SARAWAK, Malaysia -- It may be convenient to perceive the Middle East as a politically charged, fractious region, rife with conflicts and disputes, void of many prospects, save those leading to even further uncertainty and turmoil.

While history is indeed rich with instances that would effortlessly validate such a notion, only disinterested minds would fail to appreciate the immense role played by great European and now American powers in painting such a grim portrait of a region that once served as the cradle of great civilizations.

The seemingly innocent classification of the Middle East as this cohesive, yet inherently violent, entity is consistent with militaristic and chauvinistic views constructed by numerous Western scholars, diplomats and military men, whose attempt to reduce a vast, diverse and intricate region has been compelled primarily by their countries' imperialist drive and hunger for territorial and political control.