The cultural distance between the West and Islam is narrower than Westerners think. Muslim societies are more humane than portrayed in the West, while Western societies often fail to live up to their liberal mythology. Islam has protected other religions and avoided fascism, racism, and genocide. Citizens of Muslim countries may be more vulnerable to their governments and political violence, but their streets are safer and their families more stable. We could all benefit from Islamic values.
The Arab world has squandered its political inheritance of secular nationalism. In the 1980s, autocracy and young theocratic brigades overtook and exiled the older generation of liberals. The rise of political Islam was accompanied by severe economic decline in the region. But the Middle East is ripe for a post-Islamist era. A modernist Arab alternative requires large-scale economic and political reform and a coming to terms with the two bogeymen -- America and Israel.