The Great Silencing: Intolerance and Censorship in the Arab World


Oct 13, 2009

By Cynthia P. Schneider and Nadia Oweidat

This commentary originally appeared on on October 13, 2009.

"Where are the moderate voices from the Arab world?"

This common lament often leads to nostalgic evocations of the Golden Age of Islam, which stretched from the 7th to the 16th century. President Obama recently harked back to this period of Islamic enlightenment, innovation and tolerance in his Cairo speech, in which he attempted to redefine the relationship between Muslims and the United States.

Actually, there is no need to reach back 1,000 years to find Muslim advocates for tolerance and moderation. There is a need, however, to stop silencing the moderates alive today.

The Arab world is rich in literature—including a surge of new novels and non-fiction—that examines all aspects of Arab life and advocates a vision of a multi-cultural society that respects human rights. These works draw on the traditions of the medieval Golden Age, and of the Arab Renaissance of the 19th and early 20th centuries, when Cairo was to the Arab world what Paris was to the West....

The remainder of this op-ed can be found at

Cynthia P. Schneider, a former ambassador to the Netherlands, is a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University and a Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution, which will publish her forthcoming study, A New Way Forward: Encouraging Greater Cultural Engagement with the Muslim World. Nadia Oweidat is a researcher at the RAND Corporation and a D. Phil candidate at Oxford University.

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