The Arab world is made up of those countries where Arabic is the main language. Most belong to the Arab League. The Arab world we know grew out of the Arab Empire a thousand years ago.
The Arab world currently has about 200 million people, two-thirds the size of America. Yet it has at least half of the world’s oil.
The Arab world is not the same as the Muslim world. Only one Muslim in six is Arab. Islam spread far beyond the Arab world long ago.
Also, not all Arabs are Muslim. Some are Christians, like some in Lebanon and Palestine. Most Arabs who come to live in America are Christians.
The glory days were from the 600s to the 900s, back in the days of the Arab Empire. Baghdad was at the centre of it all and had some of the greatest minds ever.
The empire came out of nowhere, as many do: in a hundred years the Arabs went from being a desert people always fighting among themselves to rulers of an empire that stretched from Persia to Spain.
For hundreds of years the Arab world was far in advance of the West: it gave the West paper, coffee, its numbers, Aristotle and Greek learning, cotton, courtly love and much else. Not that Arabs necessarily invented all these things: they got paper from China and their system of numbers from India.
In time the empire fell. The Arab world was ruled by Turks, then Mongols, then Turks again. Even the West ruled a bit of it in the time of the Crusades. A hundred years ago the Ottoman Turks ruled it all.
When the Ottoman Empire fell the Arab world was cut into pieces like a birthday cake between Britain and France. Britain got control of Palestine on September 11th 1922.
The French and British empires are now only in history books, but two new Western powers have taken their place:
- Israel: a Jewish state founded on Arab land. It rules half of Palestine outright and half by force as a foreign army.
- America: picks up where the British left off. It supports Israel. Blindly. It supports bad government throughout the region, especially in Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In Iraq it overthrew one of these bad leaders and is now trying to set up a working democracy. But Iraq is a complete mess. So when America says it wants to bring peace and democracy to the Arab world it is not believed.
America has three interests in the Arab world:
- Peace so that the region is no longer a threat.
America cannot live without the oil that comes from the Arab world. Nor can it live in constant fear of those who would kill Americans in the name of a holy war, as took place on September 11th 2001.
Israel is less important, but there are enough Jews in America in high position that its protection seems assured.
Osama bin Laden wants to overthrow the rulers that America supports and bring back the glory days of the empire.