The U.S. Can Neither Ignore nor Solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Washington Must Actively Manage a Dispute It Can’t End
Early in the nineteenth century, there began in the Near East a change from one system of social thought to another. The old system started from the idea that there is some principle which stands above the state and society, guiding and judging the life of society and the actions of governments; it found this principle in the teachings of a revealed religion, Islam. The new system also believed that a principle existed, but it thought it could be found by human reason. From this idea it derived a program of action which could, in some circumstances, be one of revolution: if the institutions of society are not what reason says they should be, men are not obliged to obey them; rather, they should replace them by others more rational and remake the social world in the light of their image of perfection.
This is the obvious way of describing the change, but in fact it has gone deeper. In the Near East as elsewhere, men's minds have moved not only from the idea that the principles of social action are religious to the idea that they are rational, but also from the idea that there are such principles, standing above society, to the idea that society is its own judge and master, that the principles by which it should live are generated within itself, change as it changes, that its own interest is the supreme principle.
To put it crudely, the first change-the formation of the idea that there are eternal truths about society to be discovered by reason-was the work of the eighteenth century. The second was the work of the nineteenth, and was the product of many factors: the desire of thinkers to "close the revolutionary age," to find a principle which would justify necessary change without establishing the tyranny of abstract ideas; the philosophy of Hegel and the great sciences and half-sciences which sprang from it- historiography, mythology, anthropology, sociology; the exploration of the world, revealing the variety of human beliefs and practices; the study of geology and biology; the effect of such changes on religious beliefs-the growth of a discipline of biblical criticism, the emergence of doubts about whether revelation could be literally accepted in the light of what science was thought to say about the origin and development of the world.
From such sources came the characteristic idea, almost the religion, of the nineteenth century-the belief in cosmic process or activity. The essence of the universe was thought to be change or process; this change tended in a certain direction-from less to more complex forms, unconsciousness to full self-consciousness, the externally determined to the self-determined-and it contained within itself its own efficient and final causes, was moved by an inner force toward a goal which was not beyond itself but its own highest stage. This belief could form the basis of a conservative theory of politics and society, and such indeed was its appeal to those who feared above all the revolutionary spirit released into the world in 1789. But it could also carry with it a program of revolutionary action, and inspire men to destroy those institutions which no longer expressed the spirit of the age and to replace them by others, in the conviction that they were helping the forward movement of the universe.
In Europe and America, of course, such ideas did not arise suddenly or erupt into a stable society organized on different principles. They came as companions of a vast social change which was already taking place, the growth of industry and the city. But when they first came to the Near East it was to a society not yet touched by the change and sheltered by a different system of thought. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, those in the Near East who thought about society and government believed for the most part in the primacy of revelation-in the existence of an ideal system of social morality derived from Islam. During the first Islamic centuries most Muslims had accepted the authority of the Caliph, the successor of Muhammad, not indeed as prophet but as ruler of the Muslim community, holding temporal authority with a religious sanction and ruling in accordance with revealed law. But Islam too had had its revolutionary age; the authority of the Caliph had weakened, the political unity of Islam had broken up, and orthodox beliefs and laws had been put in question by new ideas. This age had ended with the growth of a new social and political system. The Mamluke state of Egypt and Syria and its successor the Ottoman Empire were very different from the Caliphate of earlier days. They were based on force and the solidarity of a professional or ethnic group-in the Mamluke state a group of military freedmen from the Caucasus, in the Ottoman state a military and official class, of Turkish language but, in the great days, largely of slave origin.
The older political theories of Islam had grown up around the institution of the Caliphate; but with these new states came a new type of thought. From the revolutionary age, later Muslim thinkers derived a lasting horror of chaos. Anarchy and disorder must be avoided to preserve the fabric of Islamic society. All governments should therefore be obeyed, but that did not mean that all were alike. Some of them were just. But what did it mean to be a just government? Those who thought seriously about it knew that the universal Caliphate of earlier times had ended. But something else remained, the Shari'a, the system of social morality and law derived by rational process from the Quran and the Traditions of what Muhammad and his companions had done and said; and it was by their attitude toward the Shari'a that governments could be regarded as just or unjust. If the ruler upheld it, did nothing which went clearly against it, respected and consulted the 'ulama, the men learned in religious sciences and law, his rule was just, no matter how it had begun, and Muslims should obey and coöperate actively with it. But if the ruler were unjust the devout should show their disapproval, by exhortation or silent withdrawal, although not so as to disturb the public peace.
Behind this doctrine lay a belief in an invisible order which would reverse the injustices of the world. By the eighteenth century most devout Muslims belonged to one or other of the brotherhoods of mystics, and the mystics believed in the existence of an invisible hierarchy of saints by whose intercession with God the order of the world was maintained. This belief in an invisible order of perfection might be interpreted in a revolutionary way, and there was in popular Islamic thought a revolutionary strain-the belief in a mahdi, a man sent by God to overturn the kingdoms of the world and open the final age of peace and justice. But in spite of occasional outbursts the political influence of the orders of mystics was in the direction of quietism and patient acceptance rather than revolt.
This was so because, while Muslims might disapprove of specific acts of Ottoman rulers, and even depose one Sultan and replace him by another, they did not doubt that the Ottoman state was a just Islamic state. The Sultans respected and consulted the 'ulama, supported the courts where Islamic law was dispensed, organized the pilgrimage to the Holy Cities, protected the more orthodox of the orders of mystics. Under the Sultans, the adherents of other religions, the Christians of various kinds and the Jews, had religious freedom under their own spiritual heads and a civil position which was usually bearable and sometimes favored. There was thus a certain harmony between the political system and the prevailing political ideas. This left no room for new ideas to penetrate from Europe.
These ideas did not begin to have influence until there took place a change in the position of the Ottoman Empire: its growing weakness in face of Europe's growing strength. That the Empire could not defend itself against the forces of a European power was shown during the Russo-Turkish war of 1768-1774, when a Russo-Greek fleet sailed the eastern Mediterranean and carried out landings in Greece and at Beirut. A generation later a French force occupied Egypt at the heart of the Muslim world and was dislodged only with the help of another European power. A generation later still the Greek subjects of the Sultan revolted and, with the support of Europe, a Greek national state was established. Other subject peoples were encouraged by this to hope that what the Greeks had done they could do too, and the Ottoman government saw that, if it were to prevent this, it must reform itself. During the next century a not unsuccessful attempt at reform was made. A new army and administration were created; a new system of laws, derived from those of Europe, was set up beside the Shari'a, and implicit in it was a new principle-that all citizens, whether they were Muslims or not, had equal rights and were full members of the political community.
To administer the new laws and institutions a new class had to be created- of officials, officers and technicians. In Istanbul and in two Arab provincial centers, Cairo and Tunis, where practically autonomous governments carried out a similar policy, professional schools were set up and students were also sent to Europe to study. From those who acquired a European education there sprang the first groups of modern thinkers, Turks and Arabs, in the generation which flourished roughly from 1830 to 1870. A little apart from them stood another group, Arabic-speaking Christians of Lebanon and Syria educated in French and American mission schools.
To some extent the purpose of all these groups was one: they wanted to explain why Europe was strong and the East was weak. They tended to give the same explanation-one cast in terms of modern science and invention but also of moral factors, of the political freedom and justice which Englishmen, Frenchmen and Americans enjoyed. But when they asked how the Near East could become strong a certain difference appeared. The older thinkers were at heart Islamic conservatives and thought that the necessary reforms could be introduced from above by benevolent autocracy; but a little later there began a call for constitutional rule, and a short-lived constitution was granted in Tunisia in 1864 and an Ottoman constitution in 1876. There was a difference also between the Muslim thinkers and the Lebanese Christians. Christian writers tended to support secularization but Muslims on the whole did not; their aim was rather to show that the characteristic institutions of modern Europe-democratic government, patriotic loyalty, legal reform-were permitted by Islam, if only Islam were rightly understood.
The writers of this age thought of liberal Europe as an ally in the work of reform, but soon a time came when they had also to think of her as a danger. In the next generation, stretching roughly from 1870 to 1900, the position of the Ottoman countries grew worse. In the eastern crisis of the 18705 the center of the Empire was threatened by European power; at the fringes, France occupied Tunisia in 1881, Britain occupied Egypt the next year, the Russians advanced in central Asia. First the Bulgarians and then the Armenians revolted in the hope that Europe would intervene to help them, and the Bulgarians at least succeeded. Such events gave strength to the desire for reform.
By now there was a new generation of thinkers more European in their culture, and among them two new intellectual movements arose. The Young Turks, and those Arabs who thought like them, believed that what the Empire needed was political change: a revival of the constitution, the spread of real equality and Ottoman patriotism. But there were others who maintained that political reform by itself would do nothing, and what alone could save the Empire and the Muslim peoples was Islam itself. To some extent those who talked of Islamic revival and Pan-Islam were really talking about politics, and wanted to create a political movement of defense against the advance of Europe. But a few of them meant something different: a real revival of Islam as a religious system.
Here we come on a strange figure, that of Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who in a life of incessant movement and activity left a deep mark on the Muslims of his generation. In his political activity, his calls for unity against British aggression, he may seem like a modern nationalist, but there is something also which recalls an older type of political action. He was not a democrat or constitutionalist on principle; what he wanted was rather the typical Islamic combination of a religious reformer and a strong ruler. He was modern, however, in his thought about the direction of reform. Muslims should become part of the modern world, and the modern world had two bases, reason and worldly activity aiming at progress. In his view these were of the essence of the true Islam, which taught the primacy of reason and the duty of activity in pursuit of the goods of this world and the next. By returning to the truth of their religion Muslims would acquire the sources of strength in the modern world.
Such ideas were given a serious theological basis by his disciples: Muhammad 'Abduh and the Syrian Rashid Rida in Egypt, and others in other countries. Their work was intended to convince Muslims with a modern education that they could still be Muslims, and to save them from having to live in two worlds at once-one derived from the principles of Islam and the other from those of European thought. In some ways they changed the emphasis of Jamal al-Din's thought. Thus his idea that Islam meant activity was developed into a criticism of the mystical orders as causes of intellectual sloth and political quietism. More than a century earlier there had been a violent movement of protest against mysticism and return to the early faith-the Wahabi movement in Arabia, which exerted continuing influence.
But the weakening of the hold of the brotherhoods may have helped to weaken the link between the educated class and the people. Such thinkers as 'Abduh tried also to define the role of reason in religious law and the changes which should be made to adapt the Shari'a to the needs of modern life. Their aim was to create a modern unified Shari'a and prevent the growth of a gap between two parts of social life, one where religious law ruled and one where secular law ruled. But here again their work had an unforeseen effect. By reducing the dogmas of Islam to a simple system they also reduced the difference between Islam and other religions, or even between Islam and the high-minded agnosticism of Victorian Europe; and by justifying the idea of legal and social change, without being able to provide principles clear enough to control the change, they opened the way to new and more effective principles drawn from the advanced thought of Europe.
This was the way taken by thinkers of the next generation which came to maturity in the years after 1900: Egyptians like Ahmad Lutfi al-Sayyid, Turks like Ziya Gökalp. They were Muslims-in education to some extent, and certainly in tradition, feeling and intention. The Egyptian group at least would have called themselves disciples of 'Abduh and said that their aim was his: to reform Muslim society in accordance with the true spirit of Islam. But they had had a different education and had a wider grasp of European thought; and they lived in an age when the inexorable development of law, of administration and of economic life was bringing about a de facto separation of the religious and secular spheres. What they thought they were doing was to take the principles of the true Islam as they conceived it and apply them to the problems of society-to improving the position of women, reforming the schools, laying the foundations of democratic government and creating national industries. But the basis of their thought had changed, whether they quite knew it or not. When they talked of the rights of women or the importance of democracy they could point to verses of the Quran or Traditions of the Prophet which justified the changes they suggested, but that was not the reason why they suggested them. They had all been influenced by the European idea that there is a sphere of religion and a sphere of secular life, and the principles they appealed to for the reform of secular life were human, rational ones- individual rights, civilization, social utility.
Among the principles which they appealed to were those of national unity and independence. They did not, of course, invent nationalism; as soon as Near Eastern statesmen and thinkers began to ask what was the secret of Europe's power, they noticed the national unity of European states and the strength of national loyalties, and this factor became ever more important in their minds as the Balkan Christian subjects of the Empire obtained their national independence. But the idea did not become an important political force in the Muslim parts of the Empire until the first part of this century, with the rise of Egyptian opposition to British rule and Persian opposition to Russian influence, the growing division between Turks and Arabs after the Young Turk revolution of 1908, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after the First World War, the emergence from its ruins of the independent state of Turkey, the establishment of British and French mandatory rule in the former Arab provinces, and the increase of Zionist immigration into Palestine.
Since the idea of nationalism came in from outside it was not always clear what it meant. In the years between 1900 and 1940 there were two different types of national idea (which could, however, live together in any particular national movement). On one side stood the territorial nationalism which is linked with a specific piece of land, and on the other that which is linked with a group possessing some kind of cultural, ethnic or racial unity. In general, the Persian, Turkish, Egyptian and Lebanese nationalisms of this period belonged to the first type, Arab nationalism to the second. But to say this is to simplify too much. It was only slowly that modern Turkish nationalism emerged from a movement of the second type, Pan-Turanism; and by 1940 Egyptian territorial patriotism was changing into Arab ethnic nationalism. Arab nationalism itself took its present form only gradually. Behind it, in the nineteenth century, lay a "Syrian" patriotic movement of the first type, and signs of this still existed in the 1930s. Few of the Arab nationalist writers of the time would have included in the Arab nation all who spoke Arabic-Egyptians, Sudanese, North Africans; with some exceptions, they identified the Arab nation with a specific territory- Syria in the geographical sense, Iraq and the Arabian peninsula.
Modern nationalism enshrines a secular principle, but in this generation the nationalism of the Near East was not wholly secular. To evoke a distant past is a way of revolting against the immediate past, and in most nationalist movements there was a tendency to go back beyond Islam to an earlier period: Turks looked back to the Hittites, Egyptians to the Pharaohs, Lebanese to the Phoenicians. But for the most part this was a passing phase. Even the violent secularism of Turkey in the time of Atatürk did not dissolve the link between the Turkish nation and Islam, and to be a Turk still meant to be a Muslim. In the apparently stable countries like Turkey, Egypt and Persia, based on territorial patriotism, there was a submerged religious feeling not coterminous with the nation, which could emerge at moments of crisis. In Turkey in the 1950s there was a burst of revolutionary activity expressing itself through a religious order, the Tijaniyya; and in Egypt there grew up a religious movement, the Muslim Brotherhood, which, although not anti-nationalist, maintained that beyond an Egyptian's duty to Egypt there lay his allegiance to Islam and his loyalty to the Muslim people.
The position of Arab nationalism was more complicated. The tendency to secularism was strong, all the more so because Arab Christians had played a part in the formation of modern ideas. They laid their emphasis on such factors as language, which united them with their Muslim neighbors; and Muslim Arab nationalists too wanted a national idea which could include the Christians. But the religious foundation of Arab nationalism was strong. The sense of the past which lies at the heart of any national movement could not, among the Arabs, be anything but a sense of the Islamic past. Few Arab Muslims would have made a separation between religion and nation so complete as that made by Atatürk, and even Arab Christians who became Arab nationalists often did so through identifying themselves with the Islamic past, in the sense that Islam was what the Arabs had done in history.[i]
In another sense, too, the nationalism of this period was not completely secular. In the Near East as in Europe, it had grown in a certain intellectual soil, as one of a number of ideas closely linked with each other. For most thinkers of the time, national independence was not the final aim; the nation was the servant of something universal. They might express it in different ways. Rashid Rida justified his nationalism in religious terms-an Arab revival was necessary for an Islamic revival; Atatürk would not have used such words, but he, too, saw Turkish independence as a step toward something else-the creation in Turkey of a modern civilization based on rational principles. The nationalist movements of this time had a content derived for the most part from the thought of liberal Europe: to be a nationalist meant to believe in constitutional government, universal education, the rights of women and intellectual freedom. At the heart of the national idea there lay an idea of individual virtue, as the foundation of the strength of states and the final cause of their existence.
The years before 1939 seem in retrospect to belong to a different age of history. This is not only because of the end of European domination of the world, although that by itself would be important enough to mark the passing of an age. There are other changes which have taken place all over the world and which are themselves in a sense the final product of European power. They can be described in many ways. We can point, for example, to the growth of population and of the industrial city, with its problems of people living close together and far from their roots; to the growth also of the educated population, claiming to take an active part in the political process and open to the power of abstract ideas; to the acquisition by Near Eastern states of real independence. Independence has often led to instability, and that for various reasons: because of the absence of a political tradition which encourages the army to take power as the only force standing above sectional interests; because, once independence is achieved, the relations of social forces with each other and with the government have to be redefined; because of the absence of the restraining and stabilizing power of an imperial government; and, in some Arab countries, because of a discrepancy between the frontiers of the state and those of the dominant national idea.
All this needs no further explanation, but what deserves analysis is the growth of a new type of political and social thought relevant to such problems of the new age. Its characteristic problem is no longer that of the difference between "east" and "west." The "west" may be thought of as technically more advanced, or as a political danger, but it is no longer thought of as having a "secret" which Asians and Africans must learn if they are to make progress; our new concepts of "developed" and "developing" peoples are different from the older concepts of "east" and "west," "progressive" and "stagnant," "civilized" and "barbaric." The tension between tradition and modernity, which underlay the thought of 'Abduh and his disciples, has either disappeared from the mind of educated men or changed its form. They may be conscious of their own national or religious tradition, anxious to preserve its culture or its social forms or what they regard as its private virtues; but they would not regard it as able to teach them how to organize a government or an army, an industry or a school. The idea of a specifically Islamic government is put forward more rarely. There have been and still are Islamic political movements, from the Pan-Islamic movement of the nineteenth century to its successors today; but in practice they are modern not traditional movements, and their aim is not so much to restore the rule of virtue and religion as to mobilize feeling in order to defend or achieve a position of power. In our days we have seen an attempt to create an Islamic republic in Pakistan, but it has been no easier there than elsewhere to establish a form of government based on Islam and capable of meeting the needs of modern life.
The idea of an Islamic society, moreover, seems to have lost its hold on most educated people. They are no longer conscious of a tension between how modern thought says they should live and how the Shari'a says they should live. The hold of the Shari'a over society has grown weaker. Already in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries new civil, criminal and commercial codes were introduced in Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, British India and elsewhere, and the hold of the Shari'a was confined to matters of personal status. In the last generation there have been inroads even in this sphere. Turkey abolished the Muslim law of personal status in the 1920s; Tunisia forbade polygamy a few years ago; Egypt has absorbed the religious courts into the general legal system.[ii]
In these states and societies in process of modernization, the universal language is that of nationalism. But nationalism is not by itself a system of principles by which a state or a society can be organized; for that it must depend on the other ideas it can attract and absorb. Here too there has been a change in the last 20 years. When a man in the Near East says he is a nationalist today he does not necessarily mean, as he would probably have done a generation ago, that he believes in constitutional government and the rights of individuals. Not that he would positively disbelieve in them, but his attention has shifted to national aims which he would regard as more urgent. He might well describe them in terms of "socialism," "neutralism" and "unity," and know more or less clearly what he meant by them. By "socialism" (or some other term roughly equivalent to it) he would mean the extension of schools and social services, reform of land ownership, and the rapid development of industry under control of the government-for only the government, with its authority and its access to foreign capital, could industrialize the country as quickly as he wishes.[iii] By "neutralism" he would mean, essentially, that he would not wish his country, having achieved independence, to fall into a new sort of political or economic dependence; neutralism is an expression of the difference between the ways in which a weak state and a great power look at the world. By "unity" an Arab would mean not simply that a number of states if united would be stronger than any one of them by itself (which is indeed a doubtful proposition). He would be talking not about strength but about legitimacy: he would not regard the state as having an unconditional claim upon him unless it could call itself an Arab state.
Until a few years ago, most Near Eastern countries were the scene of a deep conflict between these ideas and another, older conception of nationalism: monarchic and hierarchic in political views, pro-Western in foreign policy, more cautious and traditional in social matters, more individualist in economic policy. Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia and Algeria have each had a national revolution, and although many changes may be expected it seems unlikely that any of them will return to the old political system. In Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the smaller states of the Arabian peninsula the conflict continues, but it seems probable that it will end in the same way. In Israel and Turkey, faced with rather different problems, the ruling elements have each in their own way achieved a certain underlying unity, based on overriding common interests, the pressure of an enemy on the frontier, and the existence of a common concept of society. In Lebanon, a deep division between different parts of the population, in regard to relations with the West and to the internal structure of the country, is precariously bridged by a general will that the state should survive as an independent country, and by reluctance to push differences to the point where another civil war like that of 1958 might break out.
There remain Persia and Morocco, where the conflict is still raging and it is difficult to see how it will end. In both countries, the monarchs have shown some skill in keeping control of the government and leadership of part of the nationalist forces; but they have paid the price of being drawn into the heart of the conflict, so that any movement against the régime shakes the throne and the structure of the state. With these exceptions, however, the Near East seems to be moving into a phase where the ruling and educated classes, in any one country, are reasonably united on fundamentals. This does not mean, of course, that there are no political differences; the conflict of views which has shown itself, for example, in recent discussions on Arab unity between Egypt, Syria and Iraq is far more than personal or regional. But it does not reach down to the most fundamental problems of the nature of society and the state.
Beneath the surface, however, there are grave weaknesses in the Near Eastern bodies politic. The new content of nationalism provides a program of action but not a moral ideal by which actions can be judged-an ideal of political virtue and its concomitant, an idea of individual rights. Partly this is due to the new and necessary emphasis on social and economic development. When it organizes a large part of economic life and wants to bring about very rapid economic change, the government is apt to regard the individual as a statistical unit and all forms of private association as obstacles to its plans. In an age of planning, there is a danger that the state will come to control everything, and the need is great for some principle on which individual rights can be securely based, or for some institution which can defend them. This can scarcely be found in the Near East today, partly because of the decline in the influence of the Shari'a, but also because of the absence of stable political institutions; for in an age which on the whole is not one of fervent, unquestioned religious faith, a system of old, tried, accepted institutions, of ways in which power is exercised and limited, is a school of political virtue and a shield for the individual.
There is another danger which in the end may be even greater. While there is broad agreement within a large section of the ruling and educated class, there is also perhaps a greater gap between them and the mass of the people than once there was-a gap in power and in education. In most countries of the Near East, although in some more than others, there is growing up a new ruling élite isolated by power and education from the mass of the people. In Turkey, for example, those who become government officials, officers or professional men seem to be absorbed into a special, consciously isolated class who call themselves the "enlightened." The movement of economic and social development, in its first stage at least, may strengthen the position of this limited class; it may improve their standard of living faster than that of the people, and will certainly give them a vast power over the life of society. For their part, the mass of the people may find in the policy and nationalist ideas of this class neither a real profit nor an ideal which satisfies the human desire for justice. If this happens, there may rise to the surface a new type of revolutionary spirit; there were signs of it in Iraq after the coup d'état of 1958. Up to a point this new spirit may find old channels of expression. The idea of the Muslim community is still alive in the popular mind; the mystical orders are still alive, although not among the educated; and inherent in this popular Islam is an ideal of revolutionary justice and of human virtue. To some extent the new revolutionary governments try to appeal to this religious spirit and its ideals, and if they do so it is not only for purposes of propaganda but because of something still present in the minds of the rulers; but it is not certain that the kind of secular nationalist program which they offer will in the long run keep the allegiance of the masses.
Marxism, too, has its idea of revolutionary justice, of the nation and the state. Among the educated class Marxist ideas have had some success in the last few years. It is difficult to say how much, because to a great extent the process takes place underground; so far as open manifestations are concerned, Marxism seems to have spread mainly in the diluted form which has become part of the semi-official ideology of Egypt and other countries. This is compatible with nationalism and indeed gives it part of its present content. But between a full Marxist system and the new nationalist system of ideas there is conflict not only on principles but in regard to policy. This was seen in the Algerian war; it has been seen in Iraq in the last few years in regard to land reform and Kurdish policy. Wherever Marxism and nationalism have been in conflict, so far it is the latter which has proved to be the more successful. But its victory is fragile at best. In Iraq the balance of forces is still precarious; in Persia, should the present régime be overthrown, it is not certain that the nationalist groups would be able to lead and control the forces which revolution would unleash. Even in countries where the present régime seems stronger, it may be we have not seen the end of the matter. If the people no longer expect anything from their nationalist rulers, and if Marxist doctrines could penetrate the tradition of popular revolutionary Islam, what now seems stable might prove not to be so.
[i] By no means all Arabic-speaking Christians took this path, however. The Islamic basis of Arab nationalism made many of them uneasy, and led them to try to create a separate Lebanese state where Christians would not have to make the compromises all minorities must make.
[ii] But the change should not be exaggerated. There is a distinction in Muslim jurisprudence between acts of worship and social acts, and no government, however strong, could introduce changes in the first without meeting strong opposition. This was shown in 1960 when the Tunisian Government tried to discourage Muslims from fasting during Ramadan. The fast is one of the essential acts of devotion, and one in which the Muslim world becomes conscious of its unity and its links with the past, and the government's action aroused much criticism.
[iii] A new and perhaps important development, however, is the establishment of a corporation to invest Kuwaiti funds in private enterprises in the Near East.