Friday, February 4, 2011

It feels good to be Arab these days


It feels good to be Arab these days

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt are a great awakening for Arabs led to believe they were incapable of change


·                                 Goufrane


o                                                        Goufrane Mansour

o                                              , Thursday 3 February 2011 14.59 GMT

o                                                        Article history

The Arab awakening, for that is what it is, which began in Tunisia and is now gripping Egypt, has taken western powers, and indeed the world, by surprise. Yet it is the Arab people themselves, myself included, men and women of all ages, who have been most surprised by what is happening – perhaps even more than the region's dictators and regimes. Until now, it has been accepted and tacitly taught in Arab society that Arabs are weak, incapable of change, of holding their destiny in their own hands.

It is said that since the great Arab conquests of the first millennium and Saladin's victories, Arabs have known only defeats, decline and degeneration, a fate doomed to persist. What is happening today has great political significance: in one form or another, there will be political change in Egypt, which will affect the whole region. But this revolution is also cultural: bringing an incredible shift in Arabs' perception of themselves and what they're capable of achieving.

I am a Lebanese descendant of the generation that has seen the rise and fall of Arab nationalism. Carried by the idealism of the 1960s, we saw Nasser as the personification of those values of freedom, justice and dignity that spread across the world, from Cuba to Vietnam. But after his fall, and the defeat inflicted by Israel in the 1967 six-day war, the dreams of unity, self-determination and nationalism slowly disappeared.

Not until the late 1990s did a powerful and inspiring figure appear to Arabs in the form of Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Shia resistance group Hezbollah. Through Hezbollah's ending of the 25-year Israeli occupation of south Lebanon, he became the Middle East's most popular figure. However, perhaps due to its Shia nature, its close relationship to Iran and Lebanon's complex politics, Hezbollah's victories failed to lift the morale of Arabs.

This, combined with the autocratic leaders, monarchs and dictators, created a lack of belief in us Arabs, that we could aspire to belong to countries in which freedom, justice, creativity and democracy prevail. We have been led to believe that these are not Arab attributes. Instead, we are mostly known for our dictators, oil, conservatism, religious fundamentalism, illiteracy rate and last but not least ultra-consumerism (that old Gucci outfit underneath the burqa).

This is the "Arab malaise", to use the expression of the late Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir in his remarkable essay Being Arab. It penetrates to our core, to our history, eating away at our pride, even to our relation with Arabic. In Lebanon, more and more people take pride in not being able to speak Fusha (classical Arabic) properly – because the degree of one's inability corresponds to how westernised (ie non-Arab) one is, which is seen as the aspirational goal. Parents address their children in English or French, leaving Arabic for school. As a result, for many young Lebanese, Arabic is not a language of the heart but a formal, impersonal language – only for TV news and old books no one reads.  

So the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt – the most populous Arab country and one-time leader of Pan-Arabism – are an incredible awakening for every Arab, a seismic shift in the way we perceive ourselves. How wrong I was to think that Mohamed Bouazizi, the young Tunisian who set himself on fire, was just another victim of Ben Ali's cruel regime. Little did I know he was a hero in the revolution to come. Gripped by my Arab malaise, my mind could not see that real change was happening, until the day Ben Ali fled the country. And how wrong I was, to feel sorry for those Egyptians who also committed self-immolation, how my disbelief persisted until just a few days ago.

The Egyptian revolution, though not yet over, has also taught us something about the Arabs that Kassir had clearly foreseen: "While the internet may be the prerogative of a new, albeit growing, elite, satellite channels, whatever their orientation, give the majority access to a visual and information culture, which thereby situates the Arab world in a composite global geography. This shows how, contrary to a fearful vision of Arab identity, cultural globalisation could be Arab culture's great chance."

And so it has been. It feels good all of sudden to be Arab these days.

·                                 Print thisPrintable version

·                                 Send to a friend

·                                 Share

·                                 Clip

·                                 Contact us

·                                 larger | smaller

World news

·                                 Egypt ·

·                                 Tunisia ·

·                                 Lebanon ·

·                                 Middle East

More from Comment is free on

World news

·                                 Egypt ·

·                                 Tunisia ·

·                                 Lebanon ·

·                                 Middle East

·                                 More on this story

·                                 Protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, Egypt, on 4 February 2011.

Egypt protests – day of departure live updates

• Flashpoints could occur after Friday prayers
• US and Egypt reportedly in talks on replacing Mubarak
• Mubarak warns: 'If I resign today there will be chaos'

·                                 Cairo's biggest protest yet demands Mubarak's immediate departure

·                                 VideoTahrir Square attracts huge crowds for 'day of departure' - video

·                                 Egypt needs reform not repression, say EU leaders

·                                 Hundreds of thousands return to Cairo's streets

·                                 GalleryIn pictures: Egypt's 'day of departure' protests

·                                 InteractiveEgypt protests: an interactive map

·                                 Al-Jazeera office attacked in Egypt protests

·                                 Deputy insists president will not bow out before elections

·                                 Hosni Mubarak: What now for Egypt?

·                                 Egypt protests: US resists calls to cut military aid

·                                 US hatches Mubarak exit strategy as Egypt death toll mounts

·                                 VideoAnti-Mubarak protesters remain in Tahrir Square overnight

·                                 GalleryEgyptian protesters' makeshift helmets

·                                 Evacuated Britons tell of Cairo 'war zone'

·                                 Egypt cracks down on foreign journalists

·                                 'These people tried to slaughter us last night'

·                                 Mubarak claims Obama 'does not understand Egyptian culture'

·                                 Egypt's vice-president complains rioting is bad for business

·                                 Vodafone says Egyptian authorities forced it to send pro-Mubarak texts

·                                 Q&A: Egypt travel advice

·                                 The view from the Middle East

·                                 Comment

·                                 Egyptian anti-government protesters

Catherine Ashton: The EU wants 'deep democracy' to take root

The path to genuine democracy, reform and social justice is not easy, but the EU stands ready to help the Arab world

·                                 Michael Tomasky: Obama will own Egypt now

·                                 Editorial: Dangerous games

·                                 Oliver Miles: Egypt's fate is in the hands of its secretive army

·                                 Benny Morris: The west must be wary of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood

·                                 Ian Black: Egypt's army is the power behind the throne. And Mubarak knows it

·                                 Jonathan Jones: Why does no one care about Cairo's Egyptian Museum?

·                                 Multimedia

·                                  Anti-Mubarak protesters in Alexandria, Egypt, on 3 February 2011.

Politics Weekly podcast: Can the UK help the Egyptians?

Can the British government offer the people of Egypt anything more than platitudes? With Rafael Behr, Michael White and Martin Woollacott

·                                 GalleryEgyptian protests in Cairo


·                                 28 Jan 2011

After Tunisia: Arab writers reflect

·                                 19 Jan 2011

Tunisia crisis: live updates

·                                 30 Dec 2010

This week in the Middle East

·                                 17 Jan 2011

Tunisian uprising fires a warning to region's hardliners

·                                 Print thisPrintable version

·                                 Send to a friend

·                                 Share

·                                 Clip

·                                 Contact us

·                                 Article history


Middle East expert Brian Whitaker brings you the best blogs from Egypt and the Middle East


o                                                        4 Feb 2011

o                                                        Yemen opposition parties call on Saleh to fire his relatives

o                                                        That's a new, interesting and on-point demand. President Saleh's relatives have mass land holdings, own much of the nation's businesses and also head the military and security forces. There's not...

From Armies of Liberation


o                                                        4 Feb 2011

o                                                        Behind the scenes

o                                                        A fascinating piece at CounterPunch by Esam al-Amin, even if it contains some errors, but I have to wonder: where did he get all this information? This lesson was not lost on the minds of a small...

From Feed for


o                                                        4 Feb 2011

o                                                        Syrians Stay Home; Turkey Leads; US Loses Allies

o                                                        Syrians seem to be staying at home this Friday. It is raining in Damascus. Friends there say it is calm and everyone is watching events in Egypt on Aljazeera. A friend who runs a travel agency says...

From Syria Comment


o                                                        4 Feb 2011

o                                                        The singer of the Egyptian uprising

o                                                        It is noteworthy that the singer whose songs are most featured from loudspeakers in Tahrir Square is `Abdul-Halim Hafidh. As is known, he was Nasser's chief singer and he sang a lot for the Egyptian...

From The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب


o                                                        4 Feb 2011

o                                                        Germany freezes arms exports to Egypt

o                                                        Berlin--Germany has frozen arms exports to Egypt because of the unrest there, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Economics said Friday.German arms exports to Egypt have averaged between 10-40 million...

From Al-Masry Al-Youm: Today's News from Egypt: News

Latest from the blogs

On Comment is free

·                        © Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


No comments: