Monday, May 15, 2006

Charles de Foucauld (Part 2)

The map shows Tuareg country in grey stripes. Their domain spreads out over several countries, but is primarily in Algeria. The city of Tamanrasset is in the center of the Tuareg lands.

In 1916, the year of his death, Charles de Foucauld wrote this prescient letter to his friend, the Catholic writer René Bazin. It was published on April 13, 2006 by France-Echos.

My thoughts are that if, slowly but surely, the Muslims of our colonial empire in North Africa do not convert, a nationalistic movement like the one in Turkey will emerge: an intellectual elite will form in the big cities, educated in the French manner, but lacking the spirit and heart of true Frenchmen. This elite will be devoid of all Islamic religious faith, but it will still wear the Islamic label in order to influence the masses. In addition, the masses of nomads and rural people will remain ignorant, remote and firmly Mohammedan, given to hatred and contempt for the French, because of their religion and their marabouts, and because of the contacts they have had with the French (who symbolize to them the authority of colonizers and businessmen). Such contacts have not endeared us to them. A feeling of nationalism or of the old Barbary Coast mentality will surge up within this educated elite. When a favorable moment arises, for example, if there is some internal or external trouble with France, the elite will use Islam as a lever to arouse the ignorant masses and to attempt to create an independent African Muslim Empire.

The French North and West African Empire of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, French West Africa, etc...has 30 million inhabitants. Thanks to the peace, this number will double in 50 years. The region will then be in full progress, materially speaking; it will be rich, criss-crossed by railroads, inhabited by people educated in our schools. If we have not by then learned how to make Frenchmen of these people, they will chase us out. The only way they can become Frenchmen is if they become Christians.

I don't mean converting everyone overnight by use of force, but gently, discreetly, using persuasion, good examples, good education and instruction, jobs best done by French laymen, who are apt to be more numerous than priests and who can make closer contacts.

Can Muslims really be French? As an exception, yes. Generally speaking, no. Several fundamental Muslim dogmas make it impossible. With some dogmas, accommodation can be made, but with one, the Mehdi(1), it is impossible: every Muslim (I'm not speaking of free-thinkers who have lost their faith) believes that at the approach of the Last Judgment the Mehdi will appear on earth to declare the holy war and to establish Islam throughout the world, after exterminating all non-Muslims. In this religion, the Muslim considers Islam as his true homeland and non-Muslim peoples as fated to be subjugated, sooner or later, by himself or by his descendants. If he is subject in a non-Muslim country, it's just a temporary ordeal, for his religion assures him that it will soon end and that he will triumph over those who now rule over him. Wisdom urges him to undergo his ordeal calmly. They say, "a bird caught in a trap will lose its feathers and break its wings if it fights; if it stays calm, it will remain intact until the day of liberation." Muslims may prefer one nation over another, they may prefer to be subjects of the French, rather than the Germans, because they know that the French are less harsh. They can become attached to such and such a Frenchman, as one becomes attached to a foreign friend. They can fight with great courage for France, out of a feeling of honor, or warrior spirit, or esprit de corps, or faithfulness to a promise, just like soldiers of fortune of the 16th and 17th centuries. But, in general, except for a few, so long as they are Muslims, they will not be Frenchmen. They will await patiently the day of the Mehdi. At that moment, they will subjugate France.

(1) The Mehdi, also written Mahdi, is the Muslim Messiah, expected to return to earth at some appointed time. From a website devoted to esoteric religious matters I found this information:

Muslims believe that a Messiah-type figure (Imam Mahdi, or the Mahdi) will appear (or re-appear) at a difficult period of history to restore the faith and ensure the final victory of Islam. Varying versions of the description of the expected Mahdi occur in several Muslim sources. One of these is Bihar al-Anwar ("Ocean of Light" - a metaphor for God), a voluminous work by a seventeenth century Iranian scholar, Muhammad Baqir al-Majlisi (1628-1699), which contains, among much else, the basic Shi'ite version of the Mahdi story. It should be added that although (majority) Sunni Muslims and (minority) Shi'ite Muslims have come to agree in principle on Prophecy of the coming of the Mahdi, only the Shi'ites believe that he will be the returning Twelfth Imam of ancient days, who has remained in invisible concealment, but watching over their fortunes.

Part 1 of this article appears here.


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