The Arab Nation

Protest on Tahrir, Egypt, 30 January 2011
Protest on Tahrir, Egypt, 30 January 2011. Source: Floris Van Cauwelaert from Brussels, Belgium (Protest on Tahrir) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A sense of “Arabness” has existed for as long as history has recorded the presence of Arabs in the region, and it has been subject to negotiation by every generation for nearly a millennium and a half.

“Arabness” and Arab nationalism has referred to the people associated with lands of the Middle East who share common attributes, such as the Arabic language, history, and culture, which make them into a distinct group. Furthermore, Arab nationalism refers to the right of Arab peoples to self-determination, the ability to form independent states, called nation-states.

In the current generation, a sense of “Arabness” is coming to terms with the growth of loyalty to separate Arab states (as opposed to a broader loyalty to a pan-Arab identity) the growth of radical Islam, the success of global liberal democracy, the ascendancy of market capitalism, the prospect of peace with Israel and the prospects of the Arab Spring (the democratic protests and uprisings that occurred across the Middle East and North Africa in 2010-11). Additionally, challenges to Arab identity and Arab nationalism include the tribal, sectarian, and other divisions, the machinations of the European powers, the role of Islam, the Arab language and the diversity of other religions (Christianity and minority religions) in the region.

The Arab identity is a complex one by the standards of Europe. The speakers of Arabic today number over 200 million, in a zone stretching from the Atlantic shores of Morocco to the Arabian Sea — a region that extends parallel to all of Europe. See The Arab World to learn more about the Arab countries/areas within and beyond this region.