In This Review

Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly
Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly
By Safwan M. Masri
Columbia University Press, 2017, 416 pp

Tunisia is the only Arab state to remain on the path to democracy after the Arab Spring. Masri tries to explain why. Tunisia has existed in one form or another within more or less its current borders for millennia. It underwent a long series of basic reforms in the mid-nineteenth century that led to a progressive definition of women’s rights, tolerance of religious minorities, and, eventually, state secularism. That history makes Tunisia unique, Masri notes, and means that the rest of the Arab world is unlikely to follow its path to democracy. Masri pays particular attention to the country’s educational system, contrasting it with the dismal conditions elsewhere in the region. Masri’s rendering of Tunisia does not offer much new information; it is his conclusion, in which he worries that the country’s nasty neighborhood will ultimately devour this promising experiment in democracy, that makes the book so noteworthy.