The 20th century was a time in the Middle East when nominally secular dictators espousing notions of pan-Arabism — the ideology of uniting the “Arab World” and downplaying or crushing the different cultural aspects of the region’s innumerable sectarian groups — reigned supreme.

However, as we continue past the first decade of the 21st century, the regional picture is changing. In 2003, the pan-Arabist dictator Saddam Hussein was deposed in Iraq. In 2005 occupying Syrian forces under another pan-Arabist, Bashar al-Assad, were forced out of Lebanon. Now the Arab Spring is demonstrating the Middle East’s new Islamist future.

Besides the battles involving rifles and sectarian militias, another fight has been an underlying feature of the contemporary Middle East: Identity. This newly exposed battle is especially prevalent among the region’s declining Christian population.

In his enlightening piece on Middle Eastern Christian identity, my friend and colleague Aymenn Jawad al-Tamimi concluded, “[T]he degree of linguistic and cultural Arabization over time has played more of a part in the formulation of identity among Middle Eastern Christians than a simple desire to avoid persecution at the hands of the Muslims majorities.”

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