Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Toward Humanitarian Arabism in Confronting the Foreign Penetration - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

There is no end to history. History may repeat itself, but in a continuous, living procession. History is time periods that alternate politically and ideologically. History does not pause at the victory by some state or ideology.

History did not pause at the dazzling victory that was achieved by the luminaries of the European bourgeoisie revolutions over the Church of the Middle Ages, as Hegel thought. History did not pause at the victory of democratic capitalism that was achieved by America over communist and socialist dictatorship of the state as Fukuyama, Hegel’s ignoble student, imagined.

Take a look at another history among the struggles of policy and ideology between Bush’s America and radical Islam, between “America/the faithful Christian stronghold” and “jihadist” Islam that accuses it and the world of unbelief.

Where are the Arabs on this blazing struggle that is enveloping the whole world?

When Bush says that “his crusade” is dedicated to a global war against “the terrorism of fascist Islam,” then the Arabs find themselves, whether they like it or not, at the furnace of a struggle that must inevitably be acknowledged: a clash of cultures, or more appropriately, a clash of religions. Ultimately, religions are acquired or hereditary holy cultures regardless of whether the religion sleeps in the imagination or is aflame in memory and motion.

Yes, indeed, there is a clash of religions, with my apology to the Arab and Muslim sheikhs and politicians who are trying to deny its existence. The new pope appears to all the world in his message to be a spokesman for the Bush Administration’s policy in its war against “the Islam of violence.”

The 79-year old Pope Benedict borrows from the closed logic of the Church of the Middle Ages in discussing Islam, overlooking the role of his papal predecessors in mobilizing Europe for the Crusades that terrorized the Arab World and caused it to be left behind for centuries and in the evolution of a closed, infidel-branding “militant Islam” that today is being embraced by the “jihadism” of Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiri, and their ilk. And when Benedict apologizes, his apology comes out very strangely. He accuses the Muslims of “misunderstanding him!”

Islam is a sincere, cohesive faith in its missionary tenet that has been spread more by peace than through war. From Andalusia and Africa to China, the Muslim Arabs gave nations the choice to embrace Islam or keep their own religions. Islamization and Arabization was not done forcibly through “Courts of Inquisition.” It was not done by massacre, the way the Muslim Philippines and the Indians of North and South America were “Christianized.” Fifteen million Christians have kept their religion in the Arab World, a testament to the historical tolerance of Arab Islam.

However, the defense of Islam in the face of the papal and Bush attack cannot be accomplished by turning it over to a street that is angry and stirred up by faith. It will not be accomplished by turning it over to voices yelling from the pulpits and in the streets. On the contrary, it will be accomplished through peaceful, rational dialogue between the cultures, a dialogue that will withstand doubt, suspicion, and accusation no matter how unjust, distorted, or biased it may be. It is the dialogue of logic, wisdom, and reason, a dialogue in which not just the clergy from the two sides take part, but also men of thought, culture, and science from among those who are religious and those who are not.

I do not want to go any further than that so as not to get dragged into an angry and useless discussion, one that always portrays Salman Rushdie as someone guided only by personal interests or in a mocking caricature, or an American president who is a “warrior” and ignorant. My objective today is a humble attempt at self-searching in order to restore a lost identity and a lost, marginalized affiliation in order to guard against this unjust attack on the Arabs in the name of the West’s fight on terror or under the “Re-Islamization of the Arabs,” a slogan that is being raised by “jihadist and takfiri” Islam and supported by the Persian, Shiite Islam.

There has to be an acknowledgement that, day after day, Arab society is becoming more receptive to the idea of responding with religious violence to the unjust attacks to which it is being subjected, especially after each attack biased by the word “papal” or “Bush” or after every “Israeli orgy” of killing and destruction. Nevertheless, the spontaneous social belief assumes even more foreign deception and fraud in the name of the religion of the “Persian attack.” The reason is the weakness of the historical political and religious culture of the society, whose feelings are clothed in the affiliation with an identity: here I mean affiliation with a nation and an ummah.

An awareness of the concept of the ummah and the nation has been somewhat obscure ever since the time of pre-Islamic in-fighting. The nationalism of Islam and the equality among Muslims, Arab and non-Arab alike, have been left sound asleep behind the concept of Arab nationalism. There has been no expression of affiliation except during moments of regret and pain, as a result of the long foreign hegemony in the name of religious brotherhood.

The national feeling is awakening with the recent Arab resurgence. Independence did not come with national unity. Nevertheless, the unity of culture and language has flourished. However, the nationalist, Nasserite, and Baathist tide quickly receded after its defeat in the haphazard confrontation of Israel and Zionism.

In its fear of the Nasserite and Marxist left, the Arab order of the seventies resorted to getting rid of it, either by reviving the religious “community,” the sectarian or tribal mentality, or by making peace with Israel.

The religious movements, from the traditional and the fraternal, flourished. They moved from demanding noble character traits to demanding participation in making policy, to the Islamization of the society, and to the professional pursuit of religious violence by some organizations. They did so through the narrow-minded religious education, through America’s clasp of the religious sword in fighting communism, and through the triumph of the Khomeini revolution.

The religious “uproar” that has swept Arab society has not reached the point of revolution or the mass pursuit of religious violence. But, as I said, it has reached the point of acceptance toward the idea of religious violence against the foreign injustice and aggression. The majority of society has continued to be peaceful and mild-tempered, but today it is being subjected to exploitation by Iran, in its renewed Khomeinism, in order to be recruited to serve its (i.e. Iran’s) interests. It is being pushed into impromptu and losing confrontations with Israel and America.

In confronting the US penetration in the name of “the militia democracy in Iraq,” and the Persian penetration in the name of “the militia resistance in Lebanon,” I believe that the time has come to make the Arab society and street aware of what the national interest is. This interest is avoiding misguidance in the name of democracy, Middle Easternism, and the jihadist resistance.

The Arabs are in need of faith in a humanitarian Arabism. By this I mean transparency, honesty, calm rationalization, belief in freedom, and exaltedness above tribalism, sectarianism, and denominationalism. Nasserite Arabism was not democratic because its age was the age of liberation from colonialism.

The Arabism that is desired today is the Arabism of freedom, Arabism that is neither neurotic nor fanatic, an Arabism that is receptive to religious and ethnic minorities, one that embraces them and coexists with them in peace and equality. This is accomplished through the acceptance of administrative decentralization and linguistic and cultural diversity.

The Arabs are in need of a humanitarian Arabism that maintains their language and culture, an Arabism free in its faith and religion. There is no contradiction between Arabism and Islam. The religion is a culture. Islam is incorporated into the innermost heart of the Arab historical personality. There is no disconnect and no separation between Arabism and Islam. There is no Arab secularism or acquired ideology that is able to make such a separation.

Who will retrieve the identity of affiliation? Who will save the Arabs from the Western and Persian penetration?

Is the current Arab order able to undertake the task?

Ghassan Al Imam

Ghassan Al Imam

Ghassan Al Imam is a Syrian writer and journalist based in Paris.

More Posts