On the Arab Revolt

As an assignment, I was to write a review of the movie Lawrence of Arabia. Part of the such review included, of course, a comment on the Arab Revolt, which I think might be relevant to share. In any case, for the relevant parts, here we go:

The status of the Arab Revolt is complex, especially when considered by an Arab. While on the one hand, the Arab Revolt signifies a rebirth of the Arabs, in which attempts for independence re-emerge, and in which the yearning to greatness after years of dormancy is rekindled. In that respect, there is a big chance that Sherif Hussein’s correspondence with the British to secure an independent Arab future lead to the existence of the modern Arab states. One the other hand, however, while the Arab Revolt might signify the birth of Independent Arab entities, it also embodies some sort of death; a more serious Arab decline.

The deep involvement of the British with the Arab Revolt, as well as the Hashemite-British alliance have given leverage to Britain over the Arabs and allowed it to secure an autocratic role in handling the remains of the Ottoman Empire after its dissolution. The Arab Revolt, instead of resulting in the Birth of a unified and independent Arab state in the Arab regions of the Ottoman Empire, lead to the partitioning of the entire empire, the creation of artificial nation states, often with imported regents or rulers, the birth of the Palestine Question and the greater Arab-Israeli Conflict, the continued ‘colonization’ of the fragmented Arab states as a weak periphery ever supporting the west.

This complex two-sidedness of the Arab Revolt makes it particularly hard, especially for an Arab, to determine one’s views towards it. While an Arab might owe it to the revolt to still call oneself ‘an Arab’, its long term political failure means that an Arab also owes it to the revolt that he probably is, with an increased probability, regretful of being ‘an Arab’.

I do not think I am in a position to comment if the Arab Revolt was benign or not, worth it or not, positive or not. My point is not to comment on Sherif Hussein’s efforts in the revolt, nor the efforts of the Arabs as a people, because I think it is largely irrelevant. Regardless of the motivation, goals, and intentions of the revolt, the reason I view it with some sort of melancholy or regret is the end result of fragmentation and instability. And I do not think that Hussein or any of his peers had an impact on that. I look at the revolt with melancholy because of the British involvement, the broken promises, the double-alliances, and the way history unfolded. What a shame.

Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict

While Jordan engages in normalization with Israel, it does not engage in neutralization. Please, do not confuse the two; the feelings, emotions, views, and motivations of the Jordanian people and their leadership remain the same: in full support of the Palestinians, we discovered, however, that our pro-Palestinian message and efforts are best conveyed in an atmosphere of peace and dialogue.

This one has been on my mind for a while. The current political situation in the Middle East is one of the topics I’m truly interested in, and I’ve been writing numerous posts related to the issue. One thing that caught me attention was that I was addressing a lot of Arab concerns against Israel and its regime (which I firmly believe in), and in so forgot to address my personal concerns about Arabic politics when it comes to the conflict.

I also decided to write this after a long conversation I had with a friend (whose also Arab) who believes that Jordanian politics regarding the issue, especially the 1994 Wadi `Araba Treaty, indicates that Jordan (or the government/king) has – in a sense – betrayed The Cause and other Arab countries.

I think that’s a completely wrong approach, and I believe the truth is that Jordan is a pioneer in seeking peace, and a Just Solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Had other Arab countries followed Jordan’s footsteps in large, then Arabs would’ve done their part in promoting a just peace, and stability in the region would’ve been a much more probable reality.

Since I think such belief that Jordan went against the Palestinian Cause (and Pan-Arab Values, fraternity, and unity) is utterly misconceived on numerous levels, I find it hard to find where to start. This is why I’ll divide the post into separate arguments that will hopefully complement each other.

(The outline is basically as follows: 1: Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s, 2: Jordan did not go against Palestine, 3: While Jordan has peace, Jordan is not a neutral nation, 4: Other Cases of Jordanian Commitment to the Pan-Arab Cause).

1) Jordan was not alone in pursuing peace in the 1990’s

King Hussein of Jordan had Middle East peace aspirations even before the war of 1967. That did not stop him, or the country, from being properly aligned with the Arabs in the war of 1967, where Jordan, lead by King Hussein, entered a full-force war against Israel, and lost a considerable amount of land from the West Bank, which, at the time, was part of the Kingdom of Jordan. (Many people have doubts about Hussein’s intentions in the 1967 war, these will be discussed in future articles). As a matter of fact, while King Hussein talked to Israelis (as did Egyptian, Lebanese, and Syrian officials), he only allowed such talks to translate into a treaty much later on.

While Anwar El-Sadat was alone in signing a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, King Hussein’s 1994 treaty happened in a different light that Arabs of today forget: Continue reading “Jordan and the Arab-Israeli Conflict”

Islamic Achievements in the Shadow of Eurocentrism: How Islam Paved Europe’s Future and Europe Forgot

The essay below was written as a mid-term assignment for a class I’m doing at MIT. I thought it was worth sharing, so here it is below:

More often than not, it may seem to many as if the world, historically, evolved under the leadership of Europe. As Europe went ‘dormant’ in the Dark Ages, many believe that, with it, History stood still. Certainly this can be witnessed in science and technology as well, where the history of knowledge, invention, and innovation almost consistently begins in Europe with Newton and his local contemporaries. Moving further into the past, one would mainly come across the Ancient Greeks, who, widely, are alone recognized as the “intellectual precursors” to the more recent European intellectuals.

In fact, however, such approach to world history neglects invaluable contributions of the rest of the world in shaping itself. Far East, African, and Islamicate Civilizations all advanced knowledge, culture, and politics, paving the way for the Renaissance, Industrialization, and Global Development.

Consequently, an approach where non European contributions and achievements are downplayed is known as a Eurocentric approach. Eurocentrism stems from ethnocentrism, a perhaps-widespread belief in past eras, where one possessed the belief of preeminence of one’s own culture and civilization over that of the ‘insignificant other’. Eurocentrism, as a prominent and unified belief, started as a response to Europe’s achievements during the Renaissance, Scientific Revolution, and Enlightenment (Goody, 1995, p. 2), which began in the fifteenth century, and lasted well into the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Ethnocentrism in Europe in general, however, saw various significant peaks well before the fifteenth century. The prominent form of Eurocentrism referenced above indeed stems from such beliefs, common in Europe centuries ago. The Church’s doctrine constructed a hierarchy of peoples, where those of Europe would “dwell in the tents of” Asians, while Africans were designated as “servant[s] of servants” (Lockman, 2004, p. 18). Such belief was designated by the Church to be the Word of God, a long-lasting attitude used both to espouse and stimulate conquest of other nations (Lockman, 2004, p. 19), but also invigorating a “culture of dominance” in Europe that persisted until modern colonization periods.

The arrival of Islam to Europe was the first major threat to the established doctrine of The Church, and, as such, was eventually portrayed as a blasphemous religion practiced by infidels. Indeed, Pope Urban II said, in his famous speech that fueled the First Crusades in the eleventh century, that Muslims were an “accursed race […] utterly alienated from God”, and designated them “[God’s] enemies” (Munro, 1895). Such descriptions indicate the beginnings of the development of a distorted view of understanding the Middle East and Islam; such misunderstandings are formed as direct implications of a Eurocentric approach. Accordingly, primary European historical accounts often viewed the Middle East as an inferior region with a backwards and stagnating culture and values. It is a common misunderstanding of Middle East history to deem Europe as the savior of the Middle East and Arabia, exporting values, ideals, and systems, such as capitalism and bureaucracy and ‘modernizing’ the region.

Reality, however, is contrary to such views; the Islamic Civilization realized ground-breaking achievements that, not only shaped World History, but also explains the subsequent Renaissance and Enlightenment in Europe. Islamic achievements in thought, philosophy, the scientific method, natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering exported to Europe through trade and conquests constitute the direct foundations of the European intellectual movement. Certainly the Islamic Civilization has contributed heavily to the development of the world, and must be taken into account to understand the global propagation of Human Knowledge historically, and the subsequent evolution of civilization and society. Throughout the rest of this paper, the role of Islam in shaping both the history of Europe and the World’s will be discussed.

Continue reading “Islamic Achievements in the Shadow of Eurocentrism: How Islam Paved Europe’s Future and Europe Forgot”

More thoughts on the Arab-Israeli Conflict

I have initially wrote when I was applying to universities as a response to one of the questions. I recently went through it and felt it was relevant to share here. Once the actual website is complete, I’ll probably have a copy of this in my ‘writings’ section. For now, here is it:

The Arab-Israeli conflict is a regional issue that has plagued over sixty years of Middle East history; nearly a hundred thousand on both sides died of direct military clashes, more died as a result of occupation and living conditions, hundreds of thousands have been injured, and millions have been deprived of their most basic rights due to this conflict. Living conditions have been deteriorating so rapidly that light and running water have become luxuries.

As an Arab Middle Easterner, it is very easy to get carried away amidst such conflict, to get carried in the current of hate, bigotry, and intolerance. How can I not take sides? How can I – when the status quo has bred such pain and agony to my people?

To be honest, I must take sides, and I do. But what I must not do is lose perspective.

When millions are suffering on both sides, it is my human compassion that wakes me up to remind me that human anguish and distress on either side is unacceptable; this is the perspective that I strive to maintain: no matter how strong my political dedication to one side is, it should never reward, justify, or even belittle the ugliness of human pain on either side of the conflict.

The problem we are currently faced with is that most people have lost that perspective; most people have lost respect to, or even acknowledgement of, the other side’s humanity. Sadly, the sixty years of conflict shaped a generation unwilling to compromise.

Continue reading “More thoughts on the Arab-Israeli Conflict”