Posted On: Nov. 8, 2017
The first question we should ask ourselves is what is Arab nationalism and Islamism? Arab nationalism was present early on in the history of Arabia, but what came more developed shortly after the Second World War as colonial powers with drew or lacked sufficient powers in the Middle East and as the Ottoman Empire was being disbanded many were left without a national identity. With the end of Imperialism and the Ottoman Empire the notion was that Arabs should be united through the shared political, cultural, religious, and histories of the many different Arab nations. As with many nationalist movements in the Middle East the main goal of Arab nationalism was to create a nation that could function independent of what they felt were Western influences of the previous colonial powers. Most predominantly all laws would be based on Islam, all language should be the same, and Israel was the enemy. Still, Arab nationalism was difficult to maintain as the countries it sought to encompass were spread far and separated by geographical obstacles such as the deserts, gulf seas, and mountains. With these barriers each nation would maintain their own particular identities and separate interest. There were also the ideals of Turkification and Zionism that directly challenged Arab nationalism. The three Arab – Isreali Wars of 1948, 1967, and 1973 only demonstrated the fact that the Arab nations were not politically united, that they lacked the militarily might to enforce policies and they were economically weak. We also cannot ignore the Arab Spring throughout many Middle Eastern nations calling for reforms. Islamism on the other may be defined as Political Islam and as having three main features: a devotion to the Quran which provides all laws for daily life and government, total rejection of all Western influences, and that faith should be the only ideology that links all Muslims. From our reading, Gelvin (2011) describes how Islamism counters Nationalism by, “They were able to counterpose their own brand of cultural authenticity as represented by Islam to the imported secular national creed which they argued brought nothing but oppression, economic stagnation, and defeat to the region” (p. 315). I believe this gave people hope for change and gave them something that was lacking in their society. You can only oppress a person so long before they seek out other means to live. I think that is at the heart of Islamist as we look at Islamism or Political Islam. Many may be confused by the policies of groups such as Hizbullah, Fatah, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda that us violence as their tool to promote change. This has caused significant problems for Islam as I believe many associate Islam with violence and do not understand the difference between Political Islam and Militant Islamism. We also have to remember that these organizations began with providing resources to their communities such as elementary school, social work, charities, and other services (Gelvin, 2011, p. 312). We also have to look at organizations that have their own since of nationalism. Hamas defines Lebanon as their homeland and their goals are distinct towards Lebanon while Muslim Brotherhood was said to be nationalist working for the Welfare of Egypt (Gelvon, 2011, p. 311). There are also differing views within Political Islam such as we seeing now in Iraq and Syria with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) calling Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi the new caliphate which represents a totally new division of Political Islam as the last caliphate died with the Ottoman Empire. What I found interesting over the reading and our assignments is how I noticed the movement from self identification from Arab to Muslim. I think I recognized this occurring in the Middle East especially after the Iranian revolution. I read an article in the Huffington Post yesterday while surfing the internet titled Militant Islamism: A Strategic Threat. The article was written by Magnus Norell (Adjunct Scholar at The Washington Institute for Near East Policy & Senior Policy Advisor, European Foundation for Democracy) and the link is: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/magnus-norell/militant-jihadism-a-strat_b_5546469.html Reference Gelvin, J. L. (2011). The Modern Middle East: A History. (3rd ed.). Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, Inc Arab nationalism took shape after the withdrawal of western powers from the Middle East. However, Arab nations are spread out geographically and it was difficult for them to establish a single identity.. Religion is the most important factor that binds people together, and that’s why Islam nationalism raised its head, after the failure of Arab nationalism. We can see the effect of the same even today where militants are fighting and claiming to be the true representatives of Islam. The identity of Islam nationalism is getting blurred with terrorism, which is not true. However, the events of date make people believe in this. There is no unity and there are several splinter groups within Islam itself and it confuses the world much more. People are swayed by fanatics either by force or by popularizing what is commonly known as jihad. Here one should not confuse Arab nationalism with Islam nationalism as the two are different from one another.