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

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: Let the People Rule by John G. Matsusaka

Updated 19 February 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Let the People Rule by John G. Matsusaka

Propelled by the belief that government has slipped out of the hands of ordinary citizens, a surging wave of populism is destabilizing democracies around the world. 

As John Matsusaka reveals in Let the People Rule, this belief is based in fact, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. 

Over the past century, while democratic governments have become more efficient, they have also become more disconnected from the people they purport to represent. 

The solution Matsusaka advances is familiar but surprisingly underused: Direct democracy, in the form of referendums. 

While this might seem like a dangerous idea post-Brexit, there is a great deal of evidence that, with careful design and thoughtful implementation, referendums can help bridge the growing gulf between the government and the people.

Drawing on examples from around the world, Matsusaka shows how direct democracy can bring policies back in line with the will of the people (and provide other benefits, like curbing corruption).