Hit & Run

Awdat al-Ruh?

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A pair of Egyptian parliamentarians has formed a new liberal party that stands for "a free-market economy, respect for the rule of law, good governance, women's empowerment, freedom of expression and an open relationship with the West."

The party is called Hizb al-Ghad, or the Party of Tomorrow, but it is actually reaching back to a past period of Egyptian liberalism. From 1920 until the catastrophic rise of Nasser and his poisonous variety of Pan-Arabism, Egypt enjoyed a period of secular liberalism under the Wafd party. The new party, which features as its general secretary a Harvard-educated woman who is also a Copt, is specifically evoking the Wafd's tradition. (The social context of the rise of a liberal Egyptian nationalism is the subject of Tawfiq al-Hakim's classic 1919 novel, Awdat al-Ruh, or The Return of the Spirit.)

Unfortunately, Egypt's political parties must be licensed by the state. That country has been under "emergency" rule for nearly 25 years, and is not interested in licensing a liberal party. But the point for Egypt's long-beleaguered liberals (at least for now) is that such a party exists whether the state recognizes it or not.

Some related items dealing with Arab liberalism: Ali Fadhil and Mohammed Fadhil, the brothers who run the Iraqi blog, Iraq the Model, decided earlier this month to take their liberal values into politics, and will run for office. The blog Across the Bay, which regularly exposes the pathologies that continue to poison so much of the region's public discourse, recently ran a pair of especially powerful entries dealing with Arabism (here and here). IraqPundit found the silver lining in the mess in Najaf.