Shakīb Arslān’s Libyan Dilemma

The essay “Shakīb Arslān’s Libyan Dilemma: Pro-fascism through anti-colonialism in La Nation Arabe” by Jakob Krais on the Ottoman administrator Shakīb Arslān’s writings about the Italian colonization of Libya is available online as part of the online publication Rethinking Totalitarianism and its Arab Readings. Proceedings of the Conference “European Totalitarianism in the Mirrors of Contemporary Arab Thought”, Beirut, October 6-8, 2010. Here is the introduction:

“Shakīb Arslān is considered one of the Arab world ‘s most important anti-colonial propagandists of the inter-war period. At the same time, he belongs to the few activists from the Middle East who actually tried to gain support from the fascist powers in the years preceding World War II. Apart from al-Ḥājj Amīn al-Ḥusaynī, the mufti of Jerusalem, with whom he collaborated, and the Iraqi Arab nationalist Rashīd ʿAlī al-Kaylānī, Arslān perhaps came closest to proclaiming unequivocal sympathy towards Italy and Germany. In this essay I will examine his views of Mussolini ‘s regime as expressed in the French-language journal La Nation Arabe which Arslān published in Geneva from 1930 to 1938. Italy represents a particularly interesting case insofar as it could be seen as an ally against the colonialist western powers Britain and France in the Middle East, but was itself an imperialist regime that ruled an Arab country, Libya. I will shed light on how Arslān dealt with this dilemma in his articles. Although a comprehensive account of Arslān ‘s assessment of fascism certainly would have to include other works of this prolific writer, as well as his correspondence with politicians in Europe and the Islamic world, here I shall concentrate on La Nation Arabe where he publicized his views for a larger audience, both western and Muslim. It is possible to distinguish two phases in his journalistic writings on Italy and Libya, one critical from 1930 to 1933 and one conciliatory, stretching from 1933 up to 1938.”

Read the rest of the piece here.

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