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NASSERISM. As a political movement transcending Egypt’s frontiers, Nasserism began developing after Gamal Abdel Nasser achieved full power in Egypt in 1954. It stood for the liberation of the Arabs and all AfroAsian states colonized or dominated by the Western powers, with Egypt playing a key role at the coincidence of the Arab, African, and Islamic circles, according to Nasser’s tract The Philosophy of the Revolution (1959). Nasserist ideology received fresh impetus from the Afro-Asian Bandung Conference of 1955, and its influence grew as Nasser led opposition to the pro-Western Baghdad Pact, bought Soviet arms, and declared neutrality in the cold war and defiance of the old colonial powers. Nasserism attained new heights after the AngloFrench humiliation in the 1956 Suez crisis.

In the 1960s, Nasserism was the most potent political force in the eastern Arab world; its influence was much less in the Arab Maghreb apart from Libya. At its peak, it was considerably more powerful than Ba’thism, which had similar Pan-Arab aims. Nasserism’s weakness was its association with one political leader. Non-Egyptian Nasserists were necessarily accepting of Egyptian leadership in the struggle for Arab unity and the liberation of Palestine. After Egypt’s shattering defeat in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Nasserism inevitably declined, although it did not disappear, as evidenced by the Nasserist coup in Libya in 1969 and the survival even after Nasser’s death in 1970 of self-proclaimed Nasserist groups in Lebanon, Yemen, and elsewhere.

Nasserism was essentially a secular Pan-Arabist movement. Initially, Nasser’s most formidable opponents were the Muslim Brothers, who had expected to lead and control the antimonarchist revolution in Egypt. But Nasserism never stood for the total separation of religion and state or the establishment of a secular republic on the model of Kemalism in Turkey. Nasser aimed to mobilize all but the most extreme Muslim sentiment to his revolution. He imposed state control over the religious authorities and the mosques in order to incorporate them into the political system rather than to isolate them. While Nasserism was dominant in Egypt the secular/religious divide was submerged and Muslim/Christian tension was less than in subsequent years.

The socioeconomic component of Nasserism developed later than, but in harness with, its ideology of PanArab nationalism. This component was predominantly concerned with Egypt and was expounded in the 1962 National Charter after Syria’s secession from the United

Arab Republic pushed Nasser to concentrate on Egypt’s problems.

Marking a shift to the left, the National Charter prescribed the political system of the Arab Socialist Union for Egypt. Half of all elected seats were reserved for farmers and workers from local councils up to the National Executive. Although the charter had obvious Marxist influences, it denied the class struggle and retained private ownership of property and land under stringent limits. It also repudiated atheism but generally ignored Islam without showing hostility toward it. The essence of the Nasserist creed was that without socialism to provide economic security and equality of opportunity, democracy would be a pure facade.

[See also Arab Nationalism; Arab Socialism; Egypt; Muslim Brotherhood, article on Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; and the biography of Nasser.]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Haykal, Muhammad Hasanayn. Nasser: The Cairo Documents. London, 1972. Unique insight by a major contributor to the development of Nasserism.

Mansfield, Peter. Nasser’s Egypt. Harmondsworth, 1969. Firsthand account of Nasserism in action.

Nasser, Gamal Abdel. The Philosophy of the Revolution. Buffalo, 1959. Statement of the ideas that influenced the formation of Nasser’s general policies and attitudes.

Nutting, Anthony. Nasser. New York, 1972. Sympathetic but critical survey of Nasser’s policies.

PETER MANSFIELD

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Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/nasserism/
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  • writerPosted On: June 11, 2017
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