Sum of All Fears: Arabs Read an Average of 6 Minutes a Year, Study Reveals

Ikram al-Yacoub, Al Arabiya News, July 14, 2012

There are some readers for whom obtaining a first edition copy of their favorite book or author is of great import and this is evidenced by people standing in long lines to get their hands on new books. While this may be a common site in the West, many believe this is not the case in the Arab world.

There is a common perception too about the number of Arabs that frequent libraries. That number mirrors the nature of a reading culture and can be used to evaluate reading habits among its generations.

Earlier this year, a debate on how to foster reading habits among Arab youth was prompted after the Arab Thought Foundation’s Fikr released its fourth annual cultural development report in January, saying that the average Arab child reads “six minutes” a year in comparison to 12,000 minutes its Western counterpart spends.

It also reported that an Arab individual on average reads a quarter of a page a year compared to the 11 books read by an American and seven books by a British person.

“If we adopt the minimum average time that youth is on the Internet, that gives us 365 hours a year, and if we compare that with the average time an individual Arab spends reading, which is six minutes a year, then the difference between the two becomes clear, and the importance of the Internet in youths’ lives becomes apparent,” the report said.

Soon after these statistics were released, both skeptical and furious debates took place on social media forums like Twitter, with people highlighting the number of challenges facing their society.

Some comments suggested more active usage of e-books to encourage reading habits among the youth at a university level. Others attributed the decline in reading to inappropriate educational environments across the Arab region and families rarely visiting public libraries together.

Family trips to libraries are considered rare across the Arab world. Hind Saud, a student tweeted that TV has become the focal gathering point for families. “We never had a chance to read or discuss a book together as a family.”

Ghader al-Shehabi, a medical student at Riyadh College of dentistry told Al Arabiya that her reading habits only developed after attending university. “We are required to do in-depth research and I’m enjoying it. We used to rely on one text book at school but the more you read, the better you become. I encourage everyone to bring change to their lives by reading.”

Another survey on reading habits in the Middle East in April 2011 made for a depressing read. Only one in five read on a regular basis and among those under 25 ─ nearly 65 per cent of the 3,667 questioned by Yahoo! Maktoob Research ─ about one in three seldom or never read a book for pleasure.

The survey’s results shows similar reading habits across countries. In an Arab League table of readers by nations, the United Arab Emirates placed fifth behind Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and Iraq. In the UAE, just 22 per cent of people described themselves as regular readers.

A general lack of educational opportunities in poor Arab countries can also add to these facts. Research for the Arab League region estimates that about 100 million people ─ almost one in three – struggle to read and write. A 2011 UNESCO report found that in the UAE, one in 10 people is illiterate.

Other factors to consider in the decline of reading can be attributed to people shunning the Arabic language in favor of English. Noura Farouq, a teacher based in the UAE, told The National in April that she has seen a decline in appreciation of Arabic in her 20 year career. “Students do not see the importance of learning their mother tongue. Their parents put a lot of emphasis on English as they think it will further their careers, so they tend to develop an indifferent attitude towards Arabic.”

Despite the benefits of implementing an English language teaching curricula in elementary schools, it has created a language of culturally deprived children. Most of these children are not linked to the narrative perspective of their mother tongue novels, which have created a parallel gap between them and the book.

Bringing children to the habit of choosing their favorite novels, adding to develop reading sessions, or a frequent individual reading classes at schools propose a reading support techniques for young generations.


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  • Funny the mention “Sum of All Fears.”  When it was made into a movie, they crossed out Muslims and inserted Neo-(must not mention in order not to violate Godwin’s Law).

    • mikejones91

      Russians was it?

  • Anan7

    It’s not “inappropriate environments” okay?  We should stop trying to make non-Whites into Whites.  This is what fosters so much conflict, along with them being in our backyards much against our will.

    They should really compare the black and White reading rates.

    If you really want to hide your money from a home invasion in a “Diverse” area, hide it in the thickest, most esoteric-sounding book on your shelves. 

    My grandfather hid money from my money in her textbook one semester when she was in college, and it was still there at the end, but that’s a different story.

  • WmarkW

    Western Europe (particularly Northwestern) pulled away from the rest of the world beginning five hundred years ago, when we adopted a religion based on everyone reading scripture.  Other parts of Europe relied on their traditional hierarchical teaching through sermons and visual arts.  The Islamic world (which had been equal to the West up to that point) rejected the new technology through emphasis on the calligraphy of their (admitted beautiful) script.

    Reading opened the doors to the tools that separated Western Man from the rest of the world — captialism, the scientific method, republican-democracy, and the separation of church and state.  All of which are approached to test ideas against evidence and reduce reliance on tradition.  Today, countries have succeeded or failed based on duplicating them. 

    Western Man can’t be himself if he can’t read and express his thoughts, vote out bad government, or choose with whom to do business.  It’s the only life that makes us, us. 

  • What we have here is a cultural/genetic dead end. These people will not and possibly cannot function in a 1st world society. I wonder how long we can tap dance around this obvious truth.

    • Whirlwinder

      We can tap dance until Islam has enough numbers to start imposing itself upon our society in a way that we cannot ignore. Then we fight or flee, or knuckle under as Obama and his thugs would have us do. We should deal with this problem before it gets to the civil war stage, however. A good first step is ridding ourselves of Obama and all the muslims he has placed in government and the military and ridding ourselves of the liberal leftist government people who are so eager to help Islam along because their ideologies converge.

      • We’ll have 30 million illegal invading Mexicans to deal with before we even get to the Muslim problem…

  • JackKrak

    Can’t find it now but somewhere not too long ago I read that some ridiculously small number of books were translated into Arabic every year – something less than 40. The numbers speak for themselves and just about no one makes money selling books to anyone in huge swath of land stretching from Morocco to the Caspian Sea.

    But we dare not draw any unflattering conclusions from that……

  • ed91

    I thought we were ‘all the same’?
    I read more than that every 10 minutes.

    • MekongDelta69

      Or seven even.  🙂

  • Someone should dub this in Arabic: 

    Viewer discretion advised.

  • frmore

    Arab countries COMBINED export less each year than Finland does. If you think things are dicey now, wait until the oil revenue begins to ebb. Of course, the mohammedans will always have Europe. 

  • seymoore

    Quite sad, really. The Arabs have a rich literary past.

    • The Worlds Scapegoat

       In about 100-200 years, they will say the same about the US.

    • CourtneyfromAlabama

      Arabs or Persians? Let’s clarify that.

  • jj astor

    The fact that Arabs spend so little time reading and expanding their horizons may explain why their civilizaton is stuck in the 12th century.  By and large, they’re just not a very intellectual group of people.

    • CourtneyfromAlabama

      Exactly. And I am sick of how even white people who post on here keep reminding us of their great history. They were never great. Stop giving them credit for what the Greeks, Persians, and Byzantines did, all of whom were white. This isn’t Junior High. Learn to use your brains, please.

      • Although I partially disagree, there are some who agree:

      • seymoore

        @ CourtneyfromAlabama: Yes, many of the notables from Islam’s golden age were Persians who wrote in Arabic, but not all. And yes, the Arabs did draw from the Greek, Persian, Byzantine, and Indian cultures. No one is denying that the Arab world has fallen into a sorry state indeed. But it is foolish to completely write off their history. And for your information, I have read up on this quite a bit. I suggest you do the same and get your information on Arab history from somewhere other than neo-con blogs.īrī

        • CourtneyfromAlabama

          I don’t get my information from neocon blogs. Nor did I say that arabs didn’t do anything at all. The mainstream media and academia actually do what they can to inflate what this group did by making claims that they invented the scientific method when there is no evidence for it whatsoever. I find it insulting that they are constantly given credit for white achievements and I am quite confused as to why so many who post on here are so quick to come to this group’s defense. There are more men who post on here who seem to enjoy sympathizing for this group as well as for East Asians, and in the mean time white women continuously get bashed by these same men. And I read actual books on the history of science and civilization. You use Wikipedia which is very liberally biased.

  • Vil

     What do Arabs do with their time then? You know, except spreading their radical views, breeding like rats, etc? I wonder how many of them have even read the Quran. Not too many I think…

    • JohnEngelman

      I have read it three times. 

    • WhiteGuyInJapan

       Marry their cousins…

    • MekongDelta69

      They blow up stuff. Lots of stuff…

  • JohnEngelman

    Those who claim that Arab civilization is comparable to Western civilization have to go back to the middle ages. Those who claim that Islam is morally equivalent to Christianity have to go back at least to the eighteenth century. 

  • Not sure, but I think I recall reading somewhere that the more fundamentalist Muslim sects, possibly the Talib, adhere to the teaching that the only book one needs to read is the Koran. All others are blasphemous, therefore forbidden.

  • 6 minutes per year is still more than the average black reads.

    • MekongDelta69

      Read what? Ebonics 101?  🙂

      • The best I can come  with is the comments section of World Wide Hip Hop and or posts on Twitter.

        Both bringing us a “diverse” means of communication built on the foundation of Ebonics 101.

        I have received resumes that look like they were copied and pasted from a TEXT on someones cell phone.

    • Up to my neck in CA

      Does looking at the pictures in Sports Illustrated count?

  • It’s sad when we consider that both the great libraries of Baghdad and Alexandria were located in what is now the “Arab world”. But before we Westerners gloat, let us consider what type of material the vast majority of people spend their time reading: Novels! I fail to see the advantage in entertaining yourself by reading fiction merely because the story is conveyed in writing. Our emphasis should not be on reading per se, but on LEARNING.

    • rightrightright

      You absorb spelling, grammar, punctuation and style from reading fiction, all achieved without the conscious struggle to “learn”.  Your reading speeds up.  The reader’s imagination is stimulated, so much so that a “film of the book” often disappoints.   A person well acquainted with the pleasures of reading fiction is more likely also to be acquainted with the television’s “off” button.

      Of course learning is essential but learning (formerly known as education) does not require a boko haram attitude towards fiction and poetry.  

    • This is a complex, gender related issue:
      (see also links below)

    • CourtneyfromAlabama

      Ummmmm, Alexandria was a Greek library.

      •  So. It’s still located in “what is now considered the Arab world”.

    • Kurt Plummer


      Our emphasis should not be on reading per se, but on LEARNING.

      Well put if somewhat ironic given the Talmudic introversion that Jewish culture immersed itself in for centuries.

      Having said that, the real power of reading is that it forces the brain to create symbologic constructs which combine the functioning of the verbal and the visualization elements of the brain to allow the reader to see something that is not there.

      Fiction is useful in this (and one of the reasons why it vastly, VASTLY, out publishes non-fiction) because you are not reading facts, even facts you didn’t know and so may be ‘entertained’ by.  But rather, creating new world views.

      Again, modern man tends to sustain an ‘imaginary’ (fluid) view of his world space later and later into life.  And when that intellect fuses into crystallized awareness often dictates how powerful the resulting intellect really is.

      Someday, we will begin to learn that what we think of as consciousness is not single neuron theory based on after images of flickering Lite Brite mosaic image.  But rather something which exists -beyond- the living mind in a paraquantum existence of tubicle tunneled memory.

      When we fully acknowledge this, things like the huge area of the brain dedicated to memory and even our understanding of what the ‘soul’ is will radically begin to change and synthesize to something more enlightened than either the material/pragmatic or esoteric/experimentalist visions of absolute conservative/liberal thought.

      There must be a purpose to learning.  But that purpose is not necessarily what we think it is.

  • The Worlds Scapegoat

    6 minutes a year?

    It must take them 150 years to read the Koran.

  • Uncle Ruckus

    Wow.  That much?  I never would have guessed.  I would think it was 2-3 minutes . . . tops.

  • haroldcrews

    What would be interesting and more enlightening is to know the distribution of reading habits among Arabs.  Certainly there must be a small cognitive elite who read daily.  The madrasa is a common institution in Arab and Muslim society.  Even apart from the professional and technical fields that require continuing education and daily reading to function there are the imans who presumably read the Koran and commentary on the Koran frequently if not daily.  The literacy rates for Arab countries is fairly high.  Some of them are higher than the US.  Other than these elites there must be for all practical purposes zero amount of reading among the great mass of Arabs.

    (Please note that I’m completely aware that Arab and Muslims are not equivalents.) 

    • CourtneyfromAlabama

      Unless you are talking about tiny oil rich nations like UAE, I find it hard to believe that any arab country has a higher rate than the US. Are you talking about the whiter parts of the Muslim world that really aren’t even arab? Plus, it really isn’t fair for the US to be compared to anyone considering that 1/3 of our population is of third world genes at an IQ level lower than arabs. The main thing we should be focusing on here is how arabs and whites compare. Starting to get tired of all the arab sympathizer posts I am seeing.

      • haroldcrews

        I wasn’t aware of being sympathetic to Arabs.  I merely posted some conjecture on the reading habits of Arabs.  The literacy stats came from Wikipedia.

    • So much for trashy news:

      •  Thanks for that! Kind of reminds me of the feminist “rape statistics”.

      • seymoore

        I remember seeing an interview with Edward Said where he mentioned Bernard Lewis’s accusation that Arabs were uninterested in Western classical music. Said then pointed out that there were classical symphony orchestras in several Arab cities. The Arab world is obviously a deeply troubled region and, yes, many Arabs are abysmally ignorant even of their own heritage. However, you have to be wary of a lot of things written about Arabs and Muslims, especially by people who have an axe to grind. 

  • haroldcrews

    Information on reading habits in the US.  The stats also breakdown reading according to race. 

    • Thanks Harold.

      I found this quote interesting. “Still, the survey shows that the most frequent readers in each area can be diverse”.

      Always a plug for “diversity” isn’t there.

      • haroldcrews

        You’re welcome.  Yes they always have to plug diversity.

    • I think the non-white stats are inflated.

      • haroldcrews

        The reading rates are self-reported so inflation could easily be the case.

  • Wait a minute, are you saying “tenacity” 0f the arabs? Blacks keep attacking whites & others with the same “tenacity” that muslims do towards people far superior to themselves, whether Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, Agnostics etc.

    Whats the point? NOTHING!!!

    The arab morons can fight, moan and whine all they want, but Israel will always be Jewish. Like the blacks, the arabs are losers!

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    Well, it isn’t hard for me to believe that is the case when only looking at white Americans. The average white family I have known, even lower class ones, like for their children to read books. Whenever I am traveling, or in the company of other whites in a setting where there is a lot of waiting and sitting around time, it seems most of them will go crazy unless they have a paperback novel in their hands.

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    Are we only looking at white Americans in that average? Obviously not. It really isn’t hard for me to believe that whites read more than arabs, which is the main point for all of us.

  • This article is of mixed value. Actually, Arabs- although not avid readers- do read for pleasure, but the problem is that Arab middle class, the chief consumer of books, is almost destroyed or in a very fragile position in numerous countries. For instance, Arab intelligentsia was pretty strong in former French colonies (Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria) & socialist dictatorships (Iraq, Syria), plus “mixed” areas like Jordan or Lebanon. Arabs, for instance, have been  reading books of all genres more during 1970s and 1980s than now.

    As for 6 minutes- it’s nonsense. I don’t know about non-fiction, but I know that Arabs- all classes- are poetry lovers, very much like Russians. However, unlike Russians, Arabs did not (with a few exceptions) adopt dominant Western genres (novel, drama, short story, essay). Their literary “love” remains lyric poetry, sometimes narrative quasi-epic about battles of glorious old days. They frequently sing it- like Greeks in the age of Homer- and learn it by heart.

    So, AFAIK:

    * no way Arabs are neglecting their own language. Besides, this is a rich, structurally complex & rewarding language, suited for intellectual discourse.

    * it may be that the time they allocate for reading pleasure has diminished. But, this is a result of social upheavals & breakdown of the middle class, plus rise of Islamist groups & regimes.

    * avid readers in Arab world have always been religious minorities- Arab Christians, Druzes etc. As their position has been undermined- Lebanese Christians: USA, thanks for betrayal- so reading habits in the Arab world went down.

    As always- why this English-language provincialism ? People read in their native tongues & it’s perfectly natural they can read, in modern world, most of the valuable literature. Here is index translationum from UNESCO & you see the ranking of translations from foreign languages:

  • There are ca. 300 M Arabs. And 50% are products of inbreeding ?
    Get real …

  • Despite the benefits of implementing an English language teaching curricula in elementary schools, it has created a language of culturally deprived children. Most of these children are not linked to the narrative perspective of their mother tongue novels, which have created a parallel gap between them and the book.

    Good heavens. Do these people ever stop with their theories and excuses?

    Now we come to find out that we’re forcing Arabs to learn English and this deprives them of the culture; this in the own country!

    Teach them in your native language in your nature country and maintain your native culture. Just don’t come here.

    The photo with the story is telling. Two Arab women in full bomber-camouflage leafing through picture books. It looks like something out of  “The Handmaids Tale” (which depicted Christians of perpetrating such hate against women).

  • CourtneyfromAlabama

    I agree. Most novels I see white adults reading may be fiction but so what? They are very lengthy and take discipline to get through, plus they are full of lengthy words that expand your vocabulary.

  •  I’ll grant you that there is a benefit. I just don’t understand why people spend so much time on fiction when non-fiction can be just as interesting.

    •  Great fiction gives more pleasure. I remember when I was still reading fiction (I was in my late 20s & early 30s), Faulkner’s “Light in August”, Tolstoy’s “Death of Ivan Illych”, Solzhenitsyn’s “Cancer Ward” or Proust’s “In Search of Lost Time” gave me more pleasure than, say, Plato, Confucius, Spengler or Lewis Mumford.

  • Vast majority of posters here are clueless about Arab & Islamic history & culture. Just- it doesn’t matter much.

    What matters is that Arab Muslims (and other Muslims) are unassimilable into US society. Christian Arabs like Lebanese and partly Syrian are (George Joulwan, Steve Jobs, Paul Anka,..), and maybe atheist Iranians in small doses.

    Everything else Islamic, from Mauritania to Indonesia- too foreign, too squeaky, too inimical, too “other”, too hysterical & autistic.

    • Sheila Dinehart

      Your vast intelligence  must keep you  in such great social demand, Bardon. 
      It must be very difficult for you to find the time to post the tiny bit you do post, and such excruciation for you to slug through the task of reading so many stupid posts from so many clueless posters!  

  • Stephen Manning

    Apparently Arab science isn’t what it used to be. And this, right in Mecca:

    200 mosques in Mecca not oriented correctly to the Kaaba.

  • Kurt Plummer



    Because, as society advances, the difference between just another cog in the machine and a successful life as accomplishment is a gap of 10-20IQ points which even most whites are finding increasingly hard to bridge.  But if you make the story about enabling others, you can appeal to the emotional side of man’s nature which is something of a guilty pleasure in that it allows you to stave off thoughts of consequences in a flood of endorphins related to ‘feeling righteous as opposed to being right’.

    Con artists the world over see this response in people even as they let it color their own actions to gain a profit.

    And because we are not allowed to discuss the long term genetic and economic effects of importing people we culturally, aesthetically or mentally have NO INTENTION of breeding with; it is a victimless crime.

    Muslims and other ROWers are different, thanks to some extreme cultural and environmental choices they have made.  You see similar effects throughout history where (say) the Spanish loot, rape and pillage the New World to prop up their own, largely failed, country and so end up with a small peak and an even greater fallback on the world stage.

    Mohammed brought this same effect to the Arab peninsula, selling first Christian ideology and then (when that proved not to be profitable), raider ethics which uplifted the Arabs by turning them into a warrior contagion who always promised ‘the next country over’ would be the new-wealth of those most recently conquered/converted.

    Rather than seeing themselves uplifted (and honestly, given the environment of the Middle East, there was not a lot to work with…) they became ‘true believers’ and the importance of a wealth of KNOWLEDGE was lot to them.

    Modern day charity enablers are the modern Mohammeds of our world, as we are too strong to be taken frontally, these traitors are setting us up for reproductive overrun, from the inside.
    Which is why, before 1945, there were virtually no muslims in America.  And now there are some 2.6-7 million of them.

    Where Islam breeds 5-6 kids per family, that -could- be a real problem.

    At the moment, it’s biggest danger lies in the fact that it encourages group think in other dangerous populations.  Like blacks.

  • Sheila Dinehart

    Jeepers, this must mean most Arabs in the middle east can’t read.  Kinda reminds me of the time when only the wealthy and popes could read…knowledge in the hands of the ruling classes only.  Actually the Arabs I have known are extremely intellengent and educated…and that can be a bad thing too.

  • loyalwhitebriton

    I have attempted to read the Quran; after about six minutes I gave up, so I can understand where the Arabs are coming from.

  • As I said-  clueless. And stop frothing about evidently false info (6 minutes, 4 pages). This is a lie & has nothing to to do with the profile of Arabic civilization during centuries & now.

  • Your comments have nothing to do with the theme of the article. The information was unmasked as a disinformation:

    So, this is a lie. If you’re not capable of rational discourse, feel free to avoid my presence.

    • I’m for complete prohibition of Arab, Muslim, Asian … immigration into White countries, Australia included. But, this is another subject.