HOLY LANDS: REVIVING PLURALISM IN THE MIDDLE EAST
The news from the Middle East these days is bad. Whatever hopes people may have for the region are being dashed over and over, in country after country. Nicolas Pelham, a veteran correspondent for The Economist, has seen much of the tragedy first hand, but in Holy Lands he presents a strikingly original and startlingly optimistic argument.The Middle East was notably more tolerant than Western Europe during the nineteenth century, because the Ottoman Empire permitted a high degree of religious pluralism and self-determination within its vast borders. European powers broke up the empire and tried to turn it into a collection of secular nation-states; it was a spectacular failure. Rulers turned religion into a force for nationalism and the result has been ever increasing sectarian violence. The solution, Pelham argues, is to accept the Middle East for the deeply religious region it is, and try to revive its tradition of pluralism.Holy Lands is a work of vivid reportage–from Turkey and Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Bahrain and Jordan–that is animated by a big idea. It makes a region that is all too familiar from news reports feel fresh.
View all Books
“A sound, accessible argument for why returning to the mixed-faith communities living among each other in the Ottoman model might just save the Middle East. … Pelham traces the current crisis of violent, xenophobic sectarianism in the region to the series of forced population transfers and displacements carried out through the 20th century, most critically from the fall of the ethnically diverse Ottoman Empire to the creation of Israel and Pakistan. … However, Pelham does not see only doom but rather a resurgence of pluralism as a natural, human response given the chance for peaceable community. A lively, succinct, nonpolemical study that will offer much thought for discussion.” – Kirkus Reviews
“Nicolas Pelham, an Economist journalist, has put together a fine collection of essays – a rare combination of on-the-ground reportage and profound historical knowledge – that takes as its starting point the millet (religious sect) system of the Ottomans, who were more ethnically diverse and tolerant than their European contemporaries.” – The Guardian