The Arab Identity/Introduction
Saudi Arabia's buzz words for the year 2016 were "change and modernization". Yet as the world grapples with the Coronavirus, and a looming Oil war, Saudi US relations seem to be stretched tight. The increasingly heartbreaking war in Syria and now Yemen puts Saudi Arabia and the Arab world by large in an increasingly desperate situation. With Israels' talk of Annexing forbidden lands in occupied Palestine, are we looking at a world about to be reshaped again with Arabs relegated to its fringes? The Western world was largely introduced to the Arab during the Age of Oil. The Islamic Clergy and the Saudi Establishment have long stood for what it means to be Arab. With the West increasingly at its border, it was only a matter of time before this Identity was questioned for what it really stood for.
On the onset, Orientalism answered the West's increasing occupation with what they saw as the Decadent East. For Muslims, though this was not so. For them, it's not difficult to imagine the Arab identity. After all, Arabs have crossed the deserts of Najd to conquer large parts of the larger Arab and African lands and have crossed far into Asia by sea and to the borders of Europe by land. The Arabs are proud people. And their pride is justified by the number of Arabs and Muslims all over the world. Muslims come to Mecca in Saudi Arabia annually, to the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad, in a pilgrimage that is the largest the world witnesses, congregating believers from the second-largest religious denomination in the world numbering to millions.
Muslims, early in life are introduced to the 'Arab-ideal'. Old Najd, and its surrounding lands, in Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem, Palestine, and even Syria, Yemen and Iraq are seen as holy lands by all Muslims. The Arabs and their place in the world are central to how Muslims identify themselves with regards to their relationships, national identity, and politics, even in an increasingly global century.
This book aims to explore 'Arab identity' and the 'Arab ideal' more than it seeks to answer global and political questions concerning the Arabian world. But to do so we first have to see what it means to be an Arab, and how the rest of the world sees them.