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The Formation of Arab Nationalism in Egypt

by Expert Prof Akunga | 28 Jul 2017

From the early 1500’s up to the early 1900’s, Egypt, as well as all the Arabs, was under the Turkish Ottoman Empire’s rule. However, with the decline of the empire’s power in 1918, the Arab world became vulnerable to foreign powers, France and Britain specifically, being the victors of World War 1. This struggle against foreign rule led to an awakening of nationalistic ideologies within the region (Abdel-Mageed, 2008, p. 1).

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It was during this political/social turmoil that Saad Zaghlul, considered as the father of Egyptian Nationalism, stepped into the political limelight. Saad Zaghul, who finished Islamic Law at Al-Azhar University, served various important posts in the Egyptian Government; as the minister of education, minister of justice, and finally in 1913, as the vice president of the legislative assembly (Abdel-Mageed, 2008, p. 1).

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At the end of the First World War, Zaghlul formed a delegation to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, with a mission of calling for independence from Britain. However, much to the dismay and surprise of the Egyptian nation, Zaghlul was arrested and exiled to Malta. Later released only after the deaths of some 800 Egyptian protestors, Zaghlul became the first-ever elected prime minister of Egypt in 1924 (Abdel-Mageed, 2008, p. 1).

Today, some historians and sociologists agree that Zaghlul was a main factor in instigating pan-Arabic movements that led to the rise of Arabism in Egypt. One such reason cited is the fact that during his term as education minister, he had insisted on making Arabic as the official language in primary schools, despite the apparent objections of the British rulers. Others, however, are of the thought that Zaghlul’s revolution in 1919 was unfinished. They hold that what was started by Zaghlul came into completion only in the 1952 revolution, with the successful ousting of the British (Abdel-Mageed, 2008, p. 1).

Reference

  • Abdel-Mageed, D. (2008, February 4) Fathering Egyptian Nationalism. Al Jazeera.net. Focus: Arab Unity. 
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