Mind of the Musulman: Islam in Conflict with Europe
Islam in conflict with European nations — The Nationalist movement in Egypt — Its origin — The National Party — Moustafa Kamel Pasha — -Mohammed Farid Bey — The popular party — Loufti Bey es Sayed — The party of constitutional reform — Sheikh Aly Yousef — The attitude of England — Egyptian Nationlists’ intrigues in North Africa.
IN contact with Western nations, the Muslim has remained stationary, and has made no effort to adapt himself and his institutions to the requirements of modern times. Under the protection of his intransigent faith, he has not allowed any outside influence to affect him; on the contrary, his hostility towards the infidel is more bitter than ever. The semi-education he has received in European schools has only served to strengthen his hatred by leading him to imagine that he can do without foreign guidance. It is in response to this feeling that the Muslim Nationalist Party has been created, which has succeeded in setting the True Believer against the Infidel in every land governed or protected by a European State. The aim of this party is the re-establishment of Islamic power and the expulsion of the foreigner. It is a new form of Pan-Islamism, and a more dangerous form, inasmuch as it aims at a practical object immediately realizable, and has realist rather than visionary tendencies.
This movement of emancipation came to birth in Egypt, as a reaction against English domination. Its leading spirit was Moustafa Kamel Pasha, who, on the 22nd October, 1907, secured the unanimous adoption at Alexandria of the program of the Egyptian National Party of which he was the leader, namely: "The Egyptians for Egypt, Egypt for the Egyptians." He added these words: "We are the despoiled, the English are the despoilers. We wish our country to be free, under the spiritual dominion of the Commander of the Faithful." But Moustafa Kamel had no time to take action; death cut him off on the l0th February, 1908, at the very outset of his undertaking.
This was taken up by his successor in the presidency of the Egyptian National Party, Mohammed Farid Bey, who, betaking himself to the most astute methods of Oriental policy, tried to secure the support of England's rivals among the European Powers. This shows that the Young Egyptians were fully aware of their own incapacity to free themselves from foreign tutelage by their own unaided efforts. They set their hopes first upon France. Moustafa Kamel had addressed a vehement appeal to the Chambre des Deputés, on 4 June, 1895; but the Chamber had not thought the time propitious for intervention. The Young Egyptians then tried to create a movement of public opinion in France, where they found many willing to listen to them. How could it be otherwise: how could one distrust men who protested their contempt and hatred of England, and in the same breath claimed to regard France as their spiritual home?
It was a curious spectacle and one that showed up the subtlety of Oriental duplicity: to see the Young Egyptians placing themselves under the aegis of France in order to intrigue against England, while the Young Tunisians and the Young Algerians addressed themselves to the English, at the time of the Fashoda affair, and to the Germans during the Tangier incident, in the hope of getting rid of France. Have we not here a proof that the Muslim never has any feeling of gratitude to those who have tried to raise him out of his barbarism, and that convinced of the superiority of his own civilization, in spite of its decadence, he still hopes to be able to make it prevail once more?
Having lost all hope of any intervention by France, the partisans of Egyptian emancipation turned to Germany, who from 1900 onwards had been cultivating intrigues with all Muslim malcontents for the supposed benefit of their foreign policy.
Moustafa Kamel and Farid Bey devoted themselves especially to the education of their party, and to preparing the minds of their followers for the idea of revolt. Their plan was to make the foreigner unpopular, to represent him as an invader and a usurper, to show the legitimacy of rebellion against his authority, to inspire the Muslims with proud confidence in their own strength by recalling to them the power of the Empire of the Caliphs. Before proceeding to action, it would be well to convince their minds of the necessity and the possibility of action; this conviction once established, there might be some hope of realization.
With this object, the People's Party was founded, with Loufti Bey es Sayed as leader, and a simple program, namely: to obtain step by step the maximum of liberty, up to the final expulsion of the foreigner; to make use of the encouragement and the efforts of England to conquer her in the sequel by means of the weapons which she herself would have forged.
Education being the most efficacious arm, the English were to be urged to multiply schools, especially purely native schools; to replace the European teachers by Egyptians. Later on, when the protected people were convinced as to their rights, it would only be necessary to array them against their protectors. This policy, which tends to raise ruse and dissimulation to a system of action, almost to a fine art, should not astonish us; for it is in exact accordance with the commandments of the Faith. The true believer is in a state of permanent war with the infidel, and this law, this duty of eternal war can only be suspended.
"Make war," says the Holy Book, " on those who do not profess the true religion, until they, in their humiliation, shall pay the tribute with their own hands."
This formula explains the attitude of the partisans of emancipation, whether in Egypt, in Tunis, or in Algiers.
A third party, that of Constitutional Reform, was founded by Sheikh Aly Youssef, the editor of Al Moayad. He advocated the maintenance of the Khedivial authority according to the spirit of the Sultan's Firmans; the creation of a national parliament; free and general primary instruction, in the Arabic language, that being established as the official language; and the admission of Egyptians to administrative appointments.
The foundation of the reform advocated by Sheikh Aly Youssef is the establishment of Arabic as the official language for education in the schools of Egypt. By this means the English teachers would be driven away, and the influence exercised, through their intermediary, by the conquering people on the protected people, would be suppressed. Education being given exclusively in Arabic, the rising generation would be preserved from all dangerous contact with Western ideas. Their minds could be molded into any desired form; nationalism and religious fanaticism could be cultivated in them; they would thus become good and ardent Muslims, with little instruction perhaps, but sufficiently tamed, as it were, to obey blindly the orders of the reformers, and at their bidding to hurl themselves against the English invaders.
Finally, these trustworthy subjects, on leaving school, would enter into the different services of the administration where they would gradually take the place of foreigners.
This first step taken, it would then only be necessary to create a Parliament, a simple matter since the minds of the young generation would have been prepared for it. A Parliament obtained, intrigues would be set to work with the great Powers who were England's rivals, and advantage would be taken of troublous times, of a mutiny in India, of a war in Europe, of any events that would compel the protecting Power to direct its attention and its forces elsewhere, to launch the movement of rebellion and drive out the invader.
England fell into this trap; wishing to show her benevolence towards Egypt, she began the realization of part of the reforms advocated by Sheikh Aly Youssef. Notably in all that concerned education she endeavoured to make it, as far as possible, conformable to the mentality, the traditions, and the customs of Muslim people; she set up schools for the exclusive use of natives, in which the instruction was given in Arabic. A commission composed of the most eminent personalities of the religious and political world of Egypt was entrusted with the translation into Arabic of the principal scholastic manuals of Europe, at the same time adapting them to the prescriptions of the Koran. The Commission in this way founded a library comprising treatises on geography, history, physics, chemistry, natural history, etc., drawn up in Arabic with the usual religious formulae. For the accomplishment of this imposing task the Committee made use of the works of the Arab savants of the Middle Ages, from which they borrowed the technical terms and scientific definitions, so that the Young Egyptian can acquire practical knowledge in his own vernacular.
We know how he has shown his gratitude for this generous consideration: the rising generation, educated by England, and who, without her help, would have remained in the depths of their ignorance, have arrayed themselves against her; and now, under the delusion that they are capable of governing themselves, their one idea is to shake off all foreign tutelage.
Such are the origin and the tendencies of the Nationalist movement in Egypt, very briefly set out. The theories of the promoters of the movement, gradually spread abroad by means of the instruction given in the schools set up by England, are now enlisting the people of Egypt against their protectors and are from day to day giving rise to serious difficulties.
England, breaking away from her customary egoism, has done her best to extend education among the Egyptian people, and to develop their prosperity in conformity with the principles and practices of civilized countries. Her efforts have only led to negative results.
The Young Egyptians, educated by England, at England's expense, in English schools, have ranged themselves against her in the name of Islam, and to the cry of: "Egypt for the Egyptians."
But, not content to work for the liberation of their own country, they have intrigued in Tunisia and Algeria, in order to create a vast movement of Muslim nationalism, thus proving that they are not, as they claim to be, Egyptian nationalists, but Muslim nationalists. This will cause no surprise if one will only bear in mind the close solidarity of Muslim nations, how their religion has cemented them into one perfectly homogeneous block, in spite of the diversity of races, of origins, and of customs. The Muslim of India differs strangely in appearance from the Bedouin of Arabia; while the latter bears little resemblance to a Turk, an Egyptian, or an Algerian or Moroccan Berber; and these in turn do not think or act in the same way as their co-religionists in Persia, Sumatra, or China. They are sometimes even disunited. The Arab tribes of the Yemen are constantly in revolt against Ottoman domination; the nomads who wander between Mecca and Medina do not hesitate to plunder the caravans of the pilgrims who repair to the Holy Cities; the Algerian Kabyles treat the Arabized population with contempt, and these in turn detest the Djerbians and the Mozabites; the Chambaas of the desert are always ready to hold up to ransom the peaceful inhabitants of the Oases. But these are internecine quarrels, differences between people belonging to the same family; but, should any foreign intervention occur, then immediately the brothers who were at enmity the day before forget their dissensions in the more urgent need of meeting the infidel. Islam has realized the absolutely extraordinary work of being able to unite and to bring into communion with the same ideal, the most diverse peoples, the most unlike in every way, and the most distant from one another; so perfectly has this solidarity been effected that any movement in anyone point of Muslim territory necessarily has its repercussion on all other points. This is exactly the case with the intrigues of the Egyptian National Party.
The inflammatory speeches of Moustafa Kamel Pasha and Mohammed Farid Bey, the violent campaigns of Al Mooyad, of Al Lewa, of Al Garidah, and of Al Minbar, the call to rebellion of Loufti Bey es Sayad and of the Sheikh Aly Youssef have found an echo in other places besides Egypt: North Africa has thrilled to the voice of these tribunes of Islam. Tunisia was the first to hear their call, which, coming nearer and nearer, was extended to Algeria and then to Morocco. So long ago as 1906, during a stormy sitting of the House of Commons, Sir Edward Grey, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, noted the rapid development of the nationalist movement:
"All this year," said he, " fanatical feeling has gone on increasing in Egypt, but it has not stopped there, it has spread throughout the whole of North Africa."
Since then, the movement has become still more accentuated, not only on account of the Italian expedition against Tripoli, which has strengthened the feeling of solidarity among all Muslims, but more especially because of the incitements and intrigues of the Young Turk party, under German encouragement.
The evolution of this Party is extremely curious. The Young Turk revolution was organized and launched by a certain number of Turkish intellectuals, of whom the majority were Christians and Jews educated in the schools and colleges of Europe, who had derived from their Western enlightenment the idea of introducing progress into the Muslim world. It is beyond doubt that at the outset this movement of regeneration was inspired by liberal ideas, and that it did its best to copy the French Revolution. But, as soon as the Young Turks had obtained power, they came into collision with the fanaticism of the mass of the people; they were accused of impiety and of heresy, and under pressure of public opinion the non-Muslim elements of the revolution were swiftly ejected. The Ottomans who remained at the head of the movement hastened to make concessions to the people, so that the original idea of the revolution was completely altered. They went even further, and did not hesitate to make such a display of intransigent nationalism as gave rise to various incidents with the European Powers, notably with Italy.
The Great War, and the complications following from it: the partition of Turkey, the claims of Greece, the occupation of new territory by England and France have not failed to excite to a high pitch the passions of the Muslims, and to accentuate their religious nationalism.