Pan Arabism is a secular Arab nationalist ideology, founded by Michel Aflaq,
but championed most successfully by former Egyptian president Gamal
Abdul Nasser. Frustrated Arab
nationalist ambitions and socialist and fascist ideologies gave rise to several movements and political parties. The Ba'ath party was founded in Syria in 1928 by Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar with a pan-Arab
nationalist program and elements of both Marxism and fascism. Aflaq and Bitar were influenced by Arab nationalist
trends that had begun in time of the Turks, inspired in part by the Islamic and Arab reform ideologies of Jamal al-Din
al-Afghani (1839-1897), his student Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905), and Abduh's student, Muhammad Rashid Rida (1865-1935).
These thinkers called for a renewal of Islam, with limited borrowing of concepts from the West. Abduh in particular was
active in promoting Arab autonomy within Ottoman Turkey, and had placed great hopes in the Young Turks. Rida grew
increasingly anti-Western with time, and was a great influence on Hassan El-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood.
While Aflaq was a Greek Orthodox Christian, Ba'ath ideology adopted an affinity for Islam, and Pan-Arabists saw one of
their goals as asserting the primacy of the Arabs in the Muslim world.
As World War II drew
to a close, Arab national ambitions and the desire to prevent creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine led to the
creation of the Arab League and soon after, to the rise of Arab
national sentiment. Gamal Abdel Nasser, president of Egypt,
took advantage of the anti-imperialist feeling to become the leader of a Pan-Arab ideology, which tried to unite Arabs
beyond the confines of the nation states, and to encourage a program of modernization and secularization. This program
met opposition from Muslim traditionalists. Pan-Arabism declined after Nasser instigated the Six-Day War with Israel,
which resulted in a disastrous Arab defeat. Other contenders eventually took Nasser's place as leaders of Pan-Arabism,
notably Saddam Hussein of Iraq. However, the rise of Islamist
Islamism, offered an ideology that largely displaced pan-Arabism. Pan-Arabism was also challenged by
nationalist particularism, especially in Egypt itself, where people have a profound sense of their identity as
Egyptians, as distinct from "Arabs."
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Further Information: Ba'ath Aflaq, Michel
History of Islam and the Arabs