The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

ARAB NATIONALISM
In Search of an Ideology

by NISSIM REJWAN


I

WRITING IN 1942, Professor H. A. R. Gibb lamented the fact that he had not yet seen a single book written by an Arab of any country, in any Western language, that made it possible for a Western student to understand the roots of Arab culture. More than that, he said he had 'not seen any book written in Arabic for Arabs themselves which has clearly analysed what Arab culture means to the Arabs'. In 1956, another prominent Arabist, Professor G. E. von Grunebaum, of Chicago University, deplored the fact that the Arab-speaking world of today had not been able to develop 'an adequate self-image -- adequate in the sense that it could reconcile emotional purposiveness with a reasonable respect for facts'.

There is no doubt that these statements still remain largely true, though not altogether so. It is true that no Arab has yet analysed the meaning of Arab culture to Arabs themselves, and that a balance between Arab emotional purposiveness and a sufficient respect for the facts is yet far to seek. Yet the student of Arab culture today cannot help being impressed by a new phenomenon. For to the contemporary Arab intellectual, Arab culture has become epitomized in one comprehensive concept -- that of Arab nationalism. And within the limits of that notion there are fairly sincere attempts to pay attention to facts. No Arab today gives a thought to defining the meaning or analysing the content of Arab culture because he sees no reason for doing so. The unity of Arab culture, its content and principles, are taken for granted. The controversies which raged, only a decade ago, about what constitutes Arab culture, whether the Arabs

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