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Arab Nationalism(s): Rise and Decline of an Ideology

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When speaking about Arab nationalism, at least three phenomena, only partially distinct from one another, must be identified: Arabism, Pan-Arabism and Nationalisms on a local basis.The first is Arabism (ʿurūbah, being Arab) in the sense of belonging to the same world, in a single context from Morocco to Iraq, that emerged in Egypt and Near East in the last decades of the XIX century. From this cultural awareness of an Arab identity, the Pan-Arabism (qawmiyyah ʿarabiyyah) developed in the interwars period, but especially after the Second World War. Finally, with the acquired national Arab independences, Nationalism emerged on a local basis, and took the name of waṭaniyyah.The debate has never closed and all the major questions are still open: if an Arab nation (and therefore an Arab nationalism) has ever existed; if we can talk about a Pan-Arab nationalism once local based nationalisms emerged; which are the ideological principles of Arab Nationalism that are not uncritically assimilated from outside; finally, how and why the nationalistic ideologies have suffered an heavy crisis in front of the impressive rise of contemporary radical Islamism after the Seventies.Finally, if the figure of the global jihadist, not tied to this or that national cause but fighting anywhere you have to fight a ǧihād in the way of God, is the antithesis of the militant of nationalistic movements, for his absolute disregard for any cause that can be defined national. The goal is the creation of an Islamic State, no matter how utopian this project is, not based on the concept of nation but on that of ummah. It’s the phase of the “après panarabisme”: the myth of cohesion from the Gulf to the Atlantic no longer enchants Arab people and Arab States, and the era of Nasser and the Ba‘athist dream has finally ended.

Affiliations: 1: Università di Cagliari


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