Arabness refers to the fact of being an Arab or belonging to the Arab community. It became significant as a kind of nationalism with emphasis on the ethnic composition of the Arab world, contextually to differentiate the Arabs from the rest of the Muslim world (Webb, 2016). Therefore, Arabness and Islam are the fundamental representative identity in the Arab-Muslim domain. However, Arabness began as a response by the Arab world, to Persian claim to supremacy and civilization in the Caliphate (Bereczki, 2015). Arabness as a sense of nationalism based on ethnicity is under threat from the westernization ideologies of the essay writer elites; however, this modernity is yet to attain laicism level across the Arab world.
The Arab world has evolved variously in their ideology about modern society. For instance, the first group consists of those who entirely reject modernity ideas due to their association with westernization. The main fears of this group are the loss of Arabness. These Islam rejects western civilization and asserts themselves violently (Bereczki, 2015). Nonetheless, Bereczki, (2015) observes that the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia, have non-violently expression against any innovation brought to Islam by secondary sources of law.
The second group consists of those Arab who combine modern ideas and traditional Arab values. Their strategy is to propose the reconciliation of Islam with science and modernity. Some examples, according to Bereczki (2015), are Jamal al-Din al-Afghani and Ben Badis. They argue that Islam is tolerant and rational; hence, it can accommodate progress and western technical innovations.
The final group is supporting entirely, the concept of modernity and westernization within the Arab world. According to these groups led by Kemal Ataturk of Turkey, religious factors should be excluded from political life (Bereczki, 2015). Other examples are Iran in the period of Shah, and Tunisia during the rule of Habib Bourguiba (Webb, 2016). Particularly, they favor non-religious nationalist ideology. However, the last two proponents of modernity within the Arab domain are yet to go beyond laicism, which is having the same ideological values universal to the entire Arab nations.
Since the 18th century, the Arab world has been taught to refuse modernity and anything associated with it. The Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia developed non-violent expressions aimed at resisting modernism (Ansari, 2019). Imperatively, they developed an integrating movement that denounces innovations by the Western world. In particular, they focused on preventing these innovations from negatively influencing people and thus eliminating the Arabness. Therefore, Wahhabism advocated for the desert lifestyle fundamentals by avoiding any secondary law source due to modernity and the Western world.
Modernity has faced political intolerance in the Arab region. There have been inter-communal conflicts in the region. Presently, the Islamic State has adopted programmatic intolerance to defend perceived Arabness (Tessler, 2002). They used violence to repel sexual differences, religions, and cultural practices that challenge their narrowly defined norms. Most targets have been Christian communities and other modernity elements. The rebellion and excessive use of force to thwart modernity are due to the values that define Arabness. As explained earlier, Arabness considers the Islamic religion and culture to be superior to any cultural identity. It does not promote equality and respect for other religions or cultures, which make people to use prejudice and force to resist them.
The Arab world regards family and the broader community highly. For this reason, it uses the two as social units to promote Arabness (Bereczki, 2015). Illustratively, the family and community are mandated to teach its members the true Arab culture and spirit, which enables them to avoid conversion or interference by the Westernized world. However, for the modernized Western world, their emphasis is on individuals. Their cultures are aimed at appealing to individuals to change their lifestyles and become modernized (Bereczki, 2015). For this reason, it is tough for the modernity to infiltrate the Arab world. The clan society sets rules which guide and protect the private life of all Muslims against interference with modernity.
The pride in the Muslim religion is the foundation of Arabness. The religion teaches Muslims that their cultural practices and lifestyles are the best in the world. In this regard, Arabs consider their way of life to be way above Westerners or modernity. In Arab teaching, members are taught resilience, which they believe can help them withstand the military and technical superiority associated with modernity (Bereczki, 2015). Their Muslim foundation explains that God cannot make atheism and materialism triumph over them. Therefore, despite the superiority of modernity, they hope their determination can make them victories irrespective of the level of complexity and technological innovation associated with modernity. Understandably, in most cases, the Arab world reacts to modernity violently to disrupt their sophistication. For instance, during the Gulf War, Saddam Hussein received overwhelming support from the Muslim public opinion against the Americans (Bereczki, 2015). This event demonstrates that Arabness is linked with resilience and togetherness.
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Arabness is based on a political structure in which subjects respect and obey their leaders without question. It encourages the formation and sustenance of authoritarian regimes. It obscures the democratic governance realization by disorienting individuals’ mind to disregard political accountability (Tessler, 2002). Therefore, this concept helps to unearth why political accountability or democracy is an exotic ideology in most Arab countries. This political identity due to Arabness contravenes the popular democratic governance of the West. Understandably, modernity encourages people’s participation in governance. They do so by electing leaders through an electoral process. Modernity also empowers them to take part in policymaking and developmental issues. The introduction of democracy has not been received well in the Arab world. Political and religious leaders have led their followers to reject the idea because it flouts Arabness by accepting disobedience.
The Middle East and the entire Arab world is a male-dominated society. Illustratively, women are denied opportunities to occupy leadership roles or positions in politics (Charrad, 2011). Additionally, in organizations, employees are assigned subordinate roles with no promotion in sight. The Western world, which advocates for modernity, has tried to infiltrate the Arab world to promote women empowerment. This move has met stiff opposition from religious and political leaders who have argued that the western ideology about gender empowerment contradicts the Arabness that has been in existence since the 8th century.
Arabness has led to the establishment or creation of two factions, Islamofilia and Islamophobia, in the contemporary world. Shryock (2010) explains that these two factions have led to the heightened conflicts between the Arab and Western worlds. The Arab world approaches sociopolitical issues violently as a way of expressing their Arabness. For this reason, countries in the Western world are skeptical about engaging them in economic and political matters. The ramification for this has been ruined international relationships between these two cultures.
Modernity is to blame for the political instability presently experienced in the Arab world. As already explained, the Arab cultural identity advocates for obedience to political and religious leadership (Mandaville, 2010). Therefore, it brainwashes followers to believe that leaders’ decisions or actions cannot be questioned whatsoever. The Islamic clan or families have helped to reinforce this notion to people in the Arab world, with the older generation adhering to this conceptualization of leadership. However, modernity has proved disruptive to Arab culture and lifestyle. Arab youths have borrowed modernity culture through the internet and social media platforms. They have observed how the Western world is governed, and thus have pile pressure for a participative government. As a result, there has been political violence in most countries, for instance, Yemen and Syria.
The dressing code is one area of Arabness that cannot be ignored. In particular, Islam, which is the dominant religion in the region, requires women to cover all their body parts. This dressing code is aimed at preventing nudity, which consequently protects them against exposure to sexual predation (Alvi, 2019). However, the case is different for modernity. Understandably, modernity believes in a free society in which people can dress the way they want without being intimidated or victimized. In the contemporary world, globalization and social media have exposed young Arab women to the dressing code of the West (Charrad, 2011). In this regard, Arab women, in conjunction with human rights activists, have pressured their leadership to allow them to dress as they deem fit. Therefore, modernity has contributed to the growing instances of moral erosion, which Arabness aims to eliminate through its strict dressing code.
Arab nationalism is also a hotcake concept as far as Arabness is concerned. This concept emanated in the mid-1900s when countries throughout the world were fighting to gain independence from their colonial masters (Peterson, 2019). Noteworthy, during this period, Arab leaders advanced unity among Arab people. This nationalist ideology elucidates that the Arab people are united by their interests, geography, history, culture, and language. It helped to instill uniqueness into the Arab nationals, which ensured that they pride and protect their identity by all means. Thus, this concept explains why modernity perpetrated by the Western world has failed to have in-depth penetration in the Arab world.
In the Arab world, Arabness has also been used to refer to a broader concept that is beyond spatial categorization. As already mentioned, it emphasizes the role and use of rhetorical and language identity to define regionalism. Arabness creates imagery of “us and them,” which raises animosity between Arabs and the rest of the world (Monier, 2014). This culture uses collective identity, not as a method to achieve productivity, but as a tool to affirm or manipulate power. Understandably, Arabness helps to achieve cultural resonance, which ensures that people are loyal to family values and power. Nevertheless, over the years, social processes due to modernity have threatened to infiltrate Arabness. These processes have been promoted by social media and globalization, which have redefined the region. Over the years, there has been modernity has introduced constitutive processes in the Arab world. The distinctiveness in the Arab language has faded away as people, particularly the young generation, have embraced exotic cultures.
The Arab Spring was the ultimate brainchild of modernity as far as disruption of the region’s political power is concerned. It led to political upheaval and leadership crisis as the region was fighting against the introduction of the hegemonic narratives of the Western world (Monier, 2014). The Arab Spring came as a shocker aimed at making a turnaround to the normalized authoritarian regime. For this reason, the entrenched leadership of the dominant discourse has done everything to de-normalize massive upheaval from youths and other interested stakeholders (Monier, 2014). Consequently, there has been political instability in the region, for example, Yemen and Syria, for nearly a decade now. Imperatively, the dominant discourse will strive to stick to its leadership still no matter how long the disruption due to modernity will be.
Some Arab countries have sought to reconcile Arabness with modernity. At the heart of this reconciliation are religious liberalists (Haddad & Stowasser, 2004). They have provided a diversity of theories to explain the need to embrace modernity. The region’s leadership has adopted corporate and commercial laws that consider the active participation of people (Haddad & Stowasser, 2004). Rather than exempting women from leadership roles, the contemporary Arab world has embraced inclusivity. Women and youth empowerment have been the current norm in the community. Understandably, women have assumed leadership positions in countries and corporations (Haddad & Stowasser, 2004). For example, the late Benazir Bhutto’s rise to become the Pakistani Prime Minister is indicative of the acceptance of women’s leadership in the Arab world. Therefore, religious liberalists have successfully inculcated modernity into Arabness.
The Arab world has also tried to rectify and bypass historical obstruction that has been brought about by Arabness. The leadership has accepted a universal model that embodies the thought and spirit of modernity. Markedly, this universal model has promoted rational thinking, which has promoted responsibility in government, organizations, and families. There have been efforts to modernize social sectors. The region has embraced innovation and the scientific revolution, which has led to an improvement in the socio-economic system. For instance, Dubai has fully embraced modernity. Particularly, it has used technological advancement to make the city a significant tourist destination (Sancho, 2020). It has also been known for general tolerance to exotic cultures, and thus it has changed Arabness that opposes any form of infiltration. Therefore, the Arab world should use the example of Dubai to change its detrimental values to promote integration and diversity in their regions.
In general, Arabness has promoted distinct values and cultural practices, which have clashed with modernity. The link between Arabness and modernity is threefold. The first group entails people who entirely reject modernity. These people represent the original foundation upon which Arabness was based. It advocates for outright rejection of cultures that demote or interfere with Arabness, which is the most common practice in the Arab world. The present political instability in the Arab world is attributed to this norm. The dominant discourse has resisted the change perpetrated by modernity. However, there has been an emergent group that roots for the combination of traditional Arab values and modern ideas. The next group involves people that combine traditional Arab values and modernity. It strives for a rational and tolerant approach to issues. For instance, it has accepted the need for women empowerment in political and organizational leadership. The last group encompasses people who have accepted modernity to operate alongside Arabness. It is prudent for the Arab world to redefine their Arabness to harness the benefits associated with modernity.
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