Algeria: A Case Study in Decolonization (FrontPage Magazine)
France left Algeria 50 years ago. Now, after five decades of self-rule, Algerians don’t want to live there either. (Read it and weep!)
Â Algeria today is an absolute mess. There is (also) Â a constant Islamist threat. The country Â is chaotic, filthy and tension-filled. It should be an embarrassment to the country’s leaders â€” and to the international development “experts” who have advised it for decades. Algeria’s revolutionary violence during the 1950s achieved little more than leaving an estimated 700,000 dead, and thousands more scarred physically and psychologically…..
Algiers When It Was Still Beautiful
Here’s a beautiful video of Algiers in the 1930’s. Now its growing in filth and crime…..
ALGIERS, ALGERIA Â -Â Notre Dame d’Afrique sits on top of a cliff overlooking Algiers. It was completed in 1872 and since then has been one of the landmarks of the Algerian capital, its neo-Byzantine style architecture with an impressive dome standing imperially over a city that still reflects, despite its present shabbiness, the legacy of France.
The view from here of the city below is magnificent, and surveying the scene before me it becomes obvious the French chose this spot for the church to stand as a symbol embracing North Africans as part of their civilizing mission. Behind the altar they inscribed the words, “Notre Dame d’Afrique priez pour nous et pour les Musulmans.” (“Our Lady of Africa, pray for us and for the Muslims.”)
The Church now stands practically empty, guarded by a contingent of armed police. Salim Mansour has more>>
Algeria: A Case Study of Â Decolonization
Posted ByÂ Mariano NavarroÂ On July 13, 2012 InÂ Daily Mailer,FrontPageÂ |Â 11 Comments
No matter how delicately one tries to speak about 20thÂ century European colonialism, saying anything positive of former colonial powers is usually seen as elitist and Eurocentric, at best, militaristic and racist, at worst. This is especially true of a complicated place like Algeria. This past week, the international community memorialized the fifty-year anniversary of Algeria’s independence, granted by French President Charles De Gaulle on July 3, 1962, after a bloody eight-year war against pro-independence revolutionaries. But what exactly is being commemorated? Algeria today is an absolute mess. My research work, which has taken me to the country several times in recent years, indicates that it is a highly fractured and unstable society. There is also a constant Islamist threat. Putting it bluntly, I have found the country chaotic, filthy and tension-filled. It should be an embarrassment to the country’s leaders â€” and to the international development experts who have advised it for decades. Algeria’s revolutionary violence during the 1950s seems to have achieved little more than leaving an estimated 700,000 dead, and thousands more scarred physically and psychologically. Driven by an ideology of Communism and early Islamism, groups like theNational Liberation FrontÂ mercilessly used guerrilla tactics, torture and terrorism against their own people. French paratroopers responded ruthlessly with their own counter-insurgency tactics â€” and, for a while, they succeeded. (Gillo Pontecorvo’s excellent 1966 film, “The Battle of Algiers,” depicts some of the battles and the tactics used by both sides.) I won’t tax readers with a detailed account of that horrific war; there are numerous excellent published accounts (such as Alistair Horne’sÂ A Savage War of Peace). But it is worth noting that even after independence was granted, attacks on Algerian civilians â€”including Berber peoples â€” at the hands of various factions of insurgents continued for decades. The terrifying civil war of the 1990s between various Islamist rebel groups and the government left another 200,000 dead. The poor, doomed Cistercian monks of Tibhirine â€” seven of them decapitated by an Islamist group in 1996 â€” were the most famous victims of that awful decade. (This is beautifully memorialized in the poignant 2010 film, “Of Gods and Men.”) In short, decolonization and independence from France did not result in dignified self-rule, peaceful development or political order as promised by the pro-independence ideologues of the 1950s. If anything, the departure of French authorities and the exodus of French families â€” theÂ pieds-noirsÂ (that is, Algerians descended from Europeans) as well as Catholics, Jews and loyalist Muslim intellectuals â€” left the country insecure and culturally impoverished. Algeria’s so-called “war of independence” effectively removed the one group that could maintain political order, promote development and ensure peace in Algeria: the French. It is one of the “what ifs” of history: Would Algeria have had a brighter future had it remained under French rule? One certainly could argue that with continued access to French language and culture, manners andÂ moeures, the Algerian population would have been imbued with European civilization â€” and would have benefitted from the cultural inheritance of the West. Instead, successive regimes of fanatically pro-independence leaders and Islamist groups seem to have repudiated the country’s European roots. Mind, I am not necessarily arguing for the superiority of one culture over another; rather, I am extolling the virtues and benefits of having different cultural and linguistic traditions interact with â€” or “encounter” (in post-modern parlance) â€” each other. The assimilation, blending and intermingling of different cultures and traditions within the bosom of the West throughout history is precisely what has made Western civilization vibrant, resilient and strong. Is all this a veiled defense of colonialism? No, it really isn’t. But it is a critique of the common and widely-held assumption that European colonial powers only brought suffering, exploitation and destruction to their former colonies. Such overly simplistic arguments â€” sadly, too common among liberal internationalists and Marxist academics â€” ignore the benefits and contributions that colonists brought to the developing world. The political institutions and administrative procedures inherited by India from Britain, for example, have contributed directly to its growth. Similar things can be said of Hong Kong. (For an excellent explanation of Hong Kong’s success under the British, find the pre-handover speech, “Two Cheers for Colonialism,” delivered in 1997 byÂ Derek Davies, former editor of theÂ Far Eastern Economic Review). Algeria, in contrast, has retained precious little of its French colonial past. A Parisian friend recently told me that his mother and her family had visited the capital of Algiers a few years ago. They had beenÂ pieds-noirs. He recounted how they had visited their ancestral home, with the permission of its new occupants, and had been surprised to find many of the family’s belongings â€” 19th century paintings, heirloom furniture, etc. â€” still there, just as the family had left them in the 1960s. The only difference was that everything was covered in dust and grime, the paintings were faded, the furniture was damaged, all of it neglected by the families now sharing the house. My friend’s family recognized that none of it belonged to them anymore; but they were still heart-broken to see so many reminders of what once was â€” ruined remnants of European civilization. It was, my friend said, almost like seeing a lonely old ghost wander the halls of a forgotten, ruined palace: hauntingly tragic â€” and a reminder that Europe’s cultural legacy is eroding around the world.
Islam is a universalist, triumphalist and political religion. It claims de jure dominion over all humanity; that is God’s will. The actual state of affairs, with unbelievers of various sorts dominating most of the world, is a suspension of God’s will anda scandal to the faithful. The world is divided between the House of Islam and the House of War, meaning the rest of us.
For more than two centuries now, the House of War has been in the ascendant, and the House of Islam has been abased. The remedy for this unnatural and intolerable state of affairs is jihad. Jihad is defined as “the religious duty imposed on all Muslims to wage war upon those who do not accept the doctrines of Islam”. The Prophet Mohamed himself not merely preached but waged jihad. God’s word, dictated to the Prophet and preached by him, is binding on all Muslims, and his example is their inspiration.
In the glorious centuries of expansion, the jihad carried Islam from Arabia, to the west as far as the Atlantic; to thenorth as far as Vienna; to the south as far as the Sahara and down the east coast of Africa to Madagascar; and to the east across Persia and the Indian subcontinent into part of China and Indonesia.
What is going on today in the Muslim world is not the advent of some aberrant thing called Islamic fundamentalism but a revival of Islam itself – the real thing – which Western ascendancy and Westernised post-Muslim elites no longer have the capacity to muffle and control. The jihad is back.
The jihad is at present raging in many parts of the world and shaking many westernised and westernising regimes (and many Russified and Russifying ones as well). The front of the jihad that comes nearest to us in Europe, and is of the most immediate danger to us, is that in Algeria.
The Algerian jihad and the French-backed attempt to repress it, cost an estimated 25,000 lives last year, and the death toll is at present estimated at about 800 a month. Nobody really knows for sure. This is the most unreported of the world’s wars, bec
a use both sides are in the habit of murdering journalists. The French-backed side murders journalists who report things the French don’t want reported; the Islamic side murders journalists for being unbelievers, or for being employed by unbelievers. News
organisations, accordingly, have pulled out of Algeria and the place has become a kind of black hole as far as reporting is concerned.
The general public in the West only became aware that something peculiar was going on in Algeria when the news broke of the hijacking of a French airbus by the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). This was followed by the spectacular news of the French rescue operation and then by the killings of four Catholic priests in the courtyard of their Church in Tizi-Ouzou. The GIA announced it had killed the priests as part of a campaign of “annihilation and physical liquidation of Christian crusaders”. The G
I A added that it would continue its jihad against all who stood in the way of achieving the supremacy on earth of God’s Sharia (Islamic law) and the establishment of a wise caliphate (an Islamic state, eventually ruling over the whole world).
The GIA is reckoned to be a relatively small organisation, but its actions and statements are endorsed by the much larger Islamic Salvation Front (FIS). The FIS has so much popular support among Algerians that it looked liked winning the elections scheduled three years ago, which was the the reason why the French-backed junta cancelled the electoral process, thus precipitating the outbreak of the jihad. The junta is pledged to the eradication of Islamic fundamentalism, but it looks as if this can hardlybe done without eradicating the Muslim population.
It is now clear that the French-prompted decision to cancel those elections was a terrible mistake. It is true that an elected government in Algiers, dominated by the Islamic Salvation Front, would have been a much more uncomfortable neighbour for Francethan that of previous secular Algerian governments. Uncomfortable, but hardly as uncomfortable as the sustained jihad that followed the cancellation of those elections, and hardly as uncomfortable as an Islamic government resulting from the victory of the jihad is likely to be.
The tragic error of the French in trying to cope with the revival of Islam derives from a conceptual error; the illusion that “Islamic fundamentalism” is something distinct and separate from Islam itself. If separate, then detachable; if detachable, the
n eradicable – if necessary, by force. So reasoned those Cartesian minds, moving with impeccable logic to an erroneous conclusion, since their basic premise was false.
That basic error is by no means confined to the French. It is very general in the West, and is affecting American policy, not in the “logical” French form, but in a more sentimental manner. According to a report in the Washington Post: “Administration
officials – like many scholars of Muslim teachings – distinguish between Islam as a religion and extremist political acts carried out in its name.” Or, as President Clinton himself put it during his visit to Indonesia in November: “Even though we have had problems with terrorism coming out of the Middle East, it is not intrinsically related to Islam, not to the religion, not to the culture.”
That statement was of course made before the GIA’s hijacking of the Airbus, and subsequent murder of the four priests. But the view that terrorist acts perpetrated in the name of Islam are somehow not “intrinsically related to Islam” was reflected in theClinton administration’s handling of the news of what the GIA had done and said in December, according to a Washington Post report (29 December).
In denouncing the hijacking of an Air France jetliner by four young Algerians, the US government has carefully avoided linking the crime to the Muslim religion. The hijacking was “a grave terrorist crime” for which there can be no justification whatsoever, said the State Department spokesman, Michael McCurry, implicitly rejecting the hijackers’ claim to be acting in the name of Islam.
That the claim of a group of Muslims to be acting in the name of Islam, is rejected by an unbeliever, speaking for other unbelievers, will do little to reduce the credibility of the claim, in the eyes of other Muslims.
President Clinton’s personal approach to this matter appears to be governed by a kind of woozy ecumenism, fairly prevalent among Western liberal churchmen. As the president told the Jordanian Parliament in October: “After all, the chance to live in harmony with our neighbours and to build a better life for our children is the hope that binds us all together. Whether we worship in a mosque in Irbid, a baptist church like my own in Little Rock, Arkansas, or a synagogue in Haifa, we are bound together in that hope.”
“All the great religions are the same” is the idea. Only they aren’t. The Clintonian world view observes the hard specificity of Islam. The Prophet Mohamed did not offer his followers a chance to live in harmony with their neighbours. He taught them to fight their neighbours, if they were unbelievers, and kill them or beat them into submission. And it is futile to say of those Muslims who faithfully follow those teachings today that their actions are “not intrinsically related to Islam”.
We are facing an Islamic revival. The pro-Western rulers of the Maghreb and the Middle East know this, and know that their own stance is increasingly unacceptable to their peoples.
Representatives of Syria and Saudi Arabia met last week in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak in something resembling panic stations, over the news from Algeria. What these three regimes have in common is that all of them supported the unbelievers duringDesert Storm. (The fact that Saddam Hussein is not a model Muslim is felt to be immaterial. Under attack by unbelievers, he raised the flag of Islam and had widespread support at popular level.)
How the West should cope with the Islamic revival is a complex matter. But one thing is clear: we can never get it right if we go on trying to believe that there is something called “Islamic fundamentalism” which is somehow not intrinsically related to Islam itself.