Islam's function in moulding a coherent nation-state and society from the human chaos that Algeria was in its first days of independence seems clear. More ambiguous is the extent to which Islam has shaped Algeria's international identity and determined where it, and other Maghrib countries, stands among the nations of the world.
One might, for instance, ponder Algeria's participation in cultural and political "pan-Africanism" with the black nations to its South. For some outside observers, Algerian and other North African "pan-Africanism" is a measure of cultural Frenchification, an evasion of what some Western educated Algerians regard as the cultural banality of the Arabo-Islamic world.

"Algeria considers itself as much an African as an Arab power. Many educated Algerians feel they have more in common with Africa (both the French language and French enculturation) than with the Middle East." In any case, Algeria's pan-Africanism expresses no indigenous identity.

"Algerians neither feel nor look like Africans, and, apart from the cultural and historical links left by the French Empire, have little in common with Black Africa. Africa provides them with a stage on which to perform, and a troupe to lead. Apart from this purely political concern it is of little interest to them."
However, my own impression from numbers of al-Sha'b, the official F.L.N. journal, for 1964 and 1965 was of substantial coverage for sub-Saharan Africa, sometimes equaling space given to the Middle East, with surprising emphasis on English as well as French-speaking Black African countries. Leon Carl Brown, an American scholar and diplomat who saw service in Arab Africa, also found a growing Egyptian and North African pan-African consciousness: that "leaders in the states of Northern Africa all speak today, with greater or lesser intensity, of a common African-ness. They contend that Africa is and always has been colour blind". But, he asks, is the "significant move toward an African identification on the part of Arab Northern Africa" "historically valid? Has colour played so marginal or even insignificant a role, in the North African's vision of his neighbours to the South? Is the present cry of a common Africanness that transcends colour differences based on more than an act of will, however laudable, on the part of the ruling elite?" 3 is, of course, the immemorial bond of Islamic civilization that Algerians, for instance, would share with large tracts of "Black Africa", but Brown brusquely rejects this indigenous African heritage as a unifying factor. "The ideological attraction to Black Africa on the part of Northern Africa is antithetical to the spread of Islam and related matters such as the number of Black Africans studying in Northern African religious institutions. Northern African emphasis on the common tie of religion can only be disruptive in Black African countries where there are other important religious groups or where Islam itself is a minority religion. The North African intellectual must choose. He cannot win a response from his Black African counterparts by stressing both common religious ties and a common "(pan-Africanist)" ideology devoted to radical change and creating new societies". Thus, for Brown, a commitment to Arabism and Islam in the Maghrib involves a repudiation of pan-Africanism, while the pan-African option is a weapon, that "forging of new identities" whereby the super-modernizing "new intellectual class" can strike at "the Arabo Moslem identification with the Middle East"-"the main refuge of the most conservative even reactionary, element in the society".
Whether or not North African solidarity with Black African Muslims to the South is likely to prove politically divisive in sub-Saharan Africa, and regardless of whether Islam is an agent of or a barrier to modernization in newly-independent African states, Islam exists among both black and Arab Africans and inherently creates an organic band of brotherhood between committed Muslims in those two cultural groups. Simple realism demands recognition of that truth. Yet Brown seems to underestimate the commitment of Algeria's Arabo-Islamists to a Black African role. "In 1963", he writes (i.e. just after Algeria's independence) "the author asked a group of traditionally trained Algerians who had been active in the Algerian Association of Ulama their opinion of Algeria's foreign policy on its African connection. ...All he received was slightly embarrassed laughter. This group's arena of cultural identification is decidedly confined to the Arabo-Moslem world". This begs the question of who defines the Moslem world and how. Even before Algeria gained its independence, Algerian Arabo-Islamists seem to have looked forward to a post-Independence opening by their country towards Black Africa-which was seen as over-lapping into (though not identical with) the Dar ui-Islam. The comments of the Algerian qadi, Masud Mujahid, on Senegal seem significant:

"The land of Senegal is rich with abundant resources because of its copious waters and fertile soil. But the French left no scope for earning a livelihood to its people; they drove them out of the more prosperous urban areas into the forests and jungles. Then they drowned the blacks in wine, offering wine as the recompense and substitute for all that the land produced. Wine is France's most important export to her colonies in those regions, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, and Guinea, and she aims by it to achieve two things. First, to distract the inhabitants from themselves through this drug, which kills all human sensitivity and feelings. Second, to gain possession of all that the workers and peasants produce as the price of this poison.
"Although Arabic is not the language of the land, people there yet savour the scent of any word of the Arabic language. Whenever any Arabic word comes to their hearing, their Sensitivities are moved and their feelings intoxicated because they do not regard the Arabic language as a speech for comprehension in man's daily dealings but instead as something sacred which touches th heart of religious conviction. For Arabic is the language of the Quran, the medium of Islam's message, and the tongue of the Arab Prophet who conveyed that message. Through this feeling, the yearning of the Senegalese for the Arabic language waxes in intensity. They hope and labour to make it their own language in which they can converse and express their feelings and thoughts.
"But the (French) imperialists understand the danger of Arabic as they realize the danger of Islam. Therefore they wage a merciless war against Arabic. They snatch at every device and trick to wrest it away from those to whom it rightfully belongs (i.e. the Algerians); how then could they permit access to Arabic for those who are not its native speakers? That would be very madness from France's viewpoint and past record. Further, she strives with all her might to uproot Islam and all that gives it strength or nourishment and increases its mastery over men's hearts. Would France ever permit the Arabic language and culture to be exported to those lands as she permitted or rather commanded that wine be imported in a veritable flood to drown the country? France would then cease to be France.
"The Sons of Senegal are among the Muslims most strongly committed to their faith and the most tenacious in adhering to it and energetic in promoting it. Among the causes may be their distance from Islam's first homelands, for this distance tends to strengthen the feelings of yearning and the pangs of aspiration and love. Their ignorance of the Arab language may moreover double their sense of shortcoming in religion so that that in its turn sharpens their zeal for the faith and their adherence to its laws.
"Religion occupies in their soul a position where it dominates their every sentiment and thought. Many (Arabs) may not believe that the majority of Senegalese learn whole sections (ajza) of the Holy Quran off by heart-some even the entire Quran-without understanding the meaning of its words and verses at all. But this is undoubted fact, which we have heard of them. It is obvious that the only person who can possibly memorise the Quran, after this fashion is someone who harnesses his being to long patience and unremitting toil. Words to someone ignorant of their meaning are more like notes of music."

Although the qadi Mujahid is factually not always accurate about French West Africa, his portrait of Senegalese Islam is at once vivid, sym pathetic and true. One suspects he was also right in charging hostility by French colonial administrators to Arabic in West Africa. French officials seem to have hoped traditional Quranic education would decay and finally disintegrate before the challenge of French-language Western education; on the other hand, they were far from neutral toward Muslim attempts to modernize Arabic instruction and integrate it with contemporary secular education. Wrote Thompson and Adloff around the same time as Mujahid (1958):

"This problem of educating the Muslim child is one of the thorniest to tackle, and in French West Africa, time more than any other factor has worked towards its solution. The mere functioning of the French education system alongside the Koranic school has revealed to the Federation's Muslims the anachronistic character of the latter and has also caused it to decline in both popularity and quality. Through out the Federation, even in the Mauritanian stronghold of orthodoxy, Muslim parents are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with a type of religious instruction that stresses memory rather than understanding and does little to prepare its pupils for life under present-day conditions. To be sure, the reform of Koranic schools concerns only the Islamic authorities, and many Muslims continue to send their children to Koranic schools even when these are deemed unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, since the last war, the Muslim elite have been agitating not only for reform of the Koranic schools but for the introduction of religious instruction into French primary schools, the teaching of Arabic in state secondary schools, and the establishing of a Federal Franco-Arabic college.
The government has tried to avoid meeting these demands along a wide front, for to satisfy them would violate the lay character of French public instruction. Besides this, the teaching of Arabic, officials fear, might lead to political complications. Nevertheless, the subsidies that have been granted to Christian mission schools in the Federation since the war give cogency to the Muslims' insistence upon concessions also being made to their religious education."
What were the "political complications" the French feared modernization of Arabic instruction might bring? Partly it seems to have been a fear that modernization on the terms of Islam as such might incorporate the African Muslims as a dynamic element into the growing independence movement. It is significant that the modernization of Arabic education was in fact a demand of the secular independence movement. "Even so fervent a Catholic as L. S. Senghor had asserted that the lay public school has the duty of giving its students a knowledge of the linguistic medium of their religion, and in 1949 the R.D.A. (Rassemblement Democratique Africian) -then in its most radical phase-called for the inclusion of Arabic in the government's secondary-school curriculum."

The most worrying product that linguistic connection with the Middle East and Arab nationalism had for the French, however, was the movement for Islamic reform in West Africa. Young graduates from North African religious institutions returned to West Africa convinced that "African Is lam", the cult of the intercession of saints promoted by the traditional mystic brotherhoods, was both a veneer for animism and an instrument of French colonialist control. The reformists strove to establish schools blending instruction in the modern or "secular" with religious instruction in Arabic. The emphasis on active command of Arabic was, in the black African environment, a "protestant" reform which would undermine the hold traditional saints and mystics had on the masses by enabling every educated believer to interpret his scripture and religion for himself.
As one eyewitness wrote "alarmed at their success the European administrators and holy men put stumbling blocks in the paths of the new schools. From the point of view of the colonial administration, the reformers were regarded as agents of pan-Arabism, nationalism and communism; in any case, they constituted a threat to the status quo. Visas to Arab lands were restricted and students resorted to subterfuge-generally requests to make the pilgrimage to Mecca-to obtain them."
Although fighting at that time for their own country's independence, Algerian nationalists inevitably both followed and supported the parallel Islamic reform movement in "French West Africa." Mujahid gives, through the eyes of "an Arab friend" who had just visited Senegal, a vivid account of the young reformists there, and the stage their struggle had reached by the eve of Senegal's independence.

Black Muslim Reformists:
An Arab Account

"When I arrived in Senegal, two youths who were natives of Dakar city but who were educated in al-Azhar called on me. They invited me to visit two small schools of theirs which teach the Arabic language and Religion. I was glad to accept their invitation and listen to children of this country speaking the Arabic language for I had lived for days there without hearing a single Arabic word from the mouth of a Senegalese child.
"I went to the first school having passed through roads and paths choked with filth and dust, their sides crowded with huts and shanties submerged in misery and poverty. This was a quarter that had been banished to the margin of that city; in it lived the indigenes from whose homeland Paris derives the luxury and well-being it enjoys. With difficulty we reached the school. It consisted of two small rooms, with a dust floor, holding about thirty boys and girls seated at decaying wooden planks.
"A shudder overwhelmed me and shook my innermost being. My thoughts were paralyzed. I could hardly understand that my foot stood on this ground and I no longer knew whether to advance or fall back! The headmaster of the school, who was its proprietor as well, led me inside one of the two rooms. The teacher began to attend to his various pupils asking them to read a page from the textbook. One of the girl students read in an authentic Arabic tongue. She had barely covered two or three lines from the page before I found that my eyes had become moist with tears. I was struck with a profound sensation that I had never, to this day, known in my life before. Whenever I called to her, the words which surged out from the mouth of that little girl continued to ring forth in my ear. My feelings compelled me to take the teacher's place from him and attend myself to the pupils, I asking them questions and they answering. Everything I forgot. The whole world seemed to me ingathered into this small room which continued more and more to expand in my eyes and to grow in my heart until it was veritably as al-Azhar with its institutes and colleges.
"No! This dust that hangs suspended in the air, these huts that are scattered along the ground . . . are missiles of destruction that stand in readiness for the imperialists, that lie in wait for them and warn them of a black day in the world of imperialism and imperialists! France knows this well, but before the awakening and vigilant consciousness of Senegal's youth was unable to abolish these two schools and their four narrow rooms though she fought them and those who maintain them with every trick and every weapon."

It strikes me as rather moving and not a little noble, that, at a time when the Algerian Muslims were fighting for their own linguistic--and even physical--survival as Arabs, their thoughts could go out to a small and distant black Islamic people also struggling for identity in the face of similar French "assimilation".

Traditionalist African Islam

The Arab account of pre-independence Senegal in Mujahid throws a significant light on the claim that an Arab religious commitment to Black Africa is incompatible with a modernizing pan-Africanism because "the leadership in countries such as Senegal and Guinea has domestic problems with religious conservatism (for instance, with the religious brother- hoods) comparable to those Northern Africa experienced a generation or so earlier" North Africa nationalists seem to have been well aware that the last people who would welcome an Arab cultural presence in post-independence Africa would be the traditional African mystic brother- hoods simply because the modernizing bent of 20th century Arab Islam would bring social change and thereby undermine the whole social structure on which the brotherhoods depended for their survival. For North Africans, the mystic orders, whether in North or sub-Saharan Africa were essentially conservative and therefore an important prop for the continuation of French imperialist control. Mujahid's account of Senegal is very much in this line of unsympathetic Arab nationalist rejection of Afro-Arab mystic orders generally as socially retrogressive and politically pro-colonialist:

"Exactly the same policy of fraud and deception that France followed in Arab North Africa she follows now today in Senegal. Parliamentary elections, deputies elected; then they are off to Paris to sit as deputies of the French Nation in the French Chamber of Deputies. What honour after this is greater than for the Senegalese people to become part of France? . . . But all France gains from this is a handful of people to be counted on the fingers of two hands, or a little more, that seems (and perhaps even is in its heart) true to this farce and lives it out shuttling between the bars and brothels of Paris.
"But the tragedy has another side which France feels rounds out the farce. France has worked hard to spread and propagate the French language and make it the language of communication among the indigenous. I performed the religious obligation of Friday collective prayer in the Grand Mosque of Dakar. When I arrived the preacher was speaking, the whole interior and outside of the mosque having become crowded with several thousand worshippers. The preacher ended without my understanding a thing of what he said. I do not know if the tongue he spoke in was French or Arabic. Probably it was a mixture of both; as for the prayer, he recited it stumblingly and inaccurately. The prayer ended and I was asked to speak to the worshippers. I did approach the microphone and spoke to my audience about Islamic brotherhood and the feelings that bind Muslims one to another. I did not go beyond these meanings; one of the Senegalese ulama by my side who had studied at al-Azhar translated every sentence I said into French, it being the dominant language that the overwhelming majority of people understand . . . Quickly the imam of the mosque jumped to his feet. A very tall man, vast in structure, his belly protruding before him large enough to swallow up a man of middle height. This gigantic Imam stood up to comment on my speech in the French language saying 'We Senegalese stand with France and nothing can separate us from her.' This had nothing to do with my speech. I understood the circumstances and had not desired to cause any troubles for my Senegalese brothers; but as I understood it, this man was one of France's tools whom they placed in this position and imposed upon people by force, so that he seized this chance to proclaim his belief in and loyalty to France. Here I remembered the old story of the" (traditional) "mystic brotherhoods I had known in Morocco. The French had created a parallel there (in Senegal) and adopted some of the men of religion as their propagandists, appointing them with life and death powers over people. Here was one of them; only the place had changed."

At a later function for French officials

"I met the gigantic Shaykh again. Behold he had adorned his chest with a number of French decorations. Inwardly I laughed. The man was to be excused for what he had said. He fears that he will be robbed of this position he lives in, that he will be deprived of the French medal that gives him access to the like of these feasts; and the man has a vast paunch that could swallow up ten men. Is he the first man to sell his religion and people for the sake of his belly? No. The sons of Senegal will never be harmed to have the like of this man and the French medal he carries on his chest among them. Behold, there he stood before a Frenchman, bowing his tall frame down before him, his turban sweeping down before him.
"When I left Senegal at one dawn of day and the plane took off, soaring up with us into the heavens, life was preparing again to stir and awaken. I suddenly felt certain that this country was facing a new dawn, that the sun of freedom shall shortly shine upon her. . . The Senegalese were preparing for sacrifice and death to fulfil their religion and liberate their homeland. When the clash came with the Senegalese-and the day was near-France would meet at their hands terrors be fore which all other terrors would pale."

More research into attitudes of Arab nationalists towards differentiated Islamic groups in sub-Saharan Africa might reveal a measure of hostility, rather than the reverse, towards black Islamic traditionalism. In any case, the reformist Islamic groups most in sympathy with Maghribi nationalists seem to have contributed to black Africa's post-independence modernization. At early post-Independence, Heintzen found them "a modernizing influence in Africa. . . . The reformist elements that were once virtually out-lawed under the colonial administration are now accepted members of the community in the era of African nationalism". Why? Because "advancement of Islam through educational programmes combining religious and secular subjects are an asset to the general educational uplift". Because the educational bent of Muslim reformism diverts Muslim energies away from sectarian politics in a secular state. Because promotion of Arabic cements pan-African ties with Arab-speaking African states. Be cause "political leaders who have cringed at the criticism of the excesses of African Islam will welcome educational groups whose aims are to eliminate its worst abuses". Because Arabic was the medium of the heritage of West Africa's great pre-colonial empires and appeals to the West African's quest for an illustrious pre-colonial and pre-Western past. In all these respects, the revival of Arabic education has furthered the aims of African nationalism. It is the problem of integrating Muslim African communities in the mainstream of political and economic life that is, however, the greatest challenge facing African nationalism. In the colonial period, education was identified with the Christianisation and Westernization programmes promoted by the foreign conqueror. Muslims sullenly held apart from whatever modem education was offered and educationally and economically they fell behind. With independence educationally well- equipped Christians gained disproportionate administrative and political weight in West Africa. It is clear that Muslims will reject modernization if they feel it is just another name for Westernization and does not proceed from their own Afro-Islamic identity. As Albert Tevoedjre, the Christian pan-Africanist youth leader of Senegal warned in 1958:

"In Africa's struggle to destroy illiteracy, justice is indivisible. By this phrase, I refer particularly to the Muslims whom the [authorities forbid to open schools, or, if permitting them, refuse to incorporate their schools into a sphere of government financial subventions which are given to Christian schools. This is a question of simple justice which we must face with boldness and courage. For, if we ignore that Islam is the religion of the majority in Black Africa and we attempt to fight it with indirect means that will not prove in any sense or form in the interests of Africa and peace."

For the integrative endeavour of African nationalism, it is highly desirable that the Arab African countries, especially the three Maghrib countries who share the background of French acculturation, throw their resources into the modernization effort of Francophone Africa's Muslims. The argument that the North African Muslims shall prove unable to collaborate with both African Muslims on the ground of religious brotherhood and non-Muslim Africans on other grounds of common identity, simultaneously, or that Arabic and Islam in Black Africa could be "politically divisive" is dangerous for a pluralist continent like Africa where many different (although basically cognate) types of people live.

The Arab End

At the Arab end, North African Islamists increasingly reject this impoverishing and dehumanising logic that brotherhood for black people who share one's faith obliges a Muslim to hate other blacks who do not. They understand that exclusivist pan-Islamic solidarity with Black Muslims would be by its very modernizing thrust internally disruptive for regimes anxious to integrate Muslim populations. Rather, in the pan-Africanism of these Arabo-Islamists the immediate and vital bond of Islamic brotherhood is not an end but a beginning opening out into a total (not sectional) Arab commitment to all Africa.
This is so even for traditionalist Maghribis: al-Madani al-Hamrawi, a Moroccan Arabic poet, is hardly a hero of revolutionary Arabism. Some of his poems are charming regional portraits of Moroccan towns; in many he is a fervent panegyrist to Morocco's ruling family (sample title: Hubb al-Muluk, "The Love of Kings") as when he says of King Hassan's newborn son that:
Allah will make the Plant He planted fruitful and firm
Allah will guard His Star till it radiates forth and blooms.

This would not sound strange in Elizabethan England or Abbasid Iraq with their concepts of Divine Monarchy; it is not a modem attitude. As he says elsewhere: "0 Arab! By Islam and the Right you are the bravest of all peoples". One of his poems is a sentimental exposé of an evil French colon confiscating a Moroccan peasant's ancestral land.
Most interesting for our inquiry, however, is his qasidah "al-Akh al-Zinji"
-"the Negro Brother." This poem illustrates something of which Western Africanists have not, I think, had adequate notion-the traumatic impact that the West's racist attacks on black people, both in Africa and the Americas, had had on those committed to Arabo-Islamic traditions in North Africa. It was not just that North African Arabs had suffered similar racism at the hands of the same or a related enemy, or that many black victims of Western colonialism were fellow Muslims. It was simply that the West's white racism per se so violated the value Islam places on the human person-"al-asluhuwa al-hurriyyah" the Maghribi response was a genuine universal humanism and pan-Africanism that transcended both the racial difference between Africa above and Africa below the Sahara and also Africa's diversity of creed. al-Hamrawi's poem to "the Negro Brother" falls into three main sections for us. The first section is ambiguous. Who are the whites who cannot see the equal god-created- ness of the Negro? Perhaps they include some Maghribis; self-criticism about Maghribi ambivalence to fellow Africans may be partly meant here:

"My wrongfully tortured black brother, you were created as I was in spirit and body. From a single father the same mother bore us on this earth as two brothers of ancient time. My whiteness and your blackness is only a pigmentation which merits neither praise nor blame. You are of me and my racial group; we are equal under law through single origin. Astray are some people (or a people) who saw in your skin a colour, the blackness of which they made out as sin. It was not through willed endeavour that they attained their whiteness to see in it the stamp of the ruler. It is only that God has coloured His creatures ... as He willed while uniting and gathering people together in sentiment. On them He has bestowed capacities and intelligences for which He singled out no hue and no nation."

Equality is a basically religious condition in which God has created man.
The next section is a denunciation addressed - somewhat in tone like the Tunisian Abu Qasim al-Shabbi's anti-imperialist "To the Tyrants of the World"-to the "al-Abyad al-Mughali", the rampant white man, i.e. the Western colonialists and white settler minorities in Africa:

"With your own hands you have hounded the blacks down every steep ravine. In the wake of their multitudes you have followed with your blows and curses. You have usurped their homes and lands so that no trace or emblem of the blacks re mains among them; when you see a single captive black your fury tears at his skin and flesh. You have filled the entire universe with your oppression, you have made all the Negroes taste surfeit of your curse and abuse. In your steel heart there is no human artery (or "human race") to relent in compassion or forbearance. You have assumed the guise of the skins of carnivorous beasts, you prey on men's bowels and smash their bones. You have divested yourself from the qualities of a humanity you only can be ascribed to through lie and fraud Man, in his spirit and in every creed and order he knows, accounts you the Adversary. You are humanity's outcast. Man has banished you and revealed to you a hatred that blackens your name. How many weak people have you slaughtered and populous lands you willfully and utterly devastated! And old men and children and women who were blown to slivered fragments before your aggression. Among the coloured people you are an alien who came as light to become fire and poison. Leave their abode to Negroes for you are just a passerby in search of sheep. You are the bandit of the homelands, you are death to their sons who have come to see in you ill-tidings and foreboding. They hospitably received you, then you revealed your treachery on their own soil; that is baseness and shame enough for you. In Africa's volcanoes bubbles a Hell which will bury you alive in the rubble of your palace. In Rhodesia, in the South and the West you will be enveloped and cast into a consuming blaze. Then will you dwindle to a mere legend among legends, symbol of the animality of greed to be related to every new generation that witnessed no day from your era of misfortune! "

The third section outlines the future of Africa after the West's final defeat, returning to the religious presumptions about man on which the poem's anti-racism is founded:

"My oppressed black brother, take comfort for the dawn of salvation has dispelled the clouds. Await the joyful day when you shall live as a sovereign, an honoured, a heroic human being. Await the death of a racist discrimination that is now suffering a sickness. It shall meet the punishment it merits with the same weapons that long have incinerated the weak and spilled their blood. On the earth then brotherhood shall prevail and a security that shall enfold the earth with peace. And on earth there will be a nation devoid of divisions that sever (Human) solidarity. Allah has honoured all the race of Adam's progeny. How then is it wrong fully and oppressively insulted? Upon whosoever dishonours man fall, then, curses; among God's creatures you are one honoured man, through your humanity the loftiest of beings . . . one marked for lordship."

What is interesting about this poem-a chilling reminder of the hatred Western control has aroused in the Third World-is that it rejects the West's racism on the religious ground that it violates the dignity of man as created by God. Yet the poem's "pan-Africanism" lacks any hint of pan-Islam-curious in this Islamic traditionalist poet when the large sub-Saharan Muslim population would make the two realms of pan-Islamism and pan-Africanism partly coincide. Again, however, if Islam is fundamentally a creed of universal humanism the outlook of people like al Hamrawi is an encouraging sign that even the most Islamic minded North Africans are committed to a pan-Africanism emphasizing the unity of all Africans be they of Islamic, Christian or Animist faith and over-riding such colour distinction as exists between North and Sub-Saharan Africa (each of which in any case is racially diverse).
Islam and the Arab West's Commitment
to Africanism
Dennis Walker
Independent Algeria

This opening of North Africa's Arab-Islamists to a non-sectarian Africanism is, in independent Algeria, encouraged by the state. Arabo-Islamist officials told David C. Gordon shortly after independence that although French was to be de-emphasized in Algeria "Arabisation would not interfere with Algeria's African role because Islam was spreading in Africa and with it the Arabic language". Since mid 1971, the journal al-Asalah, put out by the Ministere de l'Enseignment Originel Et Des Affaires Religiouses (Wizarat al-Talim al-Ash wal-Shuun al-Diniyah) has attempted a more complex and balanced definition of the identity Algeria is striving to express with decolonization; Islam, Arabism and Africanism are all stress ed. For the young Arabists in this ministry (led by the dynamic and modern-minded Mawlud Qasim) Islam is vital but commitment to it does not involve a retreat from Arabism and Africanism the other, largely secular, main dimensions to their country's re-found national identity.
How complex is the new Algerian self-vision and what place does Africanism hold in it? It in part seems motivated by a territorialist nationalism which holds, in the words of Laqbal Musa, Professor of History at Algiers University, that "human and natural factors have combined in the formation of our land". It is in terms of Algeria's enduring geographical and cultural distinctiveness that Musa takes obvious pride in the Algerian Saint Augustine whose "importance in the world of thought passed outside of the homeland and the Roman Empire to reach medieval Europe. For his book, The City of God-which bears the impress of the features of national environment-became a spark that awakened intellects and made a new contribution." Laqbal's paper - significantly entitled "Environment and the Forward March of History" - may to some extent be criticized as reading Algeria's present role back into past history, but it interestingly mingles commitment to Islam (e.g. resistance to Christian missionaries in the Algerian interior) with the more material factors of pre-Islamic history, ancient invasions, geopolitical siting etc. which he feels immemorially "have imposed on the Algerians defined responsibilities and decreed that they must sacrifice dearly to assure the security, peace and independence of their neighbours, both in the Maghrib lands and the African continent". 1-lere is a man who is a Muslim but not exclusively so. What kind of Africanist does he make?
For Musa Laqbal, the Sahara has a dual significance both African and Arab. It was:
"from ancient times a corridor for Semite courants from the East, among them Islam and the Arabic language and all the manifestations of Islamic civilization upon whose tide we are borne and live today and at whose rich heritage, ever renewing itself with the swiftness of changing life itself, we find nourishment". But "it was via the Sahara also that historic links were forged between the Middle Maghrib and Negro Africa (Ifriqiya z-Zinjiyah) since through it groups migrated from the latter and settled in our country. Similarly, it was from Tahirt, and Warqalah and Tuwat oasis that there set out delegations and migrations and explorers and ambassadors and travelers to the region of West Africa from the time of the [century] Rustamiyun. The impact of (all) this movement is still obvious (both) here and there in the origins of the populations and their colours, in their culture, their religions and their customs: even in the appearance of their manners of dress".
Musa unsentimentally scans the material socio-economic and geopolitical effects of the traffic and exchanges between the Maghrib and West Africa: even the "wish to obtain gold and control its source of supply in Sub-Saharan Africa that was one motive behind the campaigns of the Sa'diyun and their Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur, who thereby became known under title "al-Dhahabi', the Golden". However, he shows a fierce pride in the missionary role of Maghribi merchants who spread Islam in "Black Africa".

"With these caravans various ideological, social and cultural courants used to travel also. It is well known of merchants and travelers in the Middle Ages that they were missionaries and teachers and that their peaceful efforts bore fruit in extending the sphere of Islam to places in Africa, Asia and Europe which the campaigns of Muslim conquest never reached, even in the age of the Ottoman Turks. Among these patriotic pioneers was Abdul Karim al-Mughili (who) lit the path before al-Hajj Askia, head of the Asiqiyun family in Mali in that he enunciated fatwas for him about problems preoccupying his mind as concerned the duty of Muslim rulers to combat heretical innovations and customs opposed to the faith: and to undertake the commanding of men to goodness and the forbidding of them from evil. This pioneering Algerian also had other activities to his credit in some regions of Nigeria round Kano, where the Muslim population still cherish favourable memories of him, firmly believe in his sainthood and bestow on him all possible demonstrations of honour. The life of al-Mughili, which merits further research, constitutes proof that, as Islam knows no borders, so no hardships can deflect the resolution of the men it moulds when the cause is discharging its message and disseminating it in the furthermost horizons".

Laqbal Musa's Islamist pride is real but tempered by two things. Firstly, his nationalism makes him perceive for example in Berber schismatic Donatism an Algerian national protest against pre-Arab Byzantine rule. Secondly, his realism, which is evident in his ignoring al-Mansur's attempts to religiously justify his invasion of West Africa as aiming "to unite the Muslims in the Western Sudan with those of Morocco, and remove the Askias who were not legitimate Muslim princes. Although motivated by greed . . . the request for a mithqal of gold on each load of salt he explain ed as a contribution by the Muslim kings of Songhay towards the war effort against the Christians" in North Africa. The greed that was al Mansur's real motive is seen by Musa for what it was.


A tentative conclusion I would draw from this admittedly scrappy survey of Maghribi Islamists' Africanism is that they are committed to brotherhood with black Muslims in Africa but not in the exclusivist sense of rejecting non-Muslim black Africans. There is, on the face of it, no reason why Maghribi Islamists should not participate in African nationalism and indeed further its aims by aiding Sub-Saharan Muslims in their struggle towards modernity. There are of course, African tragedies such as the Southern Sudan, Eritea, Chad and former "Biafra", which do have religious connotations yet the presence of other regionalist and linguistic factors have prevented these developing into clear-cut Muslim-Christian conflicts. Moreover, both Arab and Sub-Saharan African governments have generally avoided taking sides in conflicts that they fear might disrupt the benefits of continental cooperation. Similarly, Israel's friends and enemies in black Africa do not fall into clear-cut religious categories. In all this one may perceive the restraining influence of the fundamental unity that underlies the diversity of Africa. One recalls the words of the Senegalese statesman Mamadou Dia in 1961:

"The African nations who tomorrow will be called upon to play a historic role will be neither Negro, Berber, nor Arab nations, nor Christian, nor Muslim nor animist nations. They will surely be marked by the influence of different philosophies of their environment; but they will be nothing if not a synthesis, if not a civilization. It is under this condition that they will be truly active elements in the post-Marxian revolution of the twentieth century."


1. David C. Gordon, The Passing of French Algeria, London, 1966.
2. Andre Vincent "Letter From Algiers". Encounter, January, 1970.
3. Leon Carl Brown "Color In Northern Africa". Daedalus, Spring, 1967.
4. Masud Mujahid: al-Jazair Abral-Ajyal Dar al-Aytam al-Islamiyah aI-Sinaiyah. Jerusalem 2nd Edition (1959?).
5. Virginia Thompson and Richard Adloff: French West Africa, London, 1958.
6. Harry Heintzen "The Role of Islam in the Era of Nationalism" in W. H. Lewis (ed.) New Forces in Africa, Washington 1962.
7. Albert Tevoedjre "L'Afrique Revoltée Paris, 1958, Arabic translation "Ifriqiya al-Thairah", Beirut, 1960.
8. Dawat al-Haqq, Journal of Morocco's Ministry of Religious Endowments. June, 1970.
9. The Encyclopedia of Islam New ed., Vol. 1.
10. Laqbal Musa: "al-Bayah . . . Wa Sayr al-Tarskh al-Watani" in al-Asalah, March, 1971. Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 69-75.
11. Jamil Abdun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib, Cambridge, 1971.
12. Michael Crowder, Senegal: A Study of French Assimilation Policy, London, 1967.