Arab nationalism is a topic that I would like to further address. There are many articles of studies done over the Middle East, but they often reflect personal or political views. Arab nationalism is a topic that is often influenced by outside sources. Arab nationalism is most commonly associated with the thoughts, and beliefs that all Arabs hold the same traditions and beliefs. Arab nationalism is not only having the same cultural traditions, but also having a single political community, and having a common government (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). It is about gaining independence for Arabs, as a whole. There are many misconceptions when it comes to who is actually an Arab and identifies as an Arab. Many Arabs are Muslims, but not all Muslims are Arabs and not Arabs are Muslims. Arab nationalism took many years to be on the rise. It took Arabs learning new ways, teaching the youth, and learning new practices for Arab nationalism to become known and established.
Arab nationalism was promoted by American ways. Americans, on accident, helped Arabs when they started teaching in Arabic and allowing those of other religions into their schools. One of these was, “the Syrian Protestant College (now the American University of Beirut), admitted students of every religion,” (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). There, they taught reading, and writing, which led onto those students being able to do many things with their future. Americans were used to teaching this way, but Arabs were lacking these teachings at this time. They were able to send their youth to these schools, but many students still kept their Arab culture and heritage as important to them. They didn’t convert to other religions or held their own beliefs for the most part. They used these teachings of writing and reading for their own culture. Many students would become scholars, journalists, or teachers, for example. This helped the nationalim movement as this led to the Arabic literary revival. The Arabic literary revival turned into the Arabic nationionlism movement (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). The schools not only led to Arabic literary revival but also allowed Arabs to adapt many American ideas and ways. The youth not only took away the reading and writing learned, but also the ways in which Americans used school to try and expand their beliefs, by teaching them to the youth. This included “using schools to develop moral character, promoting benevolent activities, and teaching students to create new institutions to fit changing conditions,” (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). This gave Arabs new ways to teach their traditions and beliefs to many students at once. These teachings allowed the youth to be able to learn, and apply the learning in any way they wished. Since many Arabs stuck with their Arab heritage and traditions they could apply their knowledge to the changing world and how it was affecting their culture. They applied their knowledge in many ways to create Arab nationalist ideology. Western ideals of liberalism and democracy were important teachings applied to building the Arab nationalist ideology (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). Arabs wanted to incorporate liberalism and democracy in the Arab world. These concepts would be put into practice among the nation-states. The idea was that these nation-states would all be connected through Arabic nationalism, but be able to practice ideas on their own.
Arab nationalism ideology started to occur during the nineteenth century. It was a response to those wanting to make the world to be a single system revolving around Europe (Rashid, 1991). The result of this was Arabs wanting to be recognized as their own group. They wanted to have their own traditions, culture, and individuality. Nationalism was a way for this to happen for Arabs. They were afraid that under one single system, and Arabs being the minority of this system, that Arab traditions and customs would be lost. Many Arabs saw the need for change and applied their knowledge to come up with and put into place Arab nationalism. Arab nationalism grew from here, and by the time the twentieth century came around Arab nationalism became well known. Arabs around the world started to adapt to nationalism. Arabs were considered those who spoke Arabic, showed Arabic pride, and considered themselves as Arabs (Rashid, 1991). Creating this sense of shared identity among the Arabs allowed them to search for the political expression that they wanted for Arabs. This came with many problems among the Arabs themselves. There were Arabs all over in many locations. Arab nationalism was well known by the twentieth century, but not all started the practices at the same time. Arabism refers to the fully developed arab nationalism in the twentieth century (Rashid, 1991). Arabism was being adapted throughout the Arab world at different rates due to the differences in location, leaders, and policies. There were many obstacles that had to be overcome in order for Arabs to establish nationalism around the world among themselves.
Leading up to Arab nationalism, were years of opportunities from the changes that took place in the Middle East during the rise of nationalism. The Arabs seemed to have much hope on creating a friendship with the Turks. This would have allowed for steps to be taken towards the liberal democracy they were wanting. During the Young Turk revolution in 1908, the selection of representatives favored the Turks, which in return left the Arabs with lost hope and in fear of their traditions and culture being lost (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). The Arabs didn’t respond well to the fact that they tried but weren’t chosen basically due to them being the minority. The policies that they hoped to change, remained in place. This came across as a threat, which caused the fear of losing the liberties they had as Arabs. This was very important because the lose of these liberties would mean they would potentially lose their cultural heritage among Arabs. They would lose the practices that followed their culture and beliefs. Arabs would stay loyal to the Ottoman ways instead of those of the Arabs if nothing was done to change the ruling. The result would be a revolt against the Ottoman empire. The Ottomans getting involved in the World War, gave Arabs this chance they needed because it allowed Arabs to have the chance they needed. The Arabs were still searching for a way to be able to establish Arab nationalism. They were finally able to revolt against Turkish rule. This revolt was to bring down the Ottoman empire, in order to establish their nationalism. The revolt went on for two years (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). They fought in the war against the Ottoman empire. They fought alongside the British and French, but in the end they didn’t keep their promises to the Arabs (Goldschmidt & Al-Marashi, 2019). The Arabs were finally able to establish their practices as a whole after the fall of the Ottoman empire. Following this they were able to create nation-states making up the Arab world.
The Arab world consisted of nation-states. A common misunderstanding was the Arab nationalism would mean that all Arabs would be under one single nation-state. In order for Arabs to put their ideas into practice, they established three nation-states following the World War. These were placed in Syria, Iraq, and Arabian Peninsula (Rashid, 1991). These states were able to practice Arabian ideas and function independently. Many Arabs liked the ideas that nation-states would bring. This allowed for them to be independent, practice their own ideas, and still be all tied together by their beliefs and culture. Something that is often wondered is if becoming one nation-state would bring more unity among Arabs. Many believe unity would bring more strength to Arabs (Rashid, 1991). Unity would bring more strength in many ways. If all Arabs were under the same government control, they would all practice the same ideas. This would unite Arabs more so than as nation-states practicing only similar ideas. The strength would come through Arabs practicing their culture heritage and traditions together. This could create strength, but it could also create problems. Arabs were not all Muslims, and many arabs came from different religions. This can lead to different ways of thinking. The nation-states allow Arabs to practice ideas and beliefs within each nation-state, rather than as a whole. This allows for more freedom and liberty. Arab nationalism allows for the loyalty of Arabs to their culture. Practicing nationalism under one control or as nation-states both has its ups and downs. In the end, nationalism was able to be established under nation-states, and Arabs were able to practice their ideas and beliefs freely.
In conclusion, Arab nationalism was a result of young Arabs using their knowledge gained through the American schools ways to change the world to better fit their culture. Arabs fought many years to establish nationalism. Nationalism is important because it allowed for Arabs to practice their ideas and beliefs, and their culture and traditions weren’t lost. Many Arabs fought for nationalism due to the fear that their cultural heritage could be lost without nationalism. Arabs were very determined. They were defeated, and unable to establish nationalism many times along the way. They never lost hope and eventually were able to establish nationalism. Arab nationalism became well known throughout the Arab world by the twentieth century. It spread and united all Arabs. Arab nationalism was seen in nation-states, and not under one empire. This allowed Arabs to practice their ideas. Mainly, Arab nationalism allowed Arabs to be able to show pride in their identity, and be where they wanted to be politically.
- Goldschmidt, A., & Al-Marashi, I. (2019). A Concise History of the Middle East (12th ed.). Routledge.
- Rashid Khalidi. (1991). Arab Nationalism: Historical Problems in the Literature. The American Historical Review, 96(5), 1363. https://doi.org/10.2307/2165275