The Arabs, The Berbers & Africa
by Hugh Fitzgerald (Feb. 2008)
It is no mystery as to why Christian missionaries might be having their greatest success in the Kabyle. In
The cause of the Berbers is hardly known in this country. The writer Kateb Yacine, a Berber who refused to write in Arabic, but chose French, is celebrated in France, especially among Berbers -- but unknown in this country, and his anti-Arab rage is not likely to cause his books to be included in the syllabuses of courses on "Francophone" literature given that so many such courses are now taught by French-speaking Arabs.
What is that cause? In the first place, it is linguistic and cultural. In Algeria, where the French rightly saw the Berbers as superior to the Arabs -- one French general wrote a book about the "Europeanness" of the Berbers -- the Berbers were not discriminated against, but as soon as the French left, the forced arabisation of the Berbers started up at once, as if the French interregnum, with the wider possibilities that French education made possible to both Berbers and Arabs, had never existed. Older people in
About twenty years ago, news of agitation began to reach the outside world. There were riots in Tizi-Ouzou that were reported in
The discovery or re-discovery of a Berber identity (and how many of those North African "Arabs" should begin to realize that they are Berbers?) is or could be an important weapon in unsettling the world of Islam, and perhaps causing the Maghreb to see itself, as it should not as "Arab" but as the victim of Arab imperialism.
For what is Islam if not a vehicle of Arab imperialism, and what are the Berbers, if not the victims of that Arab imperialism, an imperialism far more potent and long-lasting than the European kind, for it attempts to efface the historic identity of whole peoples?
And it makes perfect sense that Berbers in the Kabyle would, having felt along their pulses the Arab imperialism of which Islam is the vehicle, would be more open to the efforts of Christian missionaries, or more likely, are not so much responding to missionary activity, but to their own observations as to what Christianity is like, and what Islam has brought them.
In this respect, one should not underestimate the fact that Berbers now live in France, that they make up most of the membership of such groups as the "maghrebins laiques," and that they, not the Arabs whose ethnic identity is so bound up with Islam, are capable, in some cases, not of identifying with the Arabs, but more closely with the French. And those Berbers communicate with Berbers at home, or through the Internet. And sometimes they return, to
The more the non-Arab Muslims of the world, and 80% of the world's Muslims are not Arab, come to realize -- and it would not be hard to help them to realize, for they will not be able to deny the facts, having experienced so much of it themselves -- that Islam is a vehicle for that Arab supremacism, the more likely it is that at least some of them will fall away. And others, who may stick with a kind of "non-Arab" Islam (as if such were possible) will, in so doing, at least help to divide, and therefore to weaken, the Camp of Islam.
Ideally, one would wish this Total System, that has held so many hundreds of millions in thrall, and thwarted over so many centuries so much human potential (think of the art, think of the science, that might have resulted in the absence of the dead hand of Islam on so many people, prevented from so many forms of artistic expression, so many avenues for free and skeptical inquiry that are necessary for the enterprise of science, so much dull fanaticism, so much boredom, so much violence, in posse and in esse) will be seen, by Berbers, by Kurds, by people in the subcontinent (why should Muslims in India not "rediscover" their own history, their Hindu, or Buddhist, or other non-Muslim roots?), by those in Malaysia and the East Indies, with its rich pre-Islamic, Hindu and Buddhist past?
Meanwhile, start reading those Berber sites. And hope that the French state, instead of Sarkozy's folly of "integrating" its Muslims by government-supported mosques, will try to work on the Berbers, work to make them see the light, work to help them to achieve their own destiny, one different from, and superior to, that of the Arabs whose method of domination comes from, is supplied by, Islam, Islam, Islam.
We should help those in North Africa (and in
It seems fanciful, just as it seems fanciful that Iranians, those who are not merely disgusted with the mullahs running things, but are coming to be disgusted with Islam -- that "gift of the Arabs" --- itself, may wish to rediscover Zoroastrianism. Not because of any particular wonderfulness in what Zoroastrianism has to offer, but simply because it offers another identity (see Bernard Lewis's excellent "The Multiple Identities of the
Many Frenchmen wrote about the differences they perceived between Arabs and Berbers. French photographers routinely took pictures of Berbers in their Berber dress; the Arabs were much less willing. French military men wrote about the Berbers as "un peuple europeen."
Some Berbers came not to resist their definition as "Arabs" the way some Copts and Maronites have had a false "Arab identity" pushed on them, or have semi-accepted it, an "identity" constructed out of nothing more than the fact that they are speakers, "users," of Arabic, and may have Arabic names forced on them over time. Indeed, there are differences between Arabs who have become Christians (as a few did in the 19th and early 20th centuries) and those Arabic-using Christians -- Maronites, Copts, Assyrians, Chaldeans -- who are not Arabs, but some of whom have, in order to survive in an ever-threatening Muslim sea, had to find their role as "Arabs" or even, in the manner of the Christian Syrian Michel Aflaq (one of the founders of Ba'athism), hyper-Arabs, as promoters of an Arab identity, pan-Arabism, the whole works -- as an alternative to Islam (they were fooling themselves, because pan-Arabism for Muslim Arabs was never a real alternative to Islam, but merely a temporary goal, a subset, of the goal of a reunified Muslim world).
Not every ill that befell the non-Muslims in the Muslim world, or non-Arabs in the Muslim Arab world, can be attributed to colonial powers. There were French then, during the time of the "presence francaise" that brought schools, hospitals, modern agriculture, and other elements of modern civilization, to North Africa (in Morocco and Tunisia, over about half-a-century; in Algeria, over a 132-year period) who were quite capable of distinguishing Berbers from Arabs, and it was not their pressure that caused some Berbers to forget their own identity, any more than it was France as the guarantor of the Christians in Lebanon and Syria who caused some to make themselves hyper-Arabs. Aflaq founded the Ba'ath party with two associates not when the French seemed to be there to stay, but when it was clear that they would, in a few years, be leaving.
Aflaq's "Ba'athism" came to dominate only two countries, and for two similar reasons. The first was Syria, with a large Christian population, and with a powerful military caste, the Alawites, who were not regarded as orthodox Muslims, were indeed disliked by orthodox Muslims for the obvious elements of syncretism in their worship (go to an Alawite village and see the pictures of Mary everywhere), Alawites who had been miserable under the Turkish rule but under that of the French formed part of the Troupes speciales, and were trained to fight, and when the French left, the Alawites remained in the army, and the air force (Hafez al-Assad) and gradually took over, in the way that people or groups always take over in the Muslim Middle East -- through the application, or threat, of military force. In Syria Ba'athism disguises, is the facade, for the rule by the Alawites.
The Hashemite king, Feisal a Sunni, was put in control of Iraq, and aided throughout the 1920s by British troops, and such British civilians as the celebrated Gertrude Bell, until finally, the expense of suppressing the tribes, and the obvious hopelessness of it all, caused the British to leave. It was Winston Churchill who described Mesopotamia (
Everywhere Muslims spreading Islam are careful to present it as the vehicle for whatever grievance the potential local converts may have. If it is black prisoners in the United States, then Islam is presented as the vehicle both of "social justice" (see how Muslim ruling classes everywhere seize the national wealth, see how the poor are treated in Muslim countries), and against "racism.” And the Infidels do little or nothing. Have you seen any campaigns of deliberate counter-Da’wa anywhere in the prisons or elsewhere? It would be easy to show, and to keep showing, perhaps by organizing the “Lost Boys” of the
The evidence is there. What sustained the Muslims for centuries, at a low level, was simply the accumulated intellectual capital of those peoples whom they conquered, and slowly leached of life, and of property as well. Now North Africa and the Middle East are virtually without the non-Muslims who once provided a certain supply of Jizyah, and what sustains the Arabs and Muslims are two things, and only two things; the new disguised Jizyah of Western foreign aid (which should be ended, and used to meet the new expenses of monitoring Muslim populations in the West), and the manna of oil wealth, entirely undeserved, and the only conceivable way that the Arabs and Muslims might acquire great wealth – through an accident of geology. Are the peoples of black
There was a very large and intelligent, because it focused on small-scale, doable projects, aid effort by
In East Africa, when the black Africans rose up against their Arab masters in Zanzibar and Pemba some decades ago (the slave trade by the Arabs in East Africa had been centered there – indeed, the Sultan of Muscat and Oman had for a time ruled directly from Zanzibar), little was made of this in the West. No one discussed the long history of the Arab slave trade, with its practice of castrating black children when they were first caught, and then taking them by slave coffle or dhow to the slave markets of Islam, a trip which about 10% survived (see “The Hideous Trade” by Jan Hogedorn). And so the Arabs have continued their march southward. The
Americans and other Infidel peoples should be supporting Ethiopian efforts to halt the spread of Islam, or of the purest kind of Islam, whether in
Islam, as it spreads, will merely guarantee that the countries and peoples of sub-Saharan
Do we wish black
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