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Such ideas were particularly appealing at the mass level, and long aroused the enthusiasm of the publics in many Arab countries. On the other hand, the states that existed in the Arab world for most of the twentieth century and on into the twenty-first century are in some cases rooted in long-standing entities with a strong, independent administrative tradition, have all engendered a powerful network of vested interests, and in recent decades have taken on an aura of permanence.

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The existence of these separate Arab states was reinforced by the Charter of the League of Arab States , established in March , which reaffirmed the independence of the signatory states, provided that decisions had to be made unanimously in order to be binding, and forbade interference in the internal affairs of any Arab state by others. At the same time, their leaders have often clothed their actions in visionary Arabist rhetoric. Such ideological motivations were never entirely absent from the actions of most governments, if only because their respective public opinions resonated to such ideas.

The result appeared to be hypocrisy, whereby governments did things for one reason while claiming an entirely different one as their real motivation. The paradoxical effect of all this was to discredit Arabism as an ideology when the failures of the various nominally Arab nationalist regimes finally exasperated their citizens and Arab public opinion generally.

The ensuing bankruptcy of Arab nationalism as an ideology, and of the parties and regimes that still espouse it, would appear to be among the enduring features of modern Arab politics.

The Origins of Arab Nationalism

Antonius, George. London: H.

Hamilton, Buheiry, Marwan, ed. Intellectual Life in the Arab East, — Dawn, C. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, Hourani, Albert. Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age, — , 2d edition. Cambridge, U. The Origins of Arab Nationalism. New York : Columbia University Press, Khoury, Philip S. Cite this article Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

December 2, Retrieved December 02, from Encyclopedia. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list. Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia. Home Humanities Encyclopedias almanacs transcripts and maps Arab Nationalism. Arab Nationalism Updated About encyclopedia. Arab Nationalism gale. Bibliography Antonius, George. Such a view obscures the complex intertwined histories of these two highly evolving movements, which can be seen as being, in many aspects, mutually constitutive.

However, nullifying this view does necessarily imply that the opposite one is true.


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The question that one should address now is whether it is possible to go beyond this variety of interactions described above and identify a unifying element that would justify such a claim. It will first be found that both Islamism and Arabism emerge as a reaction to the Western penetration of the region and have similar societal functions in that respect.

To some extent, both movements can therefore validly be viewed as two forms of this rejection. The first hint of the existence of a strong common element consists in the following observation: Pan-Arabism and political Islam seem to be linked by an inverse correlation. When one rises, the other declines, when one dominates the other is marginal. This relationship can arguably be traced back to the early 20 th century.

Before the first World War indeed, according to Dawisha , the Islamic identity was much stronger among the Arabs than the still new and marginal concept of Arab nation.

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To account for this striking and seemingly mechanic relationship, one needs to understand what links Arab nationalism and Islamism, and, therefore, pay attention to their common origin. This origin is to be found in the rejection of the European colonial power, which is at the very heart of the emergence and spread of both movements. As for political Islam, one of its early ideologues, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani identified European imperialism as an experience common to Muslims and sought to mobilize anti-colonial sentiment around a renewed sense of ummah consciousness Landau , as cited in Mandaville Likewise, Hasan al-Bana who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in was concerned with cultural Westernization of the Muslim world and the loss of Islamic traditions.

For Shulze even the notion of an Islamic state is a reaction to the Western nation-state, and for many authors Islamism is also a response to the emergence of Zionism, regarded as a Western project. The exact same analysis can be made on Arab nationalism, which also sees itself as mean to roll back Western dominance in the region Hinnesbuch, It is thus clear that same both movements emerge out of the same anti-Western identity matrix. Their successes or failures are therefore subordinate to the same criteria since they can but make the same promises.

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From Ottomanism to Arabism: Essays on the Origins of Arab Nationalism by C. Ernest Dawn

It seems that this framework only can account for and explain the inverse correlation outlined above. For example, one could posit some of the most decisive promises, in terms of their influence on the fate of the two ideologies, are the liberation of Palestine and the achievement of a better economic equality.


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At this moment, Islamism wins the ideological battle on the same issue on which it lost after World War II: the ability to represent a credible anti-Western force. Critiquing Arab nationalism for being a mere imitation of European institutions, it was then able, to position itself as the only authentic way to get rid of Western influence.

A similar argument could be made in the field of political economy. Although both movements are indeed two different expressions of an anti-West sentiment, reducing them entirely to this framework would be unsatisfactory. Such a model would totally overlook the actual content and internal ideational drivers of the two ideologies —which elements do matter a lot, both in terms of their relations to each other and in terms of their effects on regional and global international relations.

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In other terms, both are a reaction to the West, but these reactions are themselves fundamentally different. In fact, they do not reject the same elements in Western hegemony; they do not fight the West at the same level, and in a sense that they are not opposing the same West. While Arab nationalism fights a military and political power, political Islam fights an ideological influence.

Discarding this criticism as a purely opportunistic stance dictated by power struggles would be fallacious. Indeed this Islamist view appears to be rooted in the very original doctrine of the movement, which, although it did not call for a confrontation at the moment of its formation and was radicalized over time notably as a result of its conflicts with Arab nationalism and the sometimes brutal repression it implied; Mellon, , already about countering the spread of European ideas. And indeed, this perception of Arab nationalism being a product of Western ideologies is well-founded.

In post-independence new nation-states, secular education is vigorously promoted, as seen in Egypt where school population expands by , in the years surrounding the Sidel, A fundamental ideological cleavage seems to take shape here. It implies that, even though it is exact that Islamists and Arab nationalists are both combating the West, both are not leading the same battle. Arab nationalism had none and did not seek to have one. Consequently, the view which, irrespectively from their ideological content, defines Arab nationalism and political Islam as essentially two manifestations of the same counter-hegemonic dynamic, is incorrect.

Such a definition would amount to an overly social-functionalist approach, which would, in a way, tear ideas from ideologies. Conceptually, this would commit the fallacy against which Descartes warns, in his Discourse on the Method : confusing the origin in this case, a reaction to western penetration of the Middle East and the foundation what this reaction consists in.

A wide variety of interactions being found, the claim was nullified.


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A seemingly unifying pattern and a common origin were then evidenced but found to be insufficient to proceed to agree with the discussed assertion. In other words, this essay reached the conclusion that Arab nationalism and political Islam, closely intertwined from their origins, both grow out of the same anti-Western identity matrix, but that the contents, means, and meanings of this rejection are fundamentally different.

In this sense, the metaphor of the coin, may, after all, not be such an inaccurate one. Anjum, M. Bull, H. The Revolt against the West. In: H. Bull and A. Watson, ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dawisha, A.