Are American (neo)conservatives projecting their own repressed homosexuality onto the Arabs they "love" to sexually abuse? Of course! Brian Whitaker explains in a look at "The Arab Mind."
There is a lot wrong with The Arab Mind apart from its racism: the title, for a start. Although the Arab countries certainly have their distinctive characteristics, the idea that 200 million people, from Morocco to the Gulf, living in rural villages, urban metropolises and (very rarely these days) desert tents, think with some sort of single, collective mind is utterly ridiculous.
The result is a collection of outrageously broad - and often suspect - generalisations. Patai asserts, for example, that Arabs "hate" the west.
He backs up this claim with two quotations: one from a book published in the mid-50s ("Most westerners have simply no inkling of how deep and fierce is the hate, especially of the west, that has gripped the modernising Arab"), and another from Bernard Lewis - currently the neocons' favourite historian - referring to the mood of "many, if not most Arabs" in 1955 (just before the Suez crisis).
We are also informed (page 144) of "the Arab view that masturbation is far more shameful than visiting prostitutes".
Whether this is why Iraqi prisoners were forced to masturbate in front of cameras is unclear, but the only supporting evidence for Patai's claim is a survey of Arab and US students published in 1954: the US students admitted to masturbating twice as often as the Arabs, while 59% of the Arabs, but only 28% of the Americans, said they had visited a prostitute during the previous 12 months.
In "outlying areas", such as Siwa oasis in Egypt, Patai says, "homosexuality is the rule, and practised completely in the open". This unequivocal statement is based on accounts dating from 1935, 1936 and 1950, and, in a footnote, Patai concedes that they "need to be checked out by an anthropologically trained observer".
There is also a good deal of confusion in the book between the present and the past. An Arab man, Patai writes, even if he has four wives, "can have sexual relations with concubines (slave girls whom he owns)".
All this adds up to an overwhelmingly negative picture of the Arabs. Positive characteristics are mentioned, but are given relatively short shrift.
Hospitality and generosity - two highly regarded virtues in Arab societies - get three and one and a half pages respectively, compared with a whole chapter devoted to alleged sexual hang-ups.
Now we begin to see why the neoconservatives continue to push for extermination and social re-engineering in the Middle East...