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Freedom and Justice in the Modern Middle East

Relatives of freed Lebanese prisoner Samir Qantar carry him aloft during a welcome ceremony upon his arrival in his hometown of Abay, Mount Lebanon July 17, 2008. Mohamed Azakir / Reuters

CHANGING PERCEPTIONS

For Muslims as for others, history is important, but they approach it with a special concern and awareness. The career of the Prophet Muhammad, the creation and expansion of the Islamic community and state, and the formulation and elaboration of the holy law of Islam are events in history, known from historical memory or record and narrated and debated by historians since early times. In the Islamic Middle East, one may still find passionate arguments, even bitter feuds, about events that occurred centuries or sometimes millennia ago -- about what happened, its significance, and its current relevance. This historical awareness has acquired new dimensions in the modern period, as Muslims -- particularly those in the Middle East -- have suffered new experiences that have transformed their vision of themselves and the world and reshaped the language in which they discuss it.

In 1798, the French Revolution arrived in Egypt

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