Arabism, Islamic history, media power

Islam in Africa: The Limitations of the BBC1 programme, the Making of the Modern Arab World

Disclaimer:     I used the Yahoo search engine and saw one of my entries and below, there was another posting with the same title and date, saying video results. When I looked there was just one video advert. Just checked again and there are more. They have nothing to do with this blog and they don’t look too good, so won’t open them.


Islam in Africa

Radio 4 showed a remarkable interest in the Muslim world last night, as it broadcast the programme ‘Lines in a Sand’ which explored the ”Islamitisation” of parts of Africa. The programme looked at the situation in Mali where the French have intervened again (old habits die hard) and the United Nations have established forces on the ground. The worry is apparently, that the momentum will spread and the groups will unite to pose a threat to life as we know it. There was a lament about Libya and the assertions of former leader, the murdered Colonel Qadafi, that the Islamists would take over his country if he was overthrown: and that he was right in part.


Well perhaps producers might have learned something from the programme aired less than an hour later, ‘The Making of the Modern Arabic World’, which discussed the century old struggle between Islamic secularism and radical Islam in Egypt. A British military man commented, that improvements to the infrastructure in Africa could help alleviate the ”threat” from ”Islamists”. This angered me, as the infrastructure and history in Syria, is threatened, by fighting, which is, in my opinion, part of the reason for deposing the regime there (see previous entries).


What went wrong?
Episode 2 of the programme ‘The Making of the Modern Arabic World’ focused on former Egyptian President, Jamel Abdel Nasser and Arab nationalism but did feature the Syrian struggle; though, mainly, it was cast in the light of Nasserism. It explained the Suez situation and referred to the fight for Ismailia (that bit is available on iplayer and adds ten minutes to the account). I mention it cos Ismailia was my favourite part of Egypt when I visited; also it gives me chance to post some more piccies. I’ll do this separately as they come out bigger than when I slot them in and the blurb looks better. Must become more ”computer savvy”.


The programme was informative but seemed to attribute the failure of Arab nationalism to the military backgrounds of Nasser and Hafez Assad etc. Neither Nasser or Assad came from wealthy families so joining the military would have given them chance of a good education. Of course the police and military continue to provide employment in much of the Arabic world and in Syria particularly, is an alternative to farming. The Syrian economy has always had an agrarian base; often unpopular among young people in any country; which accounts for the lack of an equivalent workers’ movement, that was typical of Egypt and Iraq (more about that again).


The programme could have benefited from a discussion about the philosophy of Ba’athism and how social cohesion in the Arabic world, might have provided an alternative economic bloc. I guess the emphasis on the military is partly to do with the situation in Egypt at present and is meant to explain the references to ”brutality” in relation to the suppression of the Brotherhood and others, who did not, at that time, agree with the Arab nationalism.


Naturally Mr. Osman referred to the loss of personal freedoms suffered by that opposition. By this I think he meant the liberal ideals of personal freedom, usually pertaining to the flow of capital (or to what money can buy) but he could have meant religious freedom.  Egypt, though, remains religious and the Brotherhood has not disappeared. The other omission was the Christian contribution to Arab nationalism, which was less significant to Egypt than to Syria, perhaps.


Mr. Osman appeared bemused by Nasser’s distrust of the Israelis; an obvious ally of the West, sent to colonise Palestine and form a separate state there, that was not constituted properly, as its acceptance by Britain and company, was tacit. There were varying views, by commentators, on how much the socialist component of Arab nationalism actually benefited working people but it did stress, that in general, conditions improved markedly.


The programme explained briefly how Hafez Assad, in particular, was wary of the Syrian communist party. I am not sure of the events that led to the fall out but communism does seem counter intuitive to Islam, where the building of schools and hospitals is not. At the end of it Islam, as a concept, is deeply ingrained in all Muslims regardless of how its practiced. I know that the Communist Party, at least in Britain and the Lebanon, do favour President Bashar al Assad, in the current conflict. In the Arab world this is almost certainly because they feel safer supporting a country, that is constitutionally tolerant.


Tarek Osman implied that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Arab Nationalists fought jointly to liberate Ismailia from British dominance; can’t really go into that struggle here though. He said also, the irrevocable split between the two came when the Egyptian monarchy was ousted. This seems to fit with the idea that the Brotherhood wishes to restore the Caliphate system (see last entry).


It is hard to spell Arabic words in English but I am learning Arabic and know the alphabet so do try. Jamel or Gamel, can be pronounced as either depending on dialect.


If anyone can offer useful links on Syria’s agricultural base or the philosophy of Ba’athism and its fall out with communism. I’d be grateful.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s