Internalism of the Left

by John Chalcraft
published in MER238

Isam al-­Khafaji, Tormented Births: Passages to Modernity in Europe and the Middle East (London: I. B. Tauris, 2005).

Any book-length comparison of the historical trajectories of Western Europe and the region “extending from Iran in the east to Egypt in the west, and from Turkey in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south” is ambitious by definition. In the outstanding Tormented Births, “written and researched over two decades in exile” from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, Isam al-Khafaji has attempted more than comparison. He has attempted a new narrative for both European and Mashriq histories. The goal is nothing less than to “show the non-uniqueness of the third world path to modernity, which means by implication the non-uniqueness of the point of reference: Europe’s path to modernity.”

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Egypt's Wall

by Ursula Lindsey | published February 1, 2010

In late December 2009, Arab TV channels aired footage of throngs of demonstrators, surrounded by the usual rows of riot police, on the streets of downtown Cairo and in front of foreign embassies. Street protests in Egypt have been sharply curtailed in the last few years, but the scene was familiar to anyone who had been in the country in 2005, when protests against President Husni Mubarak’s regime and in favor of judicial independence were a semi-regular occurrence. Yet there was something unusual about these protesters: They were all foreigners.