Ibrahim, a professor of sociology and director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, both in Cairo, offers one of the freshest, bravest, and most interesting analytical voices coming from the Middle East. He repeatedly stirs controversies and gets into trouble by stating what may seem to Westerners obvious, but is highly contentious in the Arab countries: for example, he holds that the Coptic minority in Egypt suffers from discrimination, that female genital mutilation should be stopped, that Anwar as-Sadat's peacemaking was a success, and that Arab states spend too much on arms and not enough on social programs. Unlike so many Arab analysts, Ibrahim is preoccupied not with the sterile Arab-Israeli conflict but with bringing political participation and economic development to his region.

Given his sensible outlook, it is therefore dismaying to see how often Ibrahim gets elementary facts wrong. In a single chapter dealing with ethnic diversity in the Arab countries, he makes numerical mistakes (236 million Arabs do not constitute 8 percent of the world's population but half that number), chronological mistakes (misdating both the both the Lebanese civil war and the cold war), historical mistakes ("ethnic groups in the Arab world remained long reluctant and skeptical" of European offers of patronage in the nineteenth century?), geographical mistakes (including Israel in a table about the Arab world?), and political mistakes (foreign powers currently enjoy a "hegemony" over the Middle East?). If the author slowed down a bit and provided a more reliable analysis, his important conclusions would have yet more value.