Quest for Democracy: Liberalism in the Modern Arab World, Line Khatib

Reviewed by Heba F. El-Shazli

Liberalism and democracy are intertwined and connected, yet when discussed in the context of the modern Arab world, initially there is disbelief, dismissal, and then heated debate. Line Khatib, author of Quest for Democracy: Liberalism in the Modern Arab World, reminds us that liberalism is not a dirty word and does, indeed, apply to the modern Arab world. She shines the spotlight on an understudied and often ignored liberalism while refuting that the region’s history is devoid of liberal-thinking scholars and practices.

Statements such as the Arab world is not ready for or does not understand liberal democracy have become common place. This book is in the middle of this debate. Khatib argues that “the claims and assumption made by many that Arabic-speaking liberals and Arab democratic liberalism have been unimportant, … nonexistent for long stretches of time … or at best inconsistently active and engaged” (p.199). Indeed, liberalism in the Arab world is at a weak point and Khatib is not trying to convince the reader otherwise. Yet, by reviewing historical, intellectual, and political trends, and civic activism, the reader rediscovers a liberalism that is engrained in the region’s political history (3). This political history and rediscovery of liberal-minded scholars are necessary to fully understand the Middle Ea

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