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In the mid-20th century, a socialist movement began to develop in many parts of colonial Africa and the Arab world. In Arab countries, the goal of the socialist movement was, broadly, liberation through fighting imperialism, opposing the ruling classes and fighting for social justice. The social-economic component, although important, was seen as directly related to the wider issue of nationalism and freedom from colonial masters and their associated domestic elites.

The movement, although successful in galvanising disparate members of society, was often scorned by socialist ideologues for not adhering strictly to the tenets of socialist thoughts, as these were countries that still had not reached such a level of industrialisation and capitalist exploitation that dialectical materialism required. Socialists were also smeared by conservative elements as elite saboteurs. The more radical aspect of Arab communism was its commitment to secularism, and that became the most effective way to delegitimise socialist parties: “communist” became synonymous with “atheist”, and in turn “unbeliever”. This was such a successful smear that someone simply could not be a socialist without having their religion questioned.

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