My father often says that in mid-century Saida, it was rare to see women wearing the veil in public. Stories like this are a dime a dozen among the retiree set, and even 50-somethings can harken back to a more secular Lebanon. As`ad Abu Khalil talks about how, during his student days, he would drink beer on AUB’s campus during Ramadan to provoke “the religious nuts” who were fasting. Obviously, we live in a very different world.
This great video of Nasser posted on Michael Collins Dunn’s blog (which is one of my favorites, incidentally), is a reminder of Egypt’s similar experience in this regard. It’s difficult to imagine a mainstream Arab politician making a speech like this today. Also note Nasser’s tremendous timing and rhetorical prowess. I may place a little too much emphasis on oratorical abilities in shaping the politics of the Middle East, but clips like this (and this and this and this) are why I keep harping on this theme.
PS: I’ll be in DC next week to hear a paper on confessionalism and electoral reform by Dr. Arda Ekmekji. I can’t keep track of which friends of the blog are based in the seat of Empire these days, but if you’re around, drop me a line.