30 Jul 2013

Liberals, Communists and Assorted Infidels: The Ultimate Guide to Arab Secularists

Everyone agrees that secularists are the real force behind the ‘Arab Spring’, yet we know so little about this obscure group of people that toils in virtual anonymity. Aside from the occasional foray onto the BBC, CNN, The Guardian and international leadership conferences, that is. But who are these people really? To answer that question, we commissioned an authoritative study that will for the first time shed light on Arab secularists, their different political groups, and what their favourite drinks are.

The Liberals

The liberals are the granddaddies of all Arab secularists. They see themselves as the vanguard in the fight against Islamists, and they often say things like: “this is not my true Islam”, despite not having set foot in a mosque for 17 years. They mostly work for the UN, the World Bank, and western think tanks, but this doesn’t fool Arab leftists who know that this is the perfect cover for the western imperialist conspiracy.

Like their western counterparts, Arab liberals are very flexible about their principles these days. After all, dogma isn’t useful to anyone. They show this open-mindedness by making statements like: “is voting really necessary for democracy?” and “should illiterate people have the right to vote?” But somehow this intellectual courage is often mistaken as an expression of Fascist tendencies.

Arab liberals like to describe themselves as ‘entrepreneurs’, both in the intellectual and business sense. They’re really cool like that. But for some reason they don’t like to advertise the fact that they’re working for the family company which has a monopoly on BMW spare parts in the entire Levant.

Major locations: Liberals describe themselves as ‘based between Vienna and Cairo’, by which they mean they go to Egypt for five days a year to visit Auntie Samiha in Zamalek.

Favourite drinks: Whiskey. Or Pepsi if they’re really devout.

The Libertarians

The libertarians are liberals who also like porn. The good porn with pictures and stuff, not the complicated type in serious novels that liberals and leftists like.

The Communists

It used to be said that “when it rains in Moscow, Arab communists open their umbrellas.” But since the demise of the Soviet Union, Arab communists have been wandering around aimlessly, mostly trying to organise the third annual party conference that will bring new blood in. The second conference was organised 47 years ago.

While waiting for the objective conditions to ripen, Arab communists spend their time calling each other ‘comrade’ and talk about workers’ rights in the abstract. Someone promised to introduce them to some workers and they’re very excited about that.

Major locations: London, Paris, and one street in Beirut.

Favourite drink: cheap vodka.

The Revolutionary Socialists

The revolutionary socialists are to communists what Luke Skywalker is to Darth Vader. Or that’s what they like to believe. Revolutionary socialists are so right-on it’s painful. But they get away with it because they rarely venture outside social media, where they can manage their splinter groups and disagreements in a safe, digital environment.

Revolutionary socialists use swearwords like ‘Stalinist’, ‘Fascist’ and the utterly damning ‘neo-liberal’. That is primarily because most Arabic swearwords carry explicit gender bias and are inherently discriminatory.

Major locations: New York, Barcelona, middle-class neighbourhoods in Cairo, Beirut and Amman.

Favourite drinks: Arak, organic ale.

The Anarchists

Anarchists are revolutionary socialists who still live with their parents and can afford to be more radical.

Major locations: The global collective struggle.

Favourite drinks: They’re not old enough to drink.

The Nasserites:

The Nasserites are the true spirit of democracy in the Arab world. To this day they hold the record for the most democratically correct elections in history, the 1965 elections in Egypt, in which 99.9999% of the population figured the correct answer. This feat of true democratic alignment between people and leadership is yet to be matched anywhere in the world.

The Nasserites believe in Arab unity, dignity and the fight against imperialism. All they ask of the people, whose interests they have at heart, is not to make a fuss about minor details like torture, suspension of the rule of law and economic collapse while they are pursuing those lofty objectives.

The Nasserites like their leaders tough, manly and charismatic, and preferably from a military background. It doesn’t literally say with a hairy chest, but you can read between the lines. But their malicious opponents have somehow misinterpreted this is as a sign of misogyny and an attempt to marginalise women from positions of power.

Major locations: The Glorious Arab Ummah. (Not to be confused with the Islamic Ummah, which is usually in jail when Nasserites are in power.)

Favourite drinks: The humble yoghurt peasants drink. And champagne.

The Baathists

Wankers. No, seriously, that’s the scientific definition.

Other guides:


  1. Mr./Ms. writer, you have a very negative immature attitude. i think you should re-write the full article with a deep look into secularism as it is an interesting subject. Maybe you are talking about your naive friends who act like that, then you should think of changing your friends to more intellectual group.

    1. I'm pretty sure the author is just making light of the situation. No need to get angry. Lighten up. It's a funny article :).

    2. You ask him to write the article by taking "a deep look into secularism". It's not Karl who should take take a deeper look into secularism and liberalism, it's those he's purporting.

  2. Sometimes, the more you care, the more "negative" you need to be. If secularity is going to work in the Middle East, it has to take itself seriously by going beyond posturing. Which includes knowing how to take a joke. I tremble to think what "a more intellectual group" would look like. We've had enough of renaissances and corrective movements.

  3. Funny article (a little short though) I can think of a couple of others. It would be cool to see this done on different types of islamists.

    1. Check the two links at the end of the article.

  4. turns out i'm a revolutionary socialist.


    Absolutely love it!


Karl reMarks is a blog about Middle East politics and culture with a healthy dose of satire.

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