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Lord Cromer on Pan-Islamism

Lord Cromer on Pan-Islamism

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Published by Political Islamism
Lord Cromer, one of the great statesmen of the British Empire, opines on Pan-Islamism and Egyptian proto-nationalism.
Lord Cromer, one of the great statesmen of the British Empire, opines on Pan-Islamism and Egyptian proto-nationalism.

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Published by: Political Islamism on Oct 01, 2010
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Lord Cromer on Pan-Islamism – an extract from John R.Alexander’s
The Truth about Egypt 
(1911, pp.68-82)
Local Feelings and Aspirations • Difficulty of arriving at Sound Conclusions • Nationalism and Panislamism •Desires of the Nationalist Party • The Capitulations • Their Effect upon Legislation • Proposed Scheme for theirModification • Scheme Shelved.
LORD CROMER'S Report for the year 1906 – published in April, 1907 – contains an entirechapter devoted to the subjects of Egyptian Nationalism and Panislamism, every sentence of which bears impress of the weighty deliberation and comprehensive experience of thissagacious statesman.This masterly, unbiased summing-up of the situation by one who had devoted laboriousyears to unravelling the complexities of the native character is of the greatest value. Itshould be considered closely, and in comparison with the violent and often hystericalpolemics of the Nationalist leaders and the want of judgment too often displayed by theirill-advised sympathisers at home.The following is the chapter, quoted in its entirety, from the Report:It is difficult even for those who have an extensive knowledge of Egyptian affairs todifferentiate the various currents of thought which, in one form or another, are moving inthe direction of creating a local public opinion favourable to the entirely novel idea of Egyptian Nationalism. I say that the idea is entirely novel, for it has to be remembered thatfor centuries past the Egyptians have been a subject race. Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabsfrom Arabia and Bagdad, Circassians, and, finally, Ottoman Turks have successively ruledover Egypt ; but we have to go back to the doubtful and obscure precedent of Pharaonictimes to find an epoch when, possibly, Egypt was ruled by Egyptians. Even now EgyptianNationalism is a plant of exotic rather than of indigenous growth. The idea, in any formwhich can at all be regarded as serious, is the outcome of that contact with Europe to whichNubar Pasha alluded, through the mouth of the reigning Khedive, when he said that Egyptno longer formed part of Africa. It has been evoked by the benefits which, with a rapidityprobably unparalleled in history, have been conferred on the country by the introduction of Western civilisation at the hands of an alien race; and it is surely the irony of politicaldestiny that that race, or the instruments through whom it has principally acted, should berepresented as the principal obstacles to the realisation of schemes the conception of whichis mainly due to their own action.
I have spoken of the extreme difficulty of differentiating the various opinions current inEgyptian society. In connection with this subject, I venture to utter a note of warning againstrapid and sweeping generalisations in dealing with Egyptian affairs. It is too often forgottenthat Egyptian society is split up into quite as numerous sections, representing different andoften divergent interests and opinions, as the society of any European country. The difficultyof arriving at any sound conclusions as regards local feelings and aspirations is not, indeed,so formidable as in India, where the caste system interposes a great, if not insuperable, barto social intercourse between Europeans and the greater part of the population. At thesame time, differences of race, religion, language, and manners and customs count formuch. I know of many cases of Europeans who have resided for long in Egypt, and whoappear to be under the impression that they know something of Egyptian opinion, whereas,generally, all they know is the opinion of some one or more sections of Egyptian society –usually those resident in the principal towns – with whom they happen to have been thrownin contact. I hasten to add that I do not pretend to any very superior degree of knowledge. Ihave lived too long in the East to dogmatise about the views of the inconsistent Eastern, forwhose inconsistency, moreover, I entertain much sympathy, by reason of the fact that thecircumstances in which he is placed render consistency very difficult of attainment. All I askis that the extreme difficulty of the subject should be recognised, and that, when it isrecognised, some caution should be exercised lest hasty conclusions should be drawn fromincomplete and often incorrect data. I know nothing more true than the following words of Professor Sayce, who is probably as qualified as any European can be to speak on thesubject:"Those who have been in the East and have tried to mingle with the native population knowwell how utterly impossible it is for the European to look at the world with the same eyes asthe Oriental. For a while, indeed, the European may fancy that he and the Orientalunderstand one another; but sooner or later a time comes when he is suddenly awakenedfrom his dream and finds himself in the presence of a mind which is as strange to him aswould be the mind of an inhabitant of Saturn."
The difficulty of dealing with this subject is, moreover, enormously enhanced by the factthat but few Egyptians have, in political or administrative affairs, a very clear idea of whatthey themselves want, whilst the practice of advocating two separate programmes, whichare mutually destructive of each other, is the rule rather than the exception. The maxim
qui veut la fin veut les moyens
is generally scouted.I have frequently had expressed to me by Egyptians – amongst whom I am glad to be able tocount many personal friends who speak to me very frankly – a paradoxical desire to secureall the advantages of the British Occupation, which they fully recognise, without theOccupation itself. I have had a leading Egyptian urge me to employ fewer Europeans in theGovernment service, and, in the same breath, ask me to arrange that a lawsuit in which hewas interested should be tried by a British judge. I have known a warm advocate of Egyptianrights plead earnestly for the appointment of a British rather than an Egyptian engineer tosuperintend the distribution of water in his own province. Over and over again have I had itpointed out to me that the authority of the Egyptian Mudirs is weakened by the presence in
"The Higher Criticism and the Monuments," p.558
their respective provinces of British Inspectors, whilst at the same time the withdrawal of the Inspectors would lead to disastrous consequences – conclusions in both of which Ientirely agree. As to corruption, I need only say that I have known scores of cases in whichindividuals – often in a very high position – have inveighed bitterly against the blackmailwhich they have to pay to the subordinates of the Public Works and other Departments, andat the same time have refused to make any formal complaints or to mention names, thusdepriving the superior authorities of the only effective arm which might enable suchpractices to be checked. I could multiply instances of this sort, but I have said enough for mypresent purpose.With these preliminary remarks, I propose to describe, to the best of my ability, the presentphase of the Egyptian National movement, and to set forth my personal opinion as to thetreatment which it should receive.Whilst it would be altogether incorrect to say that the Egyptian National movement iswholly Panislamic, it is certain that it is deeply tinged with Panislamism. This is a fact of which I have for long been aware, and to which, if I may judge from the utterances of thelocal Press, many Europeans in Egypt have, albeit somewhat tardily, now become alive. Itwould be easy, were it necessary or desirable to do so, to adduce abundant evidence insupport of this statement.
Here I will only say that the events of last summer merelydisclosed one new feature in the Egyptian situation. Admitting, what is unquestionably thecase, that religion is the main motive power in the East,
and that the theocratic form of government possesses peculiar attraction for Easterns, it might still have been anticipatedthat the recollections of the past, and the present highly prosperous condition of Egypt ascompared to the neighbouring provinces of Turkey, might have acted as a more effectualbarrier to the growth of Panislamism than apparently was the case. I use the word"apparently" with intention, for, in spite of all outward appearances, I am by no meansconvinced that Panislamic sympathies extended very deep down in Egyptian society; and Iam quite confident that, had there been any real prospect of effect being given toPanislamic theories, a very strong and rapid revulsion of public opinion would have takenplace. However this may be, it is clear that Panislamism is a factor in the Egyptian situationof which account has, to a certain extent, to be taken. It is, therefore, necessary tounderstand what the term implies.Panislamism is generally held to mean a combination of all the Moslems throughout theworld to defy and to resist the Christian Powers.
I take this opportunity of alluding to an anonymous letter -which I received last spring, and which waspublished in a Parliamentary Paper ("Egypt No. 2 (1906)," p.35). Some doubts were thrown on the authenticityof this document. I entertain no doubt whatever that it is genuine. I was somewhat surprised at the attentionwhich it attracted, notably in England. I merely sent it to London as an example, expressed in somewhat moreeloquent terms than usual, of ideas with which I have for long been familiar, and the existence of which doesnot admit of doubt.
In speaking of the East, I, of course, only allude to those portions of the East with which I am in any degreeacquainted – not to China or Japan.

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