Of the many causes of the current crisis in the Middle East, Arab culture itself might be the most important, argues the Jordanian-American intellectual Hiam Nawas:
Unless Arabs take a self-critical look at their own values, violence in the Middle East will continue. . . . The Arab moral code values revenge over compromise, men over women, and groups over individuals. Collective Arab identity is based on tribalism, submitting to paternalistic authority, a sense of honor linked to women’s virginity, and an ossified sanctification of custom and tradition. There is a glorification of the past along with a refusal to take responsibility for the present, [combined with a] hope that the future will miraculously be better.
This is not to say that individual Arabs are [wholly representative] of this culture. To the contrary, interaction with average members of Arab societies demonstrates a generally decent, generous, and tolerant demeanor. Nor is Arab culture without many [virtues]. . . .
The contemporary Arab world also often lacks self-reflection and self-criticism. Conversations with Moroccans, Egyptians, Tunisians, Jordanians, and Gulf Arabs repeatedly demonstrate an overall narrative of victimization and of blaming outsiders. This [tendency] most notably manifests itself in a plethora of conspiracy theories, such as the suspicion that Islamic State is an American-Israeli invention manufactured to destroy the region, or that the Arab Spring was a Western plot to hand the region over to Islamists.