The Crescent and Sacred Green: A Postscript to the Arab Flags Series

Part 1: Trucial State WhitePart 2: Arab Flag Colors

As previously described, the flags of many Persian Gulf states contains large sections of white for historical reasons, while many Arab States in the Middle East, from Sudan to Iraq, have a unique blend of white, red, black and green. Beyond these two themes is the broader common theme between the other Arab states and other states — the color green and the crescent moon. Green has a special place in Islam and is commonly used in the decoration of mosques, the bindings of Qur’ans, the silken covers for the graves of Sufi saints, and in the flags of various Muslim countries. The crescent moon is also an important symbol. The second most important color is red, but that appears to be more cultural than religious.

islam world maps

Notable flags not included in this series are Eritrea, Somalia, Oman and Bangladesh. Eritrea has a flag based on the struggle of its war for independence against Ethiopia. Oman has a flag with similar colors to other Arab states but with a unique emblem and with different reasons for the placement of the colors. Somalia has a simple, light blue flag and one star meant to represent national unity. And Bangladesh, which has a red circle on a green background, similar to the flag of Japan, is not covered in the above map because the green of the flag stands for the lushness of the land of Bangladesh, and is not related to the Islamic religion followed by most of the population.

About Curzon

Lord George Nathaniel Curzon (1859 - 1925) entered the British House of Commons as a Conservative MP in 1886, where he served as undersecretary of India and Foreign Affairs. He was appointed Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th century where he delineated the North West Frontier Province, ordered a military expedition to Tibet, and unsuccessfully tried to partition the province of Bengal during his six-year tenure. Curzon served as Leader of the House of Lords in Prime Minister Lloyd George's War Cabinet and became Foreign Secretary in January 1919, where his most famous act was the drawing of the Curzon Line between a new Polish state and Russia. His publications include Russia in Central Asia (1889) and Persia and the Persian Question (1892). In real life, "Curzon" is a US citizen from the East Coast who has been a financial analyst, freelance translator, and university professor; he is currently on assignment in Tokyo.
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7 Responses to The Crescent and Sacred Green: A Postscript to the Arab Flags Series

  1. Alfred Russel Wallace says:

    No wonder Armenia feels under threat – I hadn’t realized that Azerbaijan’s flag was so flagrantly Islamic.
    Quite a few flags have crosses – England’s is the Cross of St. George, and is clearly Christian. The flags of Georgia, Tonga and Switzerland have Christian roots, but I am not so sure about the Scandinavian ones…. any thoughts??.

  2. elisson says:

    A.R.W./ All Nordic cross flags derive from the Danish Dannebrog—the world’s oldest state flag still in use—and the cross symbolizes christianity. According to legend, the Danish flag fell from heaven during a crusade in Estonia.

  3. Curzon says:

    The Sky Blue in Azerbaijian is not uncommon — it also appears in the flags of Somalia, Oman, and some of the Central Asian states…

    Perhaps a post on the crosses that appear in flags is in the making…

  4. tdaxp says:

    Generally those European countries with crosses have it on their flags to emphasize their ‘Christianity,’ as opposed to the ‘Whore-of-Babylon’ worship of Catholic countries.

    Catholic countries, having always assumed that they were Christian, did not feel the need to advertise this.

  5. M. N. Silva says:

    It depends.

    Portugal’s first flag was a cross and its coat-of-arms still reflects it. France and Spain had crosses in their military flags. France’s was a white cross in blue, and Spain has a red X cross during the Habsburgs.

    It also has something to do with the need for a national narrative. Catholic countries are generally older than northern European ones and so religion was not such a big component of their national identity.

    I’d say Italy and Spain would be the exceptions to this, given their states’ modern incarnation. Italy’s flag carried a cross during the first decades and up to the end of Mussolini’s regime.

  6. nm says:

    Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, the Comoros, and the Maldives could be added to the list.

    As for Europe, I think, it’s all much simpler: flags with the cross are either genuinely very old (England, Denmark, Switzerland) or modelled after them (e.g. Finland). Meanwhile, most “tricolours” (The Netherlands and Austria being the exceptions) were created much later, when civic nationalism prevailed over religious sentiments (with the notable exception of Greece).
    The Georgian five-cross flag, while recent in its current official status, is also based on a mediaeval design.

  7. Pingback: » The Nordic and British Crosses of Europe