Praise & Disparagement
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Modern Arab Politics
In the 16th century CE, the Ottoman Sultan Selim I invaded and annexed most of the current Arab world to the Ottoman Empire.
Arabs lived under the Ottoman rule without objection, as it was regarded an Islamic empire and the Ottoman emperors as the Muslim Caliphs whom should be obeyed by all Muslims. This continued to be the case until the beginnings of the 20th century when, under western influence, nationalist ideologies began to sweep thorough the Arab territories of the Ottoman empire. Notably Arab nationalism الْقَوْمِيَّةُ الْعَرَبِيَّةُ was thriving in the Ottoman province of Syria (modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan). Christian Arabs played a pioneering role in promoting Arab nationalism and in reviving Arabic culture, which had been going through a long period of stagnation.
The political orientation of Arab nationalists in the years prior to the first world war was generally moderate. Their demands were of a reformist nature, limited in general to autonomy within the Ottoman Empire, greater use of Arabic in education, and local service in peacetime for Arab conscripts to the imperial army. Some radicalization followed the 1908 revolution in the empire and the Turkicization program imposed by the new Committee of Union and Progress (CUP, often known as the Young Turks) government. However, Arab nationalism was not yet a mass movement, even in Syria where it was strongest. Many Arabs gave their primary loyalty to their religion or sect, their tribe, or their own particular governments. The ideologies of Ottomanism and Pan-Islamism were strong competitors of Arab nationalism.
Nationalist sentiments became more prominent during the collapse of Ottoman authority. The brutal repression of the secret societies in Damascus and Beirut by the Turkish governor of Syria Jamal Pasha, who executed patriotic intellectuals in 1915 and 1916, strengthened anti-Turkish feeling, while the British, for their part, incited the Sharif of Mecca شَريفُ مَكَّة (local ruler in Mecca) to launch the Arab Revolt during the first world war. The Ottomans were defeated and the rebel forces, loyal to the Sharif's son Faysal ('i)bn "abd ('a)l-lah فَيْصَلُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ entered Damascus in 1918. Arab unity then saw its first failed attempt with the establishment of the Kingdom of Syria under Faysal then its abolishment by Britain and France.
The Arab nationalist beliefs were based on the premise that the nations from Morocco to the Arabian peninsula are united by their common linguistic, cultural and historical heritage. They called for the creation of a single Arab state that would include all Arabic speaking people.
During the war the British had been a major sponsor of Arab nationalist thought and ideology, as a weapon to use against the power of the Ottoman Empire. However, the secret Sykes-Picot Agreement between Britain and France provided for the division of the eastern Arab lands between the two imperial powers. During the interwar years and the mandate period, when Arab lands were under French and British colonial control, Arab nationalism became an important anti-colonial opposition movement, and the idea of independence from western colonial powers became pivotal in Arab nationalist thought, especially after Arabs believed that those powers were the main hurdles in the way of Arab unification.
Sykes-Picot Division of Middle East
A major issue that faced Arabs during the period of western mandate was Zionism. Zionism was a Jewish political movement that sought to revive the Biblical Jewish state in Palestine by importing Jewish settlers to the Arab Palestine form all around the world. The last time that there had been a Jewish nation in Palestine was 2000 years before the British mandate over Palestine, that is about 400 years before Anglo-Saxons migrated to England, and 1500 years before Europeans began migrating to North America.
Palestine was a dear land to Arabs for two main reasons. The first was that Palestine was a sacred land to both Muslim and Christian Arabs. The second was that Palestine was the ground that witnessed a long series of bloody wars between Muslims and European crusaders in Middle Ages. Crusaders managed to settle and establish western states in Palestine for some time, but Muslims eventually regained control over the whole land and removed the western states. Palestine symbolized the historical struggle between the west and Islamic east, and there it was again dominated by westerners who were allowing a new state of European settlers to be established there.
The Arab belief that western mandate over Arab countries prevented Arab unification and allowed Zionism to succeed was the origin of the bad Arabic sentiment against the west that predominated throughout the 20th century, and which is still prominent until now. Not to mention the fact that the native Arab population of the now Israel still live in refugee camps scattered around the Middle East.
Arab nationalism was centered in Syria in the first half of the 20th century. With the arrival of jamaal "abd ('a)n-naaser جَمَاْل عَبْدُ النَّاصِر to power in Egypt after a coup that took place in 1952, Egypt became the center of Arab nationalism and Naaser became the undisputed leader of Arab nationalism. Naaser gained enormous popularity throughout the Arab world after he nationalized the western controlled Suez Canal of Egypt in 1956. However, he was a dictator and he led Egypt and the Arab countries into one of their worst defeats in history in the 1967 war with Israel. For many people, that year marked the date of death for Arab nationalism in the Arab world.
Arab nationalist regimes governed many Arab countries, prominently were those of Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Egypt during the period of Naaser.
Arab nationalism does not constitute a major force in the Arab world today. Due to long years of authoritarian nationalist rule and of continuous failures, most Arabs today have relapsed to more primitive fundamentalist ideologies. Repression lead most liberal thinkers either into prisons or exile, so the cultural arena has become dominated mainly by Sheiks.
Nevertheless, Arab nationalism represented the major theme of Arab thought and politics during the 20th century.
Following are links to two of the most famous nationalist songs with their lyrics. Those songs were sung for decades by millions of Arabs in the past century.