Thursday, November 23, 2006

Arab literature and political Islam

What accounts for the reluctance of so many Arab writers to deal with political Islam in their work?

Mona Naggar took up the question in an article that originally appeared in German in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and is now available in translation at signandsight.

One reason: "the classic rivalry between intellectuals and the Islamicist movement. Followers of Islamicism see intellectuals and people working in the cultural sector as anti-religious advocates of secularism."

Another factor: "Political developments in the Middle East since 2001 only serve to complicate matters. Clear words against any supporters of political Islam are all too quickly interpreted as a pro-Western stance."

There are of course exceptions:
Supporters for political Islam do appear now and then in 20th century Arab literature. For instance there is Abdalmunim, the grandson of patriarch Ahmad Abdalgawad in Sugar Street. This third volume of Naguib Mahfouz' Cairo Trilogy spans the time from 1935 to 1944. Abdalmunim is an active member of the Muslim Brotherhood, and his brother Ahmad is a communist. At the end of the book, both are arrested for their political activities.
Click here to read Naggar's article.

--Marshal Zeringue