Monday, March 14, 2005

Arabism in Black and White

Last week, Austin Bay linked to this great column by Chibli Mallat in the March 8th issue of Lebanon's Daily Star. Looking at the changes taking place in his country and throughout much of the Middle East, Mallat contrasts what he calls the traditional "Black Arabism" of xenophobia and dictatorship with the possibility of a new "White Arabism" based on freedom and pluralism:

The Arab nationalism that has prevailed since the Nasser revolution is increasingly being dubbed "black Arabism" by those of us who do not want to abandon a yearning for closer integration between societies separated by arguably artificial colonial borders. Black Arabism, in this perception, is characteristically fascist, and is epitomized by the former Baath system in Iraq and the present one in Syria. Against it we propose "White Arabism," which harks back to such figures as Saad Zaghlul in Egypt, Kamel Chadirchi in Iraq and Kamal Jumblatt in Lebanon. At the core of the message is the need for democratic, non-violent change at the top in the Middle East, with Arabism read as a liberal call that unifies people irrespective of their religion or sect: in Egypt Copts and Muslims; in Lebanon the various communities that form the country; in Iraq Shiites, Sunnis and non-Muslim sects.

The example of Iraq, where Arabism is not capable of giving Kurds their due of equal citizenship, is particularly telling of the more advanced thought needed to accommodate all citizens - hence the surge of the concept of federalism as a further trait of White Arabism. Only federalism can allow forms of Arab identity to be preserved while Kurds are treated as equal both on the individual level and as a collective community.

A new 'White Arabism' would help generate liberal societies

Lets hope that "White Arabism" continues to spread.


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