Only a strong Arab identity will prevent disintegration

Only a strong Arab identity will prevent disintegration
2 min read
19 May, 2015
Comment: Arab nationalists need to support nation states to prevent the Arab people fragmenting as the region slides towards disintegration, says Badr al-Ibrahim.
New regional geographic and demographic boundaries are being established [AFP]

Talking about Arab unity seems ridiculous.

Regional political projects and civil wars are undermining the existence of the nation state, while Arab political debate is dominated by talk about partition.

The threat of partition is so strong because nation states have lost legitimacy or disintegrated in parts of the Arab world. This has been accompanied by sectarian conflicts and calls for foreign intervention.

Parts of the region have already been partitioned even if it is not official.

     Parts of the region have already been partitioned even if it is not official.

Iraq, for example has become divided into Shia, Sunni and Kurdish areas. Politicians and the media have called for each group to liberate their area, showing partition is a reality despite any facade of a united country.

Partition, however, has not been finalised in the region. Warring groups are still fighting to establish new geographic and demographic boundaries.

Arab unity needs to be redefined in a way that reflects the current reality. When we talk about Arab unity we cannot ignore the near collapse of the Arab nation state. The nation state needs to be re-legitimised to prevent it from disintegrating further.

Arab nationalists need to support the nation state and give it a new legitimacy based on a unifying Arab identity, citizenship, the establishment of modern state institutions, and the ending of authoritarianism and corruption. This will help improve social cohesion and national unity within the borders of a nation state.

Arab identity is not about undermining national identity, it is about giving national identity meaning.

This does not mean ignoring the cultural rights of ethnic minorities in the Arab world, such as the Kurds, or failing to create an all-inclusive citizenship.

We need to end the monopolisation of power and wealth by a dominant minority, one reason why the Arab nation state has collapsed.

If this vision for Arab unity is not adopted, Arab states will disintegrate. In which case, you can say goodbye to the dream of Arab unity.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.