Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East by Fawaz A Gerges - review by Amir-Hussein Radjy

Amir-Hussein Radjy

Best of Enemies

Making the Arab World: Nasser, Qutb, and the Clash that Shaped the Middle East


Princeton University Press 483pp £24.95 order from our bookshop

Gamel Abdel Nasser’s Philosophy of the Revolution (1955) is written in a charismatic style, though it is thin on substance – much like the man who purportedly penned this booklet. What is blatantly clear is Nasser’s belief in the Egyptian army. ‘Throughout my life I have had faith in militarism,’ the Egyptian leader declares. ‘The soldier’s sole duty is to die on the frontiers of his country.’ In the decades since Nasser wrote this, Egypt’s army, while lacking any strategic vision for the country, has proved itself tactically brilliant at dominating Egyptian politics, taking up and brutally dispensing with political allies on the Left and Right, secular and Islamist, as befits its interests. Nasser, before leading the July 1952 Free Officers coup that overthrew the monarchy and placed the army in control of Egypt, was briefly a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. As president, he lost every war he fought against Israel, but he succeeded in brutally crushing the Brotherhood.

What some see as Nasser’s faithlessness, others see as a maverick ability to govern a divided country. In Making the Arab World, Fawaz Gerges points out that Seyyed Qutb, whom many today consider the founding theorist of militant jihadism, was similarly eclectic in his ideological loyalties. Remarkably, Qutb

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