Book Review: Hostage to History
Hostage to History
by Elie Mikhael Nasrallah
157 pages • ISBN: 978-1-4602-8277-9
In Hostage to History, Elie Nasrallah asks questions that many in North America and Europe wonder: what happened to Arab culture and its peoples? and what is going on in the Arab world? Nasrallah is of Lebanese heritage and has become one of the Arab world’s greatest critics. The problem, his problem, is that it seems that most in the Arab world today are not self-reflective or even see a need to ask these questions, let alone answer them. The theme of this book (and answer) is: it’s the culture. Nasrallah takes the reader into the abyss of contemporary Arab cultural conditions and looks at its political tension. He postulates that an outdated educational system, illiteracy, political tyranny, the lack of freedom, women’s oppression, sexual repression, the mixing of religion and politics, and the bonanza of oil wealth that is controlled by a small and elitist group of wealthy Arab people, have all conversed and are contributing to the cataclysmic disruption of the Arab state-system. Nasrallah promotes a 12-point plan for getting the Arab world to rejoin modernity and participate with other regions in becoming a modern, right-based entity. He addresses many of the key flashpoints that are at the heart of expression of religion in modern society. His book and reasoning remind me in many ways of Christopher Hitchens 2007 book, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, where Hitchens makes a case against organized religion by postulating that organized religion is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” and sectarian, and that accordingly it “ought to have a great deal on its conscience.” I dare say Nasrallah makes similar arguments. But he is braver because he is from the Arab world, and thus his book is a far greater threat to those from that world, some of whom may not cherish freedom.