Fawaz Gerges sheds light on Nasser, Qutb clash in ‘Making the Arab World’

’Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash That Shaped the Middle East,’ by Fawaz Gerges.
Updated 06 May 2018
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Fawaz Gerges sheds light on Nasser, Qutb clash in ‘Making the Arab World’

  • Fawaz Gerges examines the conflict between two towering personalities, Sayyid Qutb and Gamal Abdel Nasser
  • The book is based on extensive research including in-depth interviews with civil society leaders

BEIRUT: In his latest book, “Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash That Shaped the Middle East,” Fawaz Gerges examines the conflict between two towering personalities, Sayyid Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) and Egyptian revolutionary (and later President) Gamal Abdel Nasser, which marked the beginning of a confrontation that has rocked the Middle East for the past 70 years.
Gerges writes from a position of authority, as a professor of international relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and the author of several acclaimed books. This one is based on extensive research including in-depth interviews with civil society leaders, politicians, and leading activists, which makes for an insightful and educational read.
“My uninhibited access to Qutb’s most inner circle and that of the Ikhwan’s old guard and younger activists provides a unique window into a shadowy, secretive universe, allowing this book to zero in on these years and trace Qutb’s footsteps and actions, thus filling a major gap in the literature,” Gerges writes, when explaining that the years Qutb spent in prison played a vital role in shaping his philosophy. It was there he set out a “revolutionary Islamist project” and came up with a roadmap to implement it.
One of the most surprising revelations in the book is that the young Nasser, along with other Free Officers like Anwar Sadat, was a member of the Brotherhood and had been active in their paramilitary network, known as the Special Apparatus (al-Tanzim Al-Khass).
As Gerges explains, before the 1952 revolution both the Ikhwan and the Free Officers were united in their desire to remove Egypt’s British-backed monarchy. It was only in the late 1950s, as their political discourse became radicalized, that the rupture happened, forever altering the political landscape of the region.
In 2011, the Muslim Brotherhood once again spurned an opportunity to govern Egypt, in part because their presidential candidate, Muhammad Mursi, proved unfit to be president. The result of their failure was the triumphal return of a ‘strongman’ leader in General El-Sisi.
As Gerges notes: “There can be no political transition as long as the Ikhwan, the most influential social movement in the Arab world, and the military-dominated regime are locked in a state of war.”


What We Are Reading Today: Art as History Calligraphy and Painting as One

Updated 21 August 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Art as History Calligraphy and Painting as One

This richly illustrated book provides an anthology and summation of the work of one of the world’s leading historians of Chinese painting and calligraphy. Wen C. Fong helped create the field of East Asian art history during a distinguished five-decade career at Princeton University and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Few if any writers in English have such a broad knowledge of the history and practice of Chinese painting and calligraphy. In this collection of some of his most recent essays, Fong gives a sweeping tour through the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy as he offers new and revised views on a broad range of important subjects.
The topics addressed include “art as history,” in which each art object preserves a moment in art’s own significant history; the museum as a place of serious study and education; the close historical relationship between calligraphy and painting and their primacy among Chinese fine arts; the parallel development of representational painting and sculpture in early painting history; the greater significance of brushwork, seen abstractly as a means of personal expression by the artist, in later painting history; the paradigmatic importance of the master-to-follower lineage as a social force in shaping the continuity and directing the subtle changes in Chinese painting history.