[Re-posted from November 8, 2008]
The semblance of sense that some Algerians, of the French-speaking elite, can exhibit, in very small numbers, is due to the influence of the French, in two ways.
First, there are the continuing effects of French rule and French civilising tendencies, however diminished by Arab Muslim Lords of Misrule. The FLN effectively continues in power, with military-allied corrupt rulers, similar to the stratokleptocrats who have ruled Egypt since the Coup of the Colonels undid Farouk and the ancien regime. It was France that entered Algeria to put permanently paid to the Muslims who attacked Christian shipping and kidnapped and enslaved Christian seamen, in 1830. Over 132 years, until 1962, they brought hospitals, higher education (and even schools), laid out cities with beautiful boulevards instead of the rabbit-warrens of the Pepe-le-Moko casbahs, modern agricultural methods, and so much else, to Algeria (as they did, beginning later and ending earlier, and on a much smaller scale, in Tunisia and Morocco). And they brought the French language, and with it the ideas embedded in the French texts.
Now that the French are gone, and the hideousness of Muslim rule has been imposed, and so many Algerian Arabs have been permitted to move to, and live in France, at least some of them, particularly women, have been able to compare the advanced society that non-Muslims can create with the dullness and cruelty of the one that remains in Algeria. Algerian society has descended since 1962 steadily into darkness. If it did not have the French connection, and the manna from natural gas and oil deposits, it would descend even more quickly, as would Morocco without a semi-enlightened Sherifian monarchy prepared to use force against "Islamists," and as would Tunisia if Ben Ali were not as ruthless as Bourguiba had been against those threatening a "secular" state. Constraints on Islam are enforced by police-state methods.
There are some Algerians who accurately depict the awfulness of their own country, but they too often attribute that awfulness to a monstrous state instead of asking a further question: what is it about Islam that makes people naturally submissive to such a state? What is it that causes them not to question but to obey? What is it that prevents subjects from turning into citizens, in every Islamic country?
And then there are the Berbers, whose own national consciousness has been rising because of decades of Arab oppression. The protests and riots in Tizi-Ouzou more than a decade ago received no attention in the Western world, save for a handful of articles in the French press. The ban imposed by an Arab-dominated government on Amazigh or Tamazight, the Berber language, forbidden in the schools and even for use at home, finally has been undone. And it is among the Berbers that the most advanced, and secular elements are to be found. Kateb Yacine, the celebrated writer and a Berber, refused to write in Arabic, though he knew it perfectly, regarding it as the language of the oppressor; he wrote only in French.
Arabness, Uruba, always and everywhere reinforces Islam, and indeed, the phenomenon of the "islamochristian" (search this site for further discussion) is limited to Arabs. Christian Pakistanis, Christian Indonesians, do not further the Islamic agenda. Christians who speak Arabic, or use Arabic, and even have Arab names, but are keenly aware that their presence predates the Arab invasion -- the Maronites in Lebanon, the Copts in Egypt, the Assyrians in Iraq -- either do not succumb to the "islamochristian" temptation, or do so only while in the Middle East. While there they internalize an attitude prompted by fear of the Muslim sea in which they must swim and always be keenly aware of and worried about. But outside, they can sometimes work through and jettison that "islamochristian" attitude. The most obvious manifestation of the "islamochristian" phenomenon is to be found among the shock troops in the Jihad against Israel, that is, the local Arabs renamed after the Six-Day War as the "Palestinians" -- think of Michel Sabbah, Naim Ateek, Hanan Ashrawi.
It is not possible for Arabs to acknowledge that Islam is and always has been a vehicle for Arab supremacism. But Berbers can do so, and do so readily, for the evidence is all around them, and they have been victims of that supremacism.
In Algeria, the main force for secularism comes from the example of France (and even, among the tiniest and most advanced, an intelligent nostalgia for Algeria under the French, that can never be spoken of). It comes from the back-and-forthing of Arabs by ferry between Marseilles and Algeria. This, while dangerous to France, is also dangerous in another way to the power of unchained Islam. For some -- a small some or sum -- of those who have experienced freedom in France may influence the ruling elite in Algeria who may be silently concluding, without Ataturkian rhetoric, that they will have to tame Islam, even if they do not openly state it that way. For if they do not, then Islam, on the march, will destroy them, and what's left of Algeria (see the novels of "Yasmina Khadra").
No Arab or Muslim rulers would at this point dare to allow themselves to recognize, much less express to others, their recognition of the source of their political failures -- a despotism that comes naturally to Islam, where men are "slaves to Allah" trained in the habit of mental, and other kinds, of submission, and where inshallah-fatalism limits productive economic activity. No Arab or Muslim rulers dare to recognize the social, moral, and intellectual failures of their societies that are directly attributable to Islam.
And they will not do so, until such time as they are forced to because many of the world's non-Muslims will have come to understand that connection. Without screaming it from the rooftops, they will be quietly firm and indomitable in that understanding, that conviction -- which is not only the best thing that non-Muslims can do to save themselves but, in the end, to help those who, through no fault of their own, were born into Islam and somehow would like to find a way to tame this force, as Ataturk did, and then to work to create a layer of society that is determinedly secular -- as happened, over 80 years, in Turkey, though that secular class is always in danger and must always be vigilant.
If Sarkozy could sit still for a minute, and think clearly, and if his associates -- Kouchner and company -- could do the same, and try to learn about Islam without being bewitched by a charming Muslimah working on their staffs, they would realize what Islam does and what its effects naturally are, and how it explains the vast civilisational gulf between the two littorals, north and south, of the Mediterranean, that mer blanche du midi, which deux-rivistes (about which see here) appear to believe is merely a minor matter, but is not. For the Total Belief-System of Islam, and its hold over the minds of men, explains what makes Europe Europe, and what makes the Maghreb the Maghreb. The division is not merely a matter of a sea that can be crossed by mental ferries.
Sarkozy and others who believe in "integration" of Muslims into France never explain how this can happen, if the texts and tenets of Islam are immutable, and continue to have the same effects on the minds of adherents as they have had, demonstrably, over the past 1350 years. They don't want to face it, because there are now millions of Muslims in France. But they have to do so. The problem will only worsen. And they can console themselves with the thought that what they are doing is also the very best thing they could be doing, the kindest thing, the most liberating thing, for those born into Islam, and seemingly stuck, as slaves of Allah, or in the case of Muslim women, slaves of the slaves of Allah, with no hope within Islam itself for rescue.
The rescue does not come from boots on the ground.
The rescue comes from changes in the minds of men, and in the first place, changes in the minds of non-Muslims who finally, at long last, grasp the nature of Islam.