02 February 2018

On Christianity and Arab socialism

Shiblî Shumayyil

It’s a true pity that John at EifD isn’t blogging anymore. His brief biographical sketch of Shiblî Shumayyil, a Syrian Christian and one of the first Arab socialists, is thankfully still up on David Lindsay’s blog. Christians were heavily overrepresented in the reform and revolutionary movements in the Arab world, and with good reason. It’s my hope to pick up where Mr John sadly left off and do a bit more profiling of the Arab Christian leadership in culture and politics, particularly on the ‘left’.

Shiblî Shumayyil was not alone; his Arab Christian contemporaries Salâma Mûsâ, Yaʻqûb Sarruf, Labiba Hashim, Farah Antûn and his brother-in-law Niqula Haddâd also advocated religious and œconomic egalitarianism. Later figures on the Arab Christian left include not only Sir George Antonius (not explicitly a socialist, but certainly narodnik in his political intuition), but also Qustantîn Zurayq, Michel ‘Aflaq, and a number of Palestinian radicals such as the al-‘Isa family which ran the Filastin newspaper. In addition, I hope to expand to some of the early Arab Muslim leftists, like al-Kawâkibî, who were the most friendly to Christian, Jewish and other minority interests in the Middle East.

This will very likely be an ambitious project for my blog, given that – unlike those of China and of Russia – I have not previously had much education in Arabic and Middle Eastern affairs. Much of the scholarly reading I will be doing on this subject will be on my own direction. Hopefully I can get a good handle on the subject and explore it in some degree of depth here.

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