East of Zionism: In 1900 my grandfather’s generation imagined a modernising Arab world, multireligious and progressive. What happened?

Ussama Makdisi in Aeon:

My paternal grandfather Anis was born an Ottoman subject in 1885 but died an Arab citizen. He passed away in 1977 at the age of 92, two years into Lebanon’s civil war. Raised in Tripoli when all the Arab East lay under Ottoman sovereignty, and educated in American mission schools that dotted the Empire in its last century, Anis Khoury Makdisi became a distinguished professor of Arabic at the American University of Beirut. Best known for his works on Arabic literature, he was known as ‘Ustadh Anis’ – a teacher of generations of students of Arabic in the Middle East’s most renowned modern university. He was also a proud member of the Arabic language academies of Cairo and of Damascus, institutions that embodied a modern age of coexistence that shaped the Arab Muslims, Christians and Jews of my grandfather’s generation.

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