has visited the country 13 times since September 11th, 2001. He travels extensively within the Afghan borders, and during recent trips he has been witness to the Taliban’s resurgence in Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, and other provinces of Afghanistan. Besides being a professor at the Ohio State University, he is still part of the faculty at Kabul University in Afghanistan, and is a consultant to the Afghan government in its educational reconstruction efforts. In late 2006, Dr. Payind was appointed as Ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Kingdom which he turned down for personal and professional reasons. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science and Higher Education, as well as an M.A. in Political Science in 1977 from Indiana University, his M.Sc. in Higher Education from Indiana University in 1972; and his BA in Political Science & Islamic Law from Kabul University in 1966. Dr. Payind served in the Afghan government as the Director General of Cultural and Foreign Relations, and was a professor at Kabul University before the Soviet invasion in 1979. Dr. Payind has seen Afghanistan through many phases: under King Zahir Shah, President Dawud, the ten-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Mujahiddin regime, followed by the Taliban regime, and the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. Unlike most political scientists, he has fluency in the languages of the region he studies and literary competence, as well. His combination of academic qualifications and life experience uniquely qualifies him to give the cultural, historical, and current social context for recent events. He teaches “Introduction to the Modern Middle East,” and the interdisciplinary upper-division “Contemporary Issues in the Middle East,” offered through International Studies and Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. He co-directs the Center’s Summer Institute on Middle Eastern Cultures with Professor Merry Merryfield. He provides vital consultations to press and news agencies on Middle Eastern affairs and delivers an average of 70 public lectures on Middle Eastern issues per year. Dr. Payind speaks Pashto, Persian, and Urdu, and has research capability in Arabic.

    Melinda McClimans's M.A. is in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, from Ohio State, and she is currently in the Global Education doctoral program. She has lived and studied in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, studied Arabic in Cairo and Tunis, and in 1994 she enrolled in Franklin University in the Italian speaking area of Switzerland. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in 1997, and worked as an intern at the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand, after graduating. She manages the Center’s programs, oversees the grant writing grant writing and reporting, trains oversees staff development, creates educational materials and conducts outreach to the P-12 community. As part of this she leads the annual study tour to Turkey for teachers. She has taught a class on Egyptian culture including a study tour in Egypt, she oversees and teaches in the Center’s institutes for teachers, and has co-taught online courses for teachers. She directs the Center’s teacher training program and co-creates and/or edits teacher-created instructional materials. Melinda has research ability in Arabic and French, and is fluent in Italian.

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