Monday, May 29, 2006

What makes a nation?

What makes a nation? Ghassan Sharbel brings up this question when he asks:

"Is Iraq a final nation for all its sons, in which they can live equally with all their rights and obligations? Or is Iraq a tent spread about the Shia, Sunnis and Kurds, each one able to pull up stakes when they want, whenever one side feels it has a chance to gain a bigger share? Is it possible to protect a nation with the logic of a tent, ambushes and truces, or with the logic of a state and insitutions, and the principle of recoginizing the other and his right to be different and equal, without a secret program to take his rights, erase his identity and dissolve his heritage?"

Sharbel goes on to ask similar questions about Lebanon, and surely such questions can be asked of a lot of states in the region. The main reason, he points out, is the extensive resources poured into armies and secret police, with the most sophisticated devices for spying on their own citizens, instead of forming truely national institutions that would survive the vagaries of time. "That is why when the ruler falls, everything falls and we see... institutions plundered and mililtias spout like mushrooms," says Sharbel.

What makes a nation is a question that has not been sufficiently answered in a lot of countries in the Middle East. Is it just the simple prevelance of the Arabic language? Is it Islam? Is it shared culture and history? What makes a Jordanian from Salt Jordanian and not Palestinian? An Arab in Alexandretta a Turk and not a Syrian? A beduin in Kuwait a Kuwaiti and not an Iraqi? Isnt' it just the random lines drawn on a map by colonial overlords? What makes a nation in the Middle East?


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