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Author: Meir Hatina

Arab liberal thought in the modern age provides in-depth analysis of Arab liberalism, which, although lacking public appeal and a compelling political underpinning, sustained viability over time and remains a constant part of the Arab landscape. The study focuses on the second half of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century, a period that witnessed continuity as well as change in liberal thinking. Post-1967 liberals, like their predecessors, confronted old dilemmas, socioeconomic upheavals, political instability, and cultural disorientation, but also demonstrated ideological rejuvenation and provided liberal thought with new emphases and visions. Arab liberals contributed to public debate on cultural, social, and political issues, and triggered debates against their adversaries. Displaying such attributes as skepticism, ecumenism, and confidence in Arab advancement, they burst onto the public scene in questioning the Arab status quo and advocating alternative visions for their countries. Their struggle for freedom of religion, secularism, individualism, democracy, and human rights meant more than a rethinking of Islamic tradition and Arab political culture. It aimed rather at formulating a full-fledged liberal project to seek an Arab Enlightenment. This book fills a major gap in the research literature, which has tended to overlook Middle Eastern liberalism in favor of more powerful and assertive forces embodied by authoritarian regimes and Islamic movements. The book is essential reading for scholars and students in the fields of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies, intellectual history, political ideologies, comparative religion, and cultural studies.

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Debating Arab liberalism
Meir Hatina

This research, focusing on post-1967 Arab liberal thought, has two purposes: to shed light on a relatively ignored ideology or narrative in the research literature and public discourse, and hence to do historical justice to its spokespersons. Indeed, while Arab liberal thought found it hard to gain momentum during this period, it nevertheless remained a constant part of the intellectual tradition in the Arab region. It continued to display ideological viability, contributed to the public debate on cultural, social, and political issues

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
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Meir Hatina

ethos in an unsupportive milieu in which liberalism was sidelined. Some argued that from the seeds of oppression the flowers of freedom would sprout and that the Arabs needed to navigate a contemporary cultural maze that would eventually lead to enlightenment. Others praised the growing number of liberal adherents, including women, with a vocal presence even in such perceived conservative societies as in the Arab Peninsula and the Gulf. 6 They emphasized that liberal thought had already earned a public platform, with rich and prolific writings accessible to all via

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
Meir Hatina

the public agenda. Geography Geographically, the cradle of early liberalism was Egypt, with its vibrant public sphere, developed print culture, and British influence. The Syrian and Lebanese territories were also important: Their substantial Christian populations served as cultural brokers through their affinity with Western, in this case mainly French, culture. 10 Later, liberal thought extended its geographical range to North Africa and the Persian Gulf, and eventually the Arab diasporas of Europe and North America. Early hubs of liberal discourse

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
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Oriental despotism
Meir Hatina

al-Biblawi expressed this well: Liberal thought is a concept of society, not a concept of the individual detached from society. Liberalism is based on individualism in the sense of protecting individual rights and liberties, and is the best guarantee for the progress of society. Its goal is always the good of the collective. 52 In al-Biblawi’s view, the liberal idea acknowledges two truths about economic life that must be taken into consideration: first, the need to ensure proper and responsible use of the scarce

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
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An inspiring model
Meir Hatina

a slave society since it came into being and had remained so ever since, America was the land of freedom. 3 Despite its cosmopolitan outlook, Arab liberal thought retained a certain allegiance to Arab indigenous identity. Several writers made a point of emphasizing that Arab modernism, rather than Western modernism, should be the inspiration for reform in the Arab world, since “each people has its own modernism.” In his call for equal rights and opportunities in education and employment for both men and women, Shakir al-Nabulsi took the

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
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Toward an ethical vision
Meir Hatina

acknowledged in some of his writings that the Prophet had spread the message of Islam by establishing state institutions and practices, while in other writings he pointed out that the Prophet was more of a messenger and arbitrator, guiding people who came to him willingly rather than by force of law. 118 The Sudanese writer Mahmud Muhammad Taha, who was already active on the liberal front in the 1950s, went a step further. Sudan was in many respects the outer edge of the Islamic world and Taha represented the geographical periphery of Arab liberal thought. Yet his ideology

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
Meir Hatina

The chapter explores the euphoria and optimism that the events of 2011 spread among Arab liberals, whose long and stubborn struggle to expand the sphere of personal freedom and democracy was confirmed as not being pointless and unproductive. It also examines the disappointment and frustration in their ranks in light of the success of Islamic movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and al-Nahda in Tunisia in harvesting the political capital generated by these events.

in Arab liberal thought in the modern age
Authors: Uriya Shavit and Ofir Winter

This book regards Arab Islamism and liberalism as distinct political ideologies with all-encompassing views on the structure and appropriate roles of society and the state. The thesis presented here on the different functions of Israel and Zionism within these two ideologies refers to a protracted period of time. It also establishes several generalizations about the actions of individuals and groups in a vast geographic and linguistic space. The book first offers a chronological overview of the Islamist ideological opposition to Zionism. It portrays the main characteristics of and driving forces behind this resistance and explores the different pragmatic approaches toward Israel that have developed in the various epochs of Islamist thought. The book then discusses Islamist depictions of Zionism and Israel as role models and analyses the reasons for the formation and acceptance of such interpretations. It also offers a chronological overview of the evolution of liberal thought with regard to the Zionist enterprise. It depicts the various perceptions of peace and normalization created within this thought and demonstrates the contradictory ways in which the Arab liberal struggle for freedom and democracy has been intertwined with the Israeli-Arab conflict. Finally, the book discusses liberal interpretations that represent Zionism and Israel as role models, and analyses the reasons for the formation and acceptance of such interpretations.

Reasonable tolerance

The idea of toleration as the appropriate response to difference has been central to liberal thought since Locke. Although the subject has been widely and variously explored, there has been reluctance to acknowledge the new meaning that current debates offer on toleration. This book starts from a clear recognition of the new terms of the debate, reflecting the capacity of seeing the other's viewpoint, and the limited extent to which toleration can be granted. Theoretical statements on toleration posit at the same time its necessity in democratic societies, and its impossibility as a coherent ideal. There are several possible objections to, and ways of developing the ideal of, reasonable tolerance as advocated by John Rawls and by some other supporters of political liberalism. The first part of the book explores some of them. In some real-life conflicts, it is unclear on whom the burden of reasonableness may fall. This part discusses the reasonableness of pluralism, and general concept and various more specific conceptions of toleration. The forces of progressive politics have been divided into two camps: redistribution and recognition. The second part of the book is an attempt to explore the internal coherence of such a transformation when applied to different contexts. It argues that openness to others in discourse, and their treatment as free and equal, is part of a kind of reflexive toleration that pertains to public communication in the deliberative context. Social ethos, religious discrimination and education are discussed in connection with tolerance.