Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Modern History and Politics: Arab Nation, Arab Nationalism

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

Modern History and Politics: Arab Nation, Arab Nationalism

Article excerpt

Arab Nation, Arab Nationalism, ed. by Derek Hopwood. London: Macmillan Press Ltd, 2000. x + 204 pages. $65.

Reviewed by William L. Cleveland

This slim volume consists of ten essays, each of which was originally presented as one of the annual George Antonius lectures at St. Antony's College, Oxford between 1988 and 1997. One of the few linkages among the essays is that they were delivered under the rubric of the same lecture series. Some of the chapters contain full scholarly notations, while others have none; some have been re-written, others have been published in their original form; some are now available as parts of published monographs, while others are not intended as scholarly contributions. As one might expect from the above description, the result is an uneven volume. The most that a reviewer can do is offer potential readers a guide to the contributions. Suraiya Faroqhi explores the Ottoman sultans' use of the pilgrimage to legitimize their claim to Islamic leadership during the 16th and 17th centuries. Through material contributions to the two holy cities and the construction of safe stopping places along the pilgrimage routes, the sultans enhanced their image as protectors of the Hajj and of the larger Islamic community in general. In an altogether different vein, Rashid Khalidi presents an impassioned and well-documented plea for the retention of the Arab-Islamic character of Jerusalem, For Khalidi, that character is not simply architectural, but is also attitudinal; it is a fabric of sectarian tolerance and respect for the identity of each component of the population. He chronicles the changes since 1967 that threaten to alter the city's character, and deplores Israeli attempts to assert exclusive Jewish rights at the expense of the Muslim and Christian inhabitants.

The two essays that fit most closely the title of this book are C. Ernest Dawn's "The Quality of Arab Nationalism" and Aziz Al-Azmeh's "Nationalism and the Arabs." Dawn provides a closely focused analytical narrative on Ottomanism, early Arabism, and the parties and leaders who adopted Arab nationalism after World War One. Azmeh, on the other hand, claims that his goal is to contest vigorously the prevalent thesis of Arab exceptionalism with all the stereotypes that accompany such a thesis. His essay rejects Arab as well as Western interpretations of the origins of Arab nationalism, and he goes so far as to label the Arab Revolt "the mutiny of 1917" and to recommend that it "be excised from the chronicles of Arab nationalism" (p. …

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