Happy Mouloud (or Mawlid), the birthday of the prophet Muhammad ! If you were hoping to celebrate this holiday by buying a copy of CLASH! in the United Arab Emirates, you are out of luck, for the UAE’s censors have banned our book.
What’s so scandalous about CLASH? you ask. Is it our amply documented discussion of how people from different cultures understand themselves differently? Our gentle, evidence-based suggestions for how to heal cultural divides? Or maybe it’s our author photo, with its indelicate revelation of our collarbones?
The censors will not say, but our publisher guesses our offenses are:
1) The 5 pages (out of 246) we devote to discussing interdependence in Jewish culture, and
2) The 1 cm Star of David on our cover.
In other words, merely mentioning Judaism will get your book drop-kicked out of the UAE.
This makes us sad because CLASH! has much to contribute to the conversation about peace in the Middle East. In addition to the short section on Judaism that landed our book in the UAE no-buy zone, CLASH! includes a rich exploration of the Middle East and North Africa’s (MENA’s) unique style of interdependence, which stresses the preservation of honor and the protection of family and friends. We show how this understanding of interdependence can lead to ideas and practices (wasta, cronyism, sensitivity to insults, vendettas, etc.) that seem irrational and corrupt to people in cultures that emphasize independence.
“For most Arabs,” we quote the anthropologist Lawrence Rosen, “it is only realistic to believe that society is better served by webs of obligation than impersonal roles….To grasp that,” he continues, “is to enter a world of enormous decency and order, even if it is not our world.”
Alas, our well-intentioned and painstakingly researched examination of why the interdependence of MENA clashes with the independence of the U.S. and Europe will not reach an important MENA audience: residents of the UAE.
On the occasion of Muhammad’s birth, we ask, is this what Muhammad would have wanted? WWMD? During his lifetime, Muhammad certainly had grievances against Judaism and Jews. But he never put the kibosh on conversations about these differences or how to bridge them. Censoring CLASH! thus seems out of keeping with Muhammad’s own example.