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Religious Nationalism 101: How the Growth of State
Educational Systems Strengthened Religious Nationalist
Movements in Colonial-Era Egypt, North India, and Indonesia

Vickie Anne Langohr

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the


requirements for the degree
of Doctor of Philosophy
in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY

2000

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UMI Number 9956372

Copyright 2000 by
Langohr, Vickie Anne

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© 2000

Vickie Anne Langohr


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ABSTRACT

Religious Nationalism 101: How the Growth of State Educational


Systems Strengthened Religious Nationalist Movements in
Colonial-Era Egypt, North India, and Indonesia

Vickie Anne Langohr

Standard explanations for the strength of contemporary religious nationalist movements

presume that it is state weakness - as measured primarily by the state’s withdrawal from

the provision of social services - that creates the conditions under which religious

nationalist movements can thrive. I use the cases of three religious nationalist movements

active in the colonial period - the Arya Samaj in north India, the Muslim Brotherhood in

Egypt, and Muhammadiya in Indonesia - to demonstrate the opposite. It was precisely

those colonies in which the colonial state was the most heavily involved in one particular

aspect of social service provision - the creation of centralized Westem-style educational

systems - that religious nationalist movements were most likely not only to flourish

during the colonial period but also to outlive the colonial context in which they were

created to play an important role in post-independence politics. When the creation of

Westem-style education systems was accompanied by a pronounced role for missionaries

in the educational arena, religious nationalist movements availed themselves of state

educational subsidies to found their own alternative networks of schools. These schools

contributed to the longevity of the movements by providing them with a platform from

which to espouse their religiously-imagined conceptions of the nation and by funneling

substantial human, financial, and organizational resources into the movement as a whole.

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When the foundation of Westem-style educational systems was not accompanied by a

strong missionary presence in education, religious nationalist movements did not found

their own networks of schools, but they nonetheless benefitted from the incorporation of

an unprecedentedly large proportion o f the population into state-run schools by working

as teachers within those schools. The dependence of religious nationalist movements on

state institutions and resources to succeed raises fundamental questions, in turn, about

the validity o f analytical frameworks which presuppose the existence of the state as a

category entirely separate from “society” and organized movements within it.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter One: Setting the Stage, and Shaping the State 1-44

The Question of Definitions 11


The Cases 21
The Question of Religion, Education, and the State 25
The Question of Comparability 36

Chapter Two: Nationalism, Religious and Otherwise: An 45-88


Interrogation (and Extension) of the Literature

What Is Nationalism? 53
The Definition of Religious Nationalism 64
Pharaohs vs. Pakistanis: The Print Battle over the Boundaries of the 71
Egyptian Imagined Community

Chapter Three: The Creation of Centralized Education 89-150


Systems in North India, Indonesia, and Egypt

Some General Statements About Pre-Colonial Education 91


Pre-Colonial Education in North India, Indonesia, and Egypt 93
The Construction of A Centralized Education System in India 104
The Particulars of Punjab 113
Centralized Education Systems, Dutch-Style: The Case of Indonesia 119
From Mohammed Ali to the Modem State: The Creation of A
Centralized Education System in Egypt 131
How Centralized Systems Changed Religious Education in Egypt 132
Conclusion 147

Chapter Four: Missionaries, the State, and the DAV


and Muhammadiyah Schools 151-185
The Missionary Menace, or: The Educational Environment
in Punjab circa 1886 154
Missionaries and Muhammadiyah: The Case of Java 162
What Have You Done for Me Lately? Or: How the DAV and Muhammadiya
Schools Strengthened the Movements That Founded Them 172
Organizational Resources 174
Financial Resources 178
Extending the Geographical Reach of the Movement 180
Gaining Activists for the Movement 182

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Chapter Five: Religious Nationalism 101, Section A: How
Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya Schools Spread Religious
Nationalism 186-224

Geography, History, and Language 101: The Religious Nationalist


Educational Project in Indonesia 191
The Languages of the Arya Samaj’s National Renewal Part One:
Sanskrit vs. English 208
The Languages of National Renewal Part Two: Hindi vs. Urdu 218

Chapter Six: Nationalism 101, Section B: The Muslim


Brotherhood 225-265
The Beginnings O f A School Network, and The End 228
The Roles That the State Educational System Played in Expanding
The Muslim Brotherhood 236
Transfers 244
Channeling State Funds to Brotherhood Educational Institutions 256

Chapter Seven: The Norm, or Colonies With Noncentralized


Education 266-285
Colonies Without Centralized Education Systems 270
School Systems to Varying Degrees - Tunisia, Kenya, and
Algeria 275
Cases for Future Study - Vietnam and the Philippines 284

Chapter Eight: Concluding Comments 286-291

Selected Bibliography 292-298

ii

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1

Chapter One: Setting the Stage, and Shaping the State

Politically active religious movements, often termed fundamentalist movements,1

have become increasingly central to the political life of non-Westem countries from

Algeria and India to Turkey and Sri Lanka. While these movements may appear to hark

back to age-old interpretations of religion, they in fact represent a distinctly modem form

of religious activism which first developed during the colonial period. Unlike their

predecessors - religious movements led by charismatic figures assumed to be vehicles of

divine prophecy and followed unquestioningly - many of the religious movements

which emerged under colonial rule embodied the type of organization we have come to

associate with civil society - bureaucratic structures run largely in accordance with

rational-legal norms. While earlier religious movements rarely survived the death o f their

charismatic founders, the new movements did, because the charisma of their founders

was institutionalized through the creation of organizations from schools to medical clinics

to newspapers, giving the movements a raison d ’etre and a clientele committed to their

continuation. To paraphrase Daniel Gold’s description of contemporary Hindu

nationalist movements in India, with the advent of these new religious movements,

1 I do not use the term fundamentalist in this study because I think the term obscures more than it
illuminates. The term stems from an attempt early in this century by conservative Protestants to seek the
“fundamentals” o f their faith through a literal interpretation o f particular texts, and it is not particularly
useful in describing religions, such as Hinduism, which have a much less clearly defined textual canon.
Even for faiths whose textual canons are much more clearly defined, such as Christianity or Islam, the
concept o f “fundamentalism” assumes the existence o f texts whose meanings are clear to all but which
fundamentalists think should be applied literally while others do not, when in fact in most disputes it is the
interpretation o f the text itself which is at issue. The difficulty in operationalizing the concept o f
fundamentalism is perhaps best demonstrated by the five volume Fundamentalisms project directed by R.
Scott Appleby and Martin Marty, which abandoned the attempt to define the phenomenon in favor o f
referring to fundamentalist groups as bearing a Wittgensteinian “family resemblance” to one another.

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2

“where once people found religious authority in their family priest or a lineage of gurus,

they may now find it in a formalized organizational hierarchy” in which “the importance

o f caste membership may be outweighed by that of committee membership.”2

This dissertation addresses the development of a particular subgroup of modem

religious movements - religious nationalist movements - and advances a hypothesis

about the conditions which facilitated their growth in the colonial era and beyond.

Movements which made reform of the religious practices of their community the sine qua

non o f national revival sprung up in many colonies, but most o f them died a quick death,

and only a handful outlived the colonial conditions under which they were created to play

an influential role in post-independence politics. The longevity of the more enduring

movements, I argue, was not simply a matter of their political skill; many colonial-era

religious movements were willing to exploit new forms of organization and mobilization

brought by capitalism and colonialism to advance their goals, but faded into irrelevance

nonetheless. What distinguished the enduring religious movements from their more

ephemeral counterparts was the former’s ability to exploit one particular colonial

innovation - the creation of a Westem-style school system.

Prior to the advent of colonialism, most education in the non-Westem world was

provided by religious authorities and was primarily concerned with the transmission -

often through rote memorization - o f religious texts and practices.3 Western penetration

2 Daniel Gold, “Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truth to Hindu Nation”, in Accounting fo r
Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character o f Movements, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby,
(Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1994), 533

3 This, o f course, was also the case for the Western world until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth
centuries. In general, many of the educational developments which colonial powers enacted in their
colonies - such as the exclusion o f the Church from public education in France, or the establishment of

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3

of these areas established a competing model of Westem-style education, which I define

as a process o f education in which people who had received formalized, replicable

training as teachers taught students divided into groups on the basis o f their age a set of

subjects which were perceived as being independent of one another and whose truth

claims were not based primarily on religious faith. The idea of subjects being separated

into distinct categories implies the creation of a discipline of education; more

importantly, it implies a conception of the function of that education as going beyond the

transmission o f religious knowledge to encompass other forms of knowledge as well. It

does not necessarily mean, however, that colonial-era Westem-style education was

“secular.” In a colonial environment in which the British developed an English

curriculum devoid o f religious texts but nonetheless designed to disseminate

Christianity,4 and in which missionaries avidly taught science because they believed that

it would undermine Hinduism by demonstrating the impossibility of acts ascribed to

Hindu gods and goddesses,5 no neat dichotomy between pre-colonial “religious” and

colonial-era “secular” education can be constructed. Westem-style education was

distinctly different from the more traditional forms of education which preceded it,

however, in that it was not centered on explicitly religious knowledge, and because it

public education’s claim on the state treasury in England - came simultaneously or only a short time
after, their introduction in the metropole.

4 See Gauri Vis wana than, Masks o f Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India, (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1989)

5 Krishna Kumar, Political Agenda o f Education: A Study o f Colonialist and Nationalist Ideas, (New Delhi:
Sage Publications, 1991), 63

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4

invested its students with an array of non-religious skills which constituted “strategies of

survival”6 in an ever-changing colonial milieu.

In almost every colony, initial fears of Westem-style education soon gave way to

an enthusiastic reception and local demand that the colonizer furnish this education on a

large scale. This demand, however, was rarely met. In some colonies, particularly those

of Belgium and Portugal, minimal levels of government aid ensured that Westem-style

education remained little more than an exotic foreign implant which never took root

beyond a handful of elites. In other colonies, such as Kenya, government disinterest in

supporting education was met with private initiative, as locals mobilized to finance and

found their own schools. While these efforts were often successful, local self-help efforts

were severely constrained by the limited geographic reach and financial resources o f the

groups that mounted them. The most that these efforts could accomplish was to create a

myriad of schools unconnected to one another and set adrift in a sea of institutions

providing more traditional forms of education. Operation on such a limited scale,

however, was not conducive to the production and dissemination of a new vision o f the

nation among significant numbers of the colony’s youth.

In a handful o f colonies, the colonial power went beyond founding a handful of

Westem-type schools to forge a Westem-style educational system. Robert Jervis argues

that a system exists when two conditions are fulfilled - that “a set o f units or elements is

interconnected so that changes in some elements or their relations produce changes in

other parts of the system, and the entire system exhibits properties and behaviors that are

6 The term is that o f Joel Migdal in his Strong Societies, Weak States: State-Society Relations and State
Capabilities in the Third World, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988), 27

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5

different from those of its parts.”7 For the purposes of this dissertation, a Westem-style

school system existed if the government established a set of common criteria for the

provision of Westem-style education (for example, requiring the teaching of certain

subjects, the use o f certain textbooks, the division of students into classes on the basis of

their age) and offered subsidies to those schools willing to follow them. In these colonies

government education officials directly administered a large number of Westem-style

schools, as well as subsidizing the educational efforts of foreign and local private groups,

and schools teaching under this colonial umbrella soon constituted the overwhelming

majority of schools providing a Westem-style education in the colony. I argue that just as

Westem-style schools opened up new opportunities and provided new resources to the

individuals who graduated from them, the development of Westem-style school systems

created unprecedented opportunities for new political and social movements to expand

and mobilize their constituencies. This happened in one of two ways - either the building

of these systems required the state to contract parts of the educational project out, leading

it to provide funding for schools founded by religious nationalist groups as long as they

complied with specific state regulations, or members of these groups became teachers in

and employees of the state educational apparatus themselves. Whether the first or the

second of these scenarios occurred, I argue, was dictated by the extent to which

missionaries played a key role in the provision o f Westem-style education in the colony.

In colonies in which missionaries, buoyed by colonial subsidies, provided a

substantial proportion of the opportunities for Westem-style education, religious

7 Robert Jervis, System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life, (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1997), 6

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6

nationalist movements were motivated to build their own counter-networks of schools to

provide that education in a “safe” environment. While religious movements in colonies

with no centralized education system may have been similarly motivated to respond to

the missionary challenge by opening their own schools, they were unable to do this on a

large scale based solely on their own resources. In colonies with centralized educational

systems, government education subsidies made possible for the first time the creation of

private networks o f schools which followed the same curriculum and worked for the

same goals despite being spread out over large geographical areas. The creation of these

school networks, in turn, fostered the growth of the religious nationalist movements that

sponsored them, and the spread of the ideology that they advocated, in at least three

ways. The first is perhaps the most obvious - running their own school networks allowed

religious nationalist movements to construct curricula which communicated the twin

messages that religious reform was essential to the rejuvenation of the religious

community, and that the religious identity o f the community must be the basis for

national identity. The second is that these school networks, whose provision of “safe”

opportunities for Westem-style education made them enormously popular, tunneled

substantial amounts of human and material resources into the movements which

sponsored them. In some cases, this meant that the schools served as a type of “cash

cow” for the movement as a whole, raising resources from the community which could

then be used to support the movement’s other, non-educational activities. Finally, by their

very construction as institutions limited to students of a particular religious community,

religious nationalist schools served to inculcate solidarities based on that affiliation rather

than solidarities which cut across religious communities, constituting an institution

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7

around which only members of a particular religious community would rally, as well as a

kind of visible marker of the community’s educational progress vis-a-vis that of other

communities.

Where missionaries were not the main beneficiaries of the colonial subsidy

system, religious nationalist movements in colonies with centralized educational systems

were not as motivated to build counter-networks of their own Westem-style schools, as

“safe” (read: relatively secular) opportunities for Westem-style education were widely

available. These movements, nonetheless, benefitted enormously from the construction of

centralized education systems, in ways that were often unintended by the state and the

movements alike. On a scale unmatched by any other institution except that of the

military, Westem-style systems of education brought young people who would

otherwise have been scattered across the country into discrete locations, creating a captive

audience which was larger in size - it included girls and young boys - and longer in

duration - classes lasted longer than conscription - even than that of the armed forces.

In their capacity as state employees, members o f religious nationalist movements taught

in the new state schools, transmitting their religiously-based imaginings o f the

community to this newly captive audience through curricular and extra-curricular

activities. In their capacity as state employees, religious nationalist teachers could also be

transferred throughout a school system that was newly nationwide in its scope. Although

these transfers were involuntary and unwelcome, religious nationalists quickly exploited

them to bring the message of their movements to new areas. In this way, a state apparatus

which had in many cases initiated the transfers in order to weaken religious movements

found itself unintentionally helping to expand their reach.

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8

It may be most effective to outline what my argument actually is by first

clarifying what it is not. I am not arguing that the construction of Westem-style school

systems was necessary for the emergence o f religious nationalism in a given colony. I

am not trying to explain the emergence of religious nationalist sentiment at all, but rather

the endurance of religious nationalist movements - organized groups which have

continued functioning under the same name and in accordance with the same fundamental

principles throughout the colonial period until the present day. Religious nationalist

sentiment, as I define it in Chapter Two, has existed in numerous colonies and informed a

myriad of uprisings against colonial rule; it also constitutes an important political force

today, sometimes in countries in which it first emerged during colonial rule and then lay

dormant for decades. What I am trying to understand, then, is not why or how religious

nationalist sentiment can erupt, in the colonial period or today, but how movements

which base themselves upon it can build themselves into institutions which can endure

over the long-term, despite fundamental shifts in the political and social contexts in

which they operate.

Despite the limited nature of the phenomenon which I am examining, the

implications o f this research are much broader, and center on the ways in which the

growth o f systems and institutions in civil society is not only a response to, but is also

dependent upon, the growth of modem states and the resources at their disposal. This

dissertation builds on and engages three bodies of work which will be reviewed in this

chapter and the next - the literature on nationalism, the subset o f that literature on the

connection between education and nationalism, and the literature on the state.

Contemporary attempts to account for the rise o f religious nationalist movements are

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commonly situated within a discourse of state failure in which “society,” in the form of

religious nationalist movements, takes on responsibilities which should have been the

province of the state. The image of Muslim Brothers supplying food and tents in the

aftermath of the 1992 earthquake to Cairene slums with no state officials in sight has

become almost ubiquitous in journalistic discussion of the Brotherhood’s influence in

Egypt, an apt metaphor for a religious nationalism that gains support by moving in on a

terrain where the state has failed, or more specifically where it has abandoned the field

entirely. Upon seeing the Brotherhood’s post-earthquake efforts, Egyptian Interior

Minister Abd al-Halim Musa is reported to have asked “what is this becoming, a state

within a state?”* What Musa missed was that much of the strength of the Brotherhood

and similar religious nationalist movements stems not from their being a state within a

state, but from being within the state itself. Put another way, the growth o f these

movements is in large part inseparable, and derives enormous resources from, the growth

of modem states. Colonial rule created a state apparatus which penetrated society much

more deeply than any previous ruling regime had. This process was predicated upon the

function of two other processes - the incorporation of large parts of society into that

apparatus as state employees, and state subsidization of private groups providing services

which the state wanted to make available but did not have sufficient resources to provide

* Carrie Rosefsky Wickham, “Islamic Mobilization and Political Change: The Islamist Trend in Egypt's
Professional Associations,” in Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report, eds. Joel Beinin and Joe
Stork, (Berkeley: UC Press, 1997). Attempting to prevent Islamic groups in Turkey from appearing too
“state-like” in the wake o f its own haphazard response to Turkey’s August, 1999, earthquake, the Turkish
government banned these groups from providing assistance to earthquake victims. Stephen Kinzer,
‘Turkey Seeks to Keep Muslim Groups Out o f Quake R elief Effort,” New York Times, August 27, 1999.

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10

on its own. Education was one of the largest and most important of these state projects. It

required taking members of society and training them to be teachers, then putting them in

charge of a captive audience which was larger - in that it included girls and young boys -

for a longer period of time - in that classes lasted longer than conscription - than any

previous state institution except the military. It required subsidizing groups which were

willing and able to provide that education within certain state guidelines, which dictated

the teaching of certain subjects in certain ways but also left significant room for the

teaching of other material more congruent with the goals of the group, but often not with

those of the state. Finally, this educational project laid the foundations of future

generations of the state apparatus, as graduates of the new schools represented the

overwhelming majority o f those hired to work in every area of the state bureaucracy and

implement a wide variety of state policies. The working of religious nationalists within

educational institutions which were either directly founded by the state, or founded by

nationalists but funded by the state, then, provided these nationalists with an

unprecedented platform from which to espouse their ideas, as well as significant

opportunities to put the material and moral resources of the state at the disposal of their

movements. Paying more attention to the ways in which the growth of the modem state

incorporated members of organized societal groups into the state apparatus, and the

resources that that incorporation provided them, would help us to re-evaluate how some

of these groups, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, manage to withstand periods of

severe government repression and re-emerge with their powers intact, as well as putting

the question o f what happens if these groups gain the citadel of state power and “take

over” the resources o f the state in a substantially different light.

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11

The Question of Definitions

While movements which define and seek to legitimize their political agendas in

religious terms are legion in the contemporary world, most of them are not religious

nationalist movements. As the argument that I advance in this dissertation applies only to

that subset o f religious movements which can be conceptualized as religious nationalist

movements, it is essential that these movements be understood as a distinct type of

religious activism which operates according to a specific logic. In defining religion, I rely

on Durkheim’s argument that while not all religions believe in a god or a supernatural

being, all religions classify things into two opposing groups - the profane and the sacred.

For Durkheim, then, a religion is “a society whose members are united by the fact that

they think in the same way in regard to the sacred world and its relations with the profane

world, and by the fact that they translate these shared ideas into common practices.”9

Some religions, such as Christianity and Islam, have a limited number of clearly defined

theological statements and behavioral prescriptions to which all believers at least pay lip

service, and which those believers identify as the minimal markers distinguishing them

from their non-Christian or Muslim neighbors. Other religions, such as Hinduism, are

much more diffuse in nature, with a variety o f sacred texts, deities, and sources of

authority.

The very idea of Hinduism as a discrete corpus of beliefs comprising a single

religion dates only to the colonial period and was heavily influenced by the research of

the European Orientalists who preceded and accompanied the extension of British rule

9 Emile Durkheim, The Elementary Forms o f the Religious Life, (New York: The Free Press, 1965), 59

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12

throughout India.10The fact that other religions have had a much longer-established, and

more clearly bounded, corporate identity than Hinduism should not obscure the point

that a central part of the religious nationalist project - of any religion - is to ever more

strictly define what it means to be a member of the faith and to continually fortify the

border between that faith and practices deemed alien to it. This process, which I argue is

inherent in the religious nationalist project in any period, was further compounded in the

colonial era by the implementation of colonial policies which irrevocably changed the

political calculus of local groups and the bases on which they would organize, as well as

the level o f abstraction at which the community would be defined. As Sudipto Kaviraj

has noted for the case of India, colonialism “transform(ed) the very sense o f ‘community’

and redefined it at every level. In an earlier period the sense of the individual

community had ... been ‘fuzzier’ - capable of apprehension at several different levels

(sub-caste, sect, dialect, and other regional or religious groupings) and not greatly

concerned with numbers or the exact boundaries between one community and the next.”"

“Changes in communications, politics, and society more generally” brought with them a

new understanding of identity which Kaviraj calls the ‘ennumerated’ community -

“communities (which) were now often territorially more diffuse than before, less tied to

a small locality, less parochial,” but also “centrally concerned with numerical strength,

well-defined boundaries, exclusive ‘rights’ and not least the community’s ability to

10 See, for example, Romila Thapar, “Communalism and the Historical Legacy: Some Facts,” Social
Scientist 18, Nos. 1-2, July 1990

" Sudipto Kaviraj, 'Im aginary History,’ Nehru Memorial Museum & Library, New Delhi, Occasional
Paper, second series, No. VII, September 1988, quoted in Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction o f
Communalism in Colonial North India, (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1990), 158

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13

mount purposive action in defence of those rights.”12 In this dissertation, then, the

question of what constitutes a particular religion is constantly being contested, creating

at least as much confrontation between members claiming allegiance to the same faith as

between them and their religious “others.”

I define religious nationalist movements as movements which place religion at

the center o f national identity by advocating that their co-religionists - not only those in

the territory in which they themselves live, but their co-religionists worldwide - should

live within state which govern them in the name o f their religion. As I will discuss this

definition and its implications in some detail in Chapter Two, I will only discuss the way

in which this understanding of national identity dictates the agenda which religious

nationalist movements pursue. This agenda has two parts. The first is the call for reform

o f the way in which their religions are practiced as a necessary prerequisite not only fo r

the spiritual but also fo r the temporal well-being o f the community o f believers. While

religious reform is a necessary prerequisite for national renewal, it is not a sufficient one;

it must be complemented by aggressive efforts to obtain or preserve the political,

economic, and social power o f members o f the religious community as a whole. Only the

combination of campaigns to reform religious practices within the community with

campaigns to improve the position o f that community vis-a-vis other (religiously defined)

communities is sufficient to achieve the ultimate goal of religious nationalists - making

the (reformed version of) their religion the basis o f national identity in society. This

definition separates religious nationalists from two other seemingly similar, but in fact

12 Kaviraj, quoted in Pandey, 159

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conceptually very distinct, types of religious movements - pietistic movements and

communal movements.

The distinction between pietistic and religious nationalist movements is perhaps

best conceptualized by employing Weber’s ideal types of world-rejecting asceticism as

opposed to inner-worldly asceticism. Pietistic movements usually involve some level of

world-rejecting asceticism, in which concentration on the pursuit of salvation leads to a

withdrawal from the world, from possession of material things, ties with the family, and

political and economic activities, all of which may be seen as an acceptance o f a profane

world and thus distancing oneself from god.13 More importantly for the purposes of this

dissertation is the fact that pietistic movements, while not always requiring full

withdrawal from the world, do not seek to change it either; their quest for religious

reform is confined to and justified at the level of the individual believer and his or her

relationship with God. A quintessential example of a pietistic movement is the Tablighi

Jamaat, a Muslim movement founded in north India in 1926. The purpose of Tablighi

Jamaat is the conduct of tabligh, which Barbara Metcalf translates as “conveying or

communicating divine guidance.”14 Tabligh as practiced by the Jamaat primarily entails

Muslims encouraging other Muslims to live in accordance with Islamic principles, as well

as periodically absenting oneself from one’s everyday life to go on trips to visit and

persuade other Muslims to correctly practice Islam. While Tablighi Jamaat is

undoubtedly influential - its 1988 annual conference in Raiwind near Lahore, Pakistan,

13 Max Weber, The Sociology o f Religion, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1964), 166

14 Barbara Metcalf, “’Remaking Ourselves’: Islamic Self-Fashioning in A Global Movement o f Spiritual


Renewal,” in Accounting fo r Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character o f Movements, eds. M artin Marty
and R. Scott Appleby, (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1994),707

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drew one million attendees from over 90 countries, and Mumtaz Ahmad describes the

annual conference as “the second-largest congregation of the Muslim world after the hajj

”15 - it does not seek to be powerful, as both rank-and-file members and leaders eschew

political activity of any kind. “The movement’s goals,” Metcalf writes, are not to

‘remake the world’ by reorganizing social and political institutions, but to remake

individual lives, to create faithful Muslims who undertake action in this life only because

of the hope and promise of sure reward in the next thus, it follows that this emphasis

on individual transformation is not viewed instrumentally, that is, by the expectation that

the transformation of individuals will ultimately produce a just society the shape of

the larger world is simply left to God.” 16 Tablighis are charged with practicing tabligh

without worrying about how it will be received, for even if “not a single Muslim is

persuaded by the Tablighi’s preaching, his goal might still be achieved.”17

In contrast to pietistic movements, religious nationalist movements embody

Weber’s concept of inner-worldly asceticism, in which the “unique concentration of

human behavior on activities leading to salvation may require (the) participation within

the world (or more precisely: within the institutions of the world but in opposition to

them) in this case the world is presented to the religious virtuoso as his

responsibility. He may have the obligation to transform the world in accordance with his

ascetic ideals, in which case the ascetic will become a rational reformer or

13 M umtaz Ahmad, “Islamic Fundamentalism in South Asia: The Jamaat-I-Islami and the Tablighi Jamaat,
in Fundamentalisms Observed, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott Appleby, (Chicago: University o f Chicago
Press, 1991), 510

"■Metcalf, 711

17 ibid

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revolutionary.” 18 For religious nationalist movements, the problems that the religious

community is experiencing - colonial subjugation, disease, poverty - are caused by that

community’s diversion from the correct practice of its faith. The reason to reform

religious practices, then, is not only to improve individuals’ standing in the spiritual

sphere but also to revitalize the position of the community as a whole in the temporal one.

In the words o f Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, history had shown that “when

(the Muslims) had clung to the instructions of Islam they had reigned over and built up

the entire world, illuminated for ail mankind the way of prosperity, and brought

happiness to the world with a civilization which is still and will remain the epitome of

splendor and virtue. (But) after that (the Muslims) had denied their religion and become

ignorant o f it and ignored it................ thus they arrived at the situation that they are in

today, and they will remain in this state until they return to their religion.” 19Similarly, for

Arya Samaj founder Dayanand Saraswati “the causes of foreign rule in India are: mutual

feud, child-marriage, marriage in which the contracting parties have no will in the

selection of their life-partners, indulgence in carnal gratification, untruthfulness the

neglect of the study of the Vedas, and other malpractices. It is only when brothers fight

among themselves that an outsider poses as an arbiter.”20 A Muslim Brother might

encourage Muslims to return to the essentials of their faith such as praying five times a

18 Weber, 166

19 Hassan al-Banna, quoted in Ibrahim al-Bayyoumi Ghanem, Al Fikr al Siyaasi li-llmam Hassan al-Banna
(The Political Thought o f Imam Hassan al-Banna), (Cairo: Dar al Towziah wa al Nashr al Islaamiya),
1992, 207

:o Charles Heimsath. Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform, (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1964), 128

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day or fasting in Ramadan, just as a Tablighi would, but the Brother would never share

his Tablighi colleague’s lack of concern about how his message would be received,

because in the Brother’s world-view the stakes of the success or failure of his cause were

incomparably higher.

While religious nationalists see religious reform as essential for national revival, it

is not sufficient in and of itself to achieve this goal. Reform must be complemented by

efforts in the “profane” world to defend the material and symbolic interests of the

community vis-a-vis those of other faiths, an engagement with non-religious strategies

shared by communal movements. In the words of Bipin Chandra, the essence o f

communalism is its assertion that “because a group of people follow a particular religion

they have, as a result, common social, political, and economic interests.”21 Communal

activists seek to protect their religious community from persecution (however defined)

and to secure the conditions necessary for it to flourish in the secular world. This may

take the form of creating new territories under the sovereignty of the religious

community, as in the case o f the secular Zionist movement or the Muslim Indian

separatists who fought for the creation of Pakistan. It may also take the form o f agitating

for the establishment of a privileged claim on the part of the religious community on state

resources in employment, education, or other arenas, as in the case o f the Rashtriya

Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the leading Hindu nationalist organization in contemporary

India.

21 Bipin Chandra, Communalism in Modem India , (Delhi, 1984), p. 1, as quoted in Pandey, 7

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While communal activists’ work on behalf of their community can take many

forms, one form it does not take is a concern with whether, how, or even if members of

the community practice their faith. As a result, it is a misnomer to refer to communal

movements as being “religious nationalists,” as on the institutional level there is very

little if anything that is religious about them. The members, and even the leaders, of

communal movements in many cases do not practice their faith - David Ben Gurion,

Israel’s first prime minister, had been in the yishuv almost forty years before he attended

his first temple service there, and the well-known reluctance of secular Zionists to

compromise with religious Jews on the role that Judaism would play in the new state

stemmed in large part from their deep-seated aversion to most Jewish religious practices.

Many pracharaks, the regional leaders of the RSS who are the organizational mainstay

of the movement, say that they are not religious,” and even identifying oneself as a Hindu

- practicing or not - is not a criteria for RSS membership, as the movement is “open to

people of all religious persuasions or none.”23 The idea of Muhammadiya or the Muslim

Brotherhood accepting non-Muslim members, by contrast, is incomprehensible; when a

Christian admirer of the Brotherhood asked if he could join the movement in the 1930’s,

the Brotherhood’s answer was that insofar as Egyptian Christians shared the Brothers’

~ Ainslee Embree notes that “in private conversations (RSS) members frequently emphasize that they are
not religious. When pressed as to the meaning o f this statement, they tend to say that they do not do puja,
the making o f an offering to a deity’s image or symbol.” (630). The position o f the RSS as a whole is that it
is a cultural, not a religious, organization, although some RSS leaders define religion in such general terms
that the movement could also be considered a religious one, as per the view o f an RSS leader who argued
that “for the Hindu every action o f life is a command o f religion. ‘We make war or peace, engage in
arts and crafts, amass wealth and give it away - indeed we are bom and die - all in accord with religious
injunctions.’” “The Function o f the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh: To Define the Hindu Nation”, in
Accounting fo r Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character o f Movements, eds. Martin Marty and R. Scott
Appleby, (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1994) 631

23 Embree, 619

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concern about the country’s moral decline, they should work to reverse it through their

own (religiously-based) organizations.

The actual practice of the rituals of the faith is essential to religious nationalist

conceptions of “religion,” while this understanding of religion is only peripherally

important if at all to communal movements. This difference, however, is sometimes

obscured by the fact that communal and religious nationalist movements may converge

on the same goals, as in the joint commitment of religious and secular Zionists to bring

Jews to Palestine. These movements, however, engage in this shared activity for

different reasons. Secular Zionists’ commitment to settling in Palestine as opposed to

Argentina or Uganda had two main motivations. The first was Palestine’s religious

significance - not to them personally, but to other Jews, who they judged would be

unwilling to migrate to a place to which they had no historical connection. The second

motivation was that for socialist Zionists who ascribed the Jews’ supposed deficiencies as

a people to the unnatural class position which they had been forced to occupy by

European restrictions on their livelihood, Palestine - “a land without a people for a

people without a land” according to early Zionist conceptions - was a place where these

problems could be corrected by having Jews work the land. Note that neither of these

motivations is religious - the first represents bowing to the exigency o f the situation and

choosing a place based on other people’s presumed religious sentiments, while the second

has no religious connection whatsoever. Religious Zionists like Rav Kook, however, had

only one motivation in working to create a Jewish state in Israel - settlement in the Holy

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Land was a mitzvah, a commandment and a religious duty, which was enjoined by God

upon every Jew no less than observance of the High Holy Days.

If religious nationalist and communal movements often end up doing the same

things, then why is it important to distinguish between them? One of the major works on

this phenomenon in the contemporary period - Mark Juergensmeyer’s The New Cold

War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State24 - groups movements that by

my definition are religious nationalist - such as Meir Kahane’s Kach party in Israel and

the Muslim Brotherhood - as well as movements that are communal - like the RSS - into

a single category which he calls religious nationalism and analyzes as an undifferentiated

phenomenon. I think that the distinction is an important one because an accurate

understanding of these phenomena depends on us understanding why people do what they

do and what their ultimate goals are. By re-examining the historical evidence, for

example, Gyanendra Pandey has demonstrated that despite the attempt of the British to

reduce all instances of Hindu-Muslim protests and riots in colonial North India to what

Stanley Tambiah has called a master narrative” o f Hindu-Muslim rancor,25 many such

instances were motivated as much if not more by people o f one religious community

trying to assert or improve their position within their community as they did with their

hatred o f people outside the community.26 In the contemporary period, distinguishing

24 Mark Juergensmeyer, The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State, (Berkeley:
University o f California Press, 1993)

23 Stanley Tambiah, Leveling Crowds: Ethnonationalist Conflicts and Collective Violence in South Asia,
(Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1996), 23.

26 As ju st one example, Pandey re-examines the evidence o f Hindu-Muslim conflict around the issue o f
cow-protection in Shahabad in 1917 to demonstrate that the lower-caste Hindus who participated were
members o f “marginally ‘clean’ castes who aspired to full ‘cleanness’ by propagating their strictness on the

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between communal and religious nationalist movements may provide some insight into

the policies which they might follow upon coming to power. The difference in a

communal (secular) Zionist government in Israel and that o f a religious nationalist one

would almost inevitably be huge, as secular Zionists can justify relinquishing territory in

the name of the higher goal of bringing security to Israel, while for religious Zionists

there is no higher goal than fulfilling the religious commandment of settling the entire

Biblical land of Israel. Similarly, some observers of the Indian electoral scene have

argued that the domestic policy of the recent BJP government was not noticeably

different from that o f the Congress party before it. Given its calls for the implementation

of Islamic law, a strong case can be made that whatever else Egyptians would say about

the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood were it to take power in Cairo, one thing that they

would not say is that its rule was indistinguishable from that of its predecessor, Hosni

Mubarak’s National Democratic Party. To the extent that scholars have any role to play at

all in reducing instances of “communal” or “religious nationalist” violence, I would

suggest, it behooves us to understand why they happen. And to the extent that secularist

forces wish to undermine religious nationalist ones, it behooves them to understand how

they grew so strong in the first place.

The Cases

The movements upon which I build my argument are the Arya Samaj, a Hindu

religious nationalist movement in north India, and Muhammadiya and the Muslim

issue o f cow-slaughter.” Gyanendra Pandey, The Construction o f Communalism in Colonial North India,
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 195

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Brotherhood, Muslim religious nationalist movements in Indonesia and Egypt

respectively. The oldest of these movements is the Arya Samaj, founded in 1875 in

Bombay but first becoming prominent in the province of Punjab. From Punjab, the

Samaj rapidly spread across north India as well as to centers o f the Indian diaspora,

boasting an estimated one and a half million members worldwide by Indian independence

in 1947.27 The Samaj sought to redefine what it meant to be Hindu, creating for the first

time a mechanism for conversion to the faith which was at first denounced and later

seized upon by orthodox Hindus28 and vigorously encouraging other fiercely

controversial reform practices, such as the remarriage of widows and the breaking of

some caste taboos. It played an equally critical role in institutionalizing a dominant role

for Hindus vis-a-vis other religious communities in India, initiating cow-protection

movements in Punjab, leading campaigns to replace Urdu with Hindi as an official

language in North India, and providing crucial assistance to “the first politically oriented

Hindu communal group”29 - the Hindu Mahasabha - in the latter’s first decades. Charles

Heimsath has argued that “the Arya Samaj has had a greater direct impact on Indians over

a longer period of time than any other religious or social reform movement in modem

times,”30 and the movement’s most lasting achievement has been its network of

27 Gold, 534

28 Orthodox Hindus “came around” to the idea o f conversion after the much-publicized forcible
“conversion” o f Hindus to Islam by the Muslim Mappila community in Kerala in 1921; in a time when the
community, to use Sudipto Kaviraj’s term, had become “ennumerated”, with the census measuring the size
o f each religious community vis-a-vis others, Hindus o f all stripes soon came to appreciate the way in
which conversions to Hinduism boosted the size o f the community.

29 Gold, 539

30 Heimsath, 292

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Dayananda Anglo-Vedic (DAV) schools, 179 of which were operating in India and

Burma by 1941.31 The Samaj suffered severely during and after Partition, as its center of

activity - Lahore - became part of West Pakistan and thousands of Punjabi Aryas

became refugees.32 It reclaimed an active presence in north India, however, particularly

in the educational arena; in 1990 it ran over 500 DAV schools at all levels, including

engineering, medicine, and teacher-training colleges.33 Founded in Java in 1912,

Muhammadiya rapidly spread through much of the Indonesian archipelago, with 1,275

branches in 1942.34 Muhammadiya was an integral part of a new movement in the

Malayo-Muslim world - Kaum Moda, or New Faction - made possible by the

opportunities for travel opened up by the steamship’s arrival in the region in the late

1800’s. Increasing numbers of Malaysians and Indonesians went on hajj and then on to

al-Azhar in Cairo, where they studied the teachings of one of the founders of Islamic

modernism, Muhammad Abduh.35 Muhammadiya propagated the tenets o f Islamic

modernism, including a stress on direct access to the Quran instead of reliance on

interpreters, in an archipelago whose population had been overwhelmingly Muslim since

the end of the 1500’s, but whose practice of Islam was often so thoroughly permeated

with local traditions and Hindu practices as to be almost unrecognizable to the orthodox

31 Gold, 557

31 ibid, 540

33 Krishna Kumar, "Hindu Revivalism and Education in North-Central India", in Fundamentalisms and
Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott
Appleby, (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1993), 550

34 James Peacock, Purifying the Faith: The Muhammadijah Movement in Indonesian Islam,
Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, 1978), 52

33 Peacock, Purifying the Faith, 23

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Muslim. This syncretism was particularly pronounced in the Javanese residency of

Jogjakarta, the birthplace of Muhammadiya and “the very center and climax o f Hindu-

Javanese culture.”36 Muhammadiya sought to sharply differentiate between Islam and the

folk, Hindu, and animist practices around it, as well as to place its vision of reformed

Islam at the heart o f Indonesian national identity. These projects were carried out

through Muhammadiya’s extensive network of social welfare institutions, the crown

jewels o f which were the roughly 872 Westem-style schools which the movement ran in

1939.37 After independence Muhammadiya continued to grow, creating a “religious-

welfare-state-within-the-secular-state” whose social welfare organizations give it a

“cradle-to-grave” attachment to its six million members in the early 1980’s.38 With

Indonesia currently heading into the second phase of a tumultuous democratic transition,

Muhammadiya under leader Amien Rais is the second-largest Islamic movement in the

country and may well be poised to play kingmaker in the choosing of Indonesia’s new

president in November, 1999.

The youngest of the three movements studied in this dissertation is the Muslim

Brotherhood, founded in the Suez Canal zone of Egypt in 1928. At a time when most

political parties had no sustained presence outside the big cities and the establishment of

voluntary organizations on a national scale was almost unheard of, the Brotherhood had

56 Clifford Geertz, The Religion o f Java, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), 134

171 extrapolated the number of 872 schools from Alfian’s statement that in 1939 Muhammadiya ran 1,744
schools, roughly half o f which were Westem-style and the other half o f which were madrasas, which
focused more intensively on Islamic studies. Alfian, Muhammadiyah: The Political Behavior o f a Muslim
Modernist Organization Under Dutch Colonialism, (Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press, 1989),

38 James Peacock, “The Impact o f Islam”, The Wilson Quarterly, Spring 1981, 142

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2,000 branches across the country and 600,000 members by the end of de facto colonial

rule in 1952.39 Like Muhammadiya, the Brotherhood worked hard to define correct

Islamic practice, separating it from “un-Islamic” accretions such as rowdy celebrations of

saints’ birthdays and defending it against the onslaught of perverted Western practices,

such as parties in which unmarried men and women mingled. It also rallied to the cause

of gaining or retaining Muslim sovereignty across the Middle East and South Asia,

assassinating British soldiers in Egypt, strongly supporting the cause of Pakistan, and

sending thousands of Brothers to fight in the 1948 war in Palestine. After decades of

severe persecution under Gamal Abd al-Nasser, the Brotherhood emerged again stronger

than ever, winning the majority of votes when it was allowed to run for parliament in

coalition with the Wafd party - the secular nationalist party which had led Egypt's

struggle for independence and which was always notable for the predominance of Coptic

Christians in its leadership positions. It also quickly came to dominate unofficial politics

by winning control of the country’s most important professional syndicates in the late

1980’s and early 1990’s.

The Question of Religion, Education, and the State

The statist literature that monopolized comparative politics in the 1980’s posited

the state as a clearly recognizable set o f institutions separate from society and sought to

ascertain the conditions under which the state could reshape society according to its own

39 Richard Mitchell, The Society o f the Muslim Brothers, (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1969), 328.
Although the 2,000 branch figure undoubtedly includes some branches which were relatively inactive, the
reams o f correspondence between small rural branches and Brotherhood headquarters which I read details
the activity o f these branches and convinced me that in fact the Brotherhood did have a sustained presence
in the most far-flung regions o f the country.

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goals.40 In this literature, the success of the state in remaking society depended upon its

ability to be autonomous - to mark out and enforce boundaries between itself and society.

Some analyses inspired by the statist literature accorded more weight to societal power

than others; Peter Evans’ concept o f embedded autonomy, for example, suggested that

successful policymaking depends not on the state alone but on the construction of

particular types o f relationships between the state and societal organizations,41 while Joel

Migdal’s Strong Societies, Weak States accords the distribution of power within society

more importance than most analyses in determining how powerful the state will

eventually become. These accounts, however, still share the fundamental premise upon

which the statist literature is based - the existence of a clear distinction between the state

and society.

My analysis begins from a different point, one which challenges the utility, and

more fundamentally the accuracy, o f drawing strict distinctions between the state and

civil society in attempting to understand how groups within the latter operate. Perhaps

the most important and far-reaching change instituted by colonial rule was the creation of

a state apparatus which penetrated society much more deeply than any previous regime

had been capable of doing. A bureaucracy capable of studying, categorizing, and

managing the colonized population through institutions as invasive and pervasive as the

40 This new wave in studies o f the state was initiated by the 1985 publication o f Bringing the State Back In,
eds. Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, Theda Skocpol, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

41 Peter Evans, Embedded Autonomy: States and Industrial Transformation, (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1995)

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census42 required the recruitment of large numbers of local people into state employment;

in this context it is worth remembering that in the colonies with the most developed

bureaucracies as many as 90% of the colony’s bureaucrats were locals by the time of

independence.43 The question of how to insulate these state employees from the claims

and causes of the society from which they came, the better to loyally implement the

policies of the state vis-a-vis that society, was never far from the colonial mind.

Pandey’s discussion of the strenuous efforts made by the British to keep their (locally-

recruited) armed forces loyal in times of Hindu-Muslim tension such as those in Banares

in 1809, when the British prevented the sepoys from taking time off for twenty days in

order “to prevent them as much as possible from communicating with the people,”’44 is

just one example of this difficulty, and o f the magnitude of the interests at stake in

successfully addressing it.

While the challenge of recruiting a military and insulating it from society has been

much-discussed in the state-building literature, the enormous expansion of state power

necessary to establish centralized state education systems in the colonial period has

42 Perhaps the most definitive statement on the creation o f the census in and the ways in which it
restructured the political game in the colonial context is that o f Bernard Cohn’s “The Census, Social
Structure, and Objectification in South Asia," in his An Anthropologist Among the Historians and Other
Essays, (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1987). Cohn’s demonstration of the ways in which the creation o f
various census categories in turn gave rise to new forms o f identification and affiliation among Indians,
particularly in the field o f caste, is an excellent example o f precisely how thoroughly the extension o f the
colonial state could reshape life within the colony.

43 Benedict Anderson notes that in the last days o f the Dutch presence in Indonesia, 90% o f its officials
there were ‘natives.’ Anderson, “Indonesian Nationalism Today and in the Future,” New Left Review, May-
June 1999, 3. As early as 1891 in India, the subordinate civil service had 110,000 officers, 97% o f whom
were Indian. In that year a typical district o f a million Indians was reported to be governed by at most six
European officials. Richard Symonds, The British and Their Successors: The Government Services in the
New States, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966), 63

44 Pandey, 48-9

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received little attention.45 This is somewhat surprising, given that state educational

systems brought more people under the tutelage of the state, for a more prolonged period

o f time, than the military did. Given the large, relatively captive audience available for

socialization in the schools, it would seem that the question of insulating those who

taught in state-founded - or state-funded - schools from the political agendas which they

subscribed to in their private lives - making sure they taught what the state deemed

appropriate, did not exploit their access to a captive population to disseminate

information in conflict with state policies and goals, and did not siphon off state

educational resources for private purposes - was a game whose stakes were very high.

This was particularly the case because, unlike the military, which jealously guarded its

prerogatives of the stockpiling of weapons and the use o f physical force and was

separated from the rest of the population by barracks and uniforms, the scope o f the state

educational project required that much of it be “contracted out” - run directly by civil

society organizations funded by the state. The educational project, then, represented an

exercise o f state power on an enormous scale, and because it was responsible for

socializing future generations and preparing many members of them to actually serve the

state as bureaucrats, this project had enormous implications for state stability.

Strangely, the effects that the creation of state education systems might have on

the mobilizational potential of organizations in civil society - religious nationalist or

otherwise - have not been discussed much in the state literature. They have, however,

been addressed in the literature on the link between education and nationalism. Most of

43 Ernest Gellner’s Nations and Nationalism is an important exception to this generalization; his work will
be discussed at length in Chapter Two.

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this literature, with the important exception of the work of Ernest Gellner, which will be

discussed at length in Chapter Two, is not overly concerned with the content of

education or even with education as an institution in and of itself. This literature sees

education’s central importance as resting primarily in its position as a prerequisite, a

stepping stone, into an institution which is better positioned to facilitate or hinder the rise

o f nationalism - the colonial bureaucracy, and it can be broken down into two camps

which advance diametrically opposite arguments. The first camp, represented largely by

colonial officials, saw exclusion from the bureaucracy as a main cause of nationalist

sentiment, presuming that young men who received an education but were unable to

obtain jobs in the bureaucracy would channel their frustrations into nationalist activism.

The second camp, by contrast, suggests that obtaining bureaucratic jobs - not being

excluded from them - inspired and equipped people to express opposition to the colonial

regime.

Max Weber argued that as increasing numbers of the colonized society get

educated and find employment in the colonial bureaucracy, a middle class is formed

which becomes alienated from the colonial project by colonial attacks on its culture and

religion. Members o f this class then joined to defend and strengthen their religion through

religious reform movements. While this analysis does seem to describe the chain of

events which occurred in at least some colonies with religious reform movements, the

logic of why that chain of events should happen, and what Weber thought the connection

between state employment and religious reform actually was, is unclear. Was it the

process o f working closely with colonial officials and thus being exposed more frequently

than the general population to religious slurs and condescension that made bureaucrats

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more likely to be religious reformers? Or was it something about middle class status - the

availability of education and leisure time, for example - which allowed the mobilization

o f resources towards religious reform? If the latter is the case, then it would seem that

bureaucratic employment is important for the rise of religious reform movements not

because of any special resources or mobilizational potential inherent in that career path,

but only because it was often the most secure route to middle class status in a colonized

society, and it is middle class status that is inherently revolutionary.

Benedict Anderson, by contrast, invests the process of bureaucratic employment

itself with substantial importance in producing nationalism through the effect that it has

on shaping the national imaginings of the bureaucrats. In his narrative, as aspiring

bureaucrats climbed the ladder of educational achievement within the colony, they ended

up receiving the higher levels of education with students from other areas of the colony

with which they had previously been totally unfamiliar. While this proximity to other

students who turned out to share much in common with them spurred a sense of national

identity among the students, Anderson argues that it was the trajectory of the

bureaucratic, not the educational, pilgrimage, that dictated the boundaries of the nation

imagined by budding bureaucrats. If students who attended the same schools in the

capital could not be sent to bureaucratic posts in the same territory after graduation, then

their sense of the boundaries o f the national community would adjust to fit more

accurately with the boundaries of the territory to which they might be posted. Students

who met at the top of the Dutch educational pyramid in the colonial capital of Batavia

could all be sent to posts anywhere in what would subsequently become Indonesia.

Aspiring bureaucrats in the French territory of Indochina came together from what is now

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Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos into the same schools in Hanoi and Saigon, but after

graduation the similarity ended with Khmer and Lao students only being posted back to

what would be Cambodia and Laos, while the Vietnamese could be posted anywhere in

Indochina. This difference in bureaucratic trajectories, Anderson argues, may be one

reason why a single Indonesian identity coalesced out of the myriad of hitherto-

unconnected-islands under Dutch rule, while the more geographically contiguous

Indochinese world produced separate Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Laotian nationalisms

rather than a sense of a united Indochinese identity.46 Once again, in this analysis,

education is not particularly important in and of itself, except insofar as it funnels

students into a bureaucracy whose terminal postings are not dictated by one’s place of

origin within the colony. Bureaucratic employment does not provide people who are

already nationalist with particular material resources to advance their cause; it determines

the borders of their imagining of the nation by making them coterminous with the borders

of bureaucrats’ employment trajectories.

In his Language, Religion, and Politics in North India, Paul Brass accords

substantial importance to both education and bureaucratic employment in accounting for

the emergence of Muslim separatism in north India. Differentiation between relatively

similar groups in the same place occurs, Brass argues, because elites, acting to protect

their own interests, choose to stress symbols that divide rather than unite the groups.

Beginning from the premise that the “objective” differences between Hindus and

Muslims in North India in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were not

46 Anderson, Imagined Communities, 120-132

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significant enough in and of themselves to lead to the foundation of a Muslim separatist

movement, he argues that over time Muslims began to see Hindus as fundamentally

different from them because the north Indian Muslim elite chose to emphasize symbols

which clearly demarcated Muslims from Hindus rather than symbols which reflected

shared traditions and pasts. Employing a Deutschian analysis of mobilization, Brass

argues that the Muslim elite chose to emphasize divisive symbols as a response to an

environment in which the rates of social mobilization of a rival group (Hindus in this

case) were faster than the rates of assimilation of that group to the language and culture of

the other group (Muslims).47 In laymen’s terms, Hindus were becoming educated,

obtaining jobs dependent on a Westem-style education, and moving into north Indian

cities at a faster rate than they could be assimilated into an elite culture which, in late

nineteenth-century north India, was heavily informed by the traditions of a Muslim elite

which had monopolized bureaucratic employment for generations.

As in Weber’s theory, for Brass education and bureaucratic employment are

important in large part because of their role in creating a Muslim middle class and elite. It

is this elite status which makes Muslims more receptive to the separatist call, as Brass

assumes that the practices and traditions of the Muslim elite differed from those o f the

Hindus more than those of the Muslim and Hindu masses, who purportedly had more in

common. Education and bureaucratic employment are also important in Brass’s

understanding of the creation of separatism because Muslims saw the rates at which they

were able to obtain both vis-a-vis the rates at which Hindus did as a key barometer of the

47 Brass, 44

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standing of the community, with any perceived decline in either used to demonstrate that

Muslims were condemned to minority status vis-a-vis the Hindus as long as they

remained part of the same country.

While I think these analyses are valid, my argument differs from those of Weber,

Anderson, and Brass in two important ways - by stressing the content of colonial-era

education, and by stressing the resources that bureaucratic employment provided

members of religious nationalist movements who were simultaneously bureaucrats. For

Weber, Anderson, and Brass, education is important in creating and sustaining nationalist

sentiment primarily because of the elevated status that it provides and the way that it

brings students from all over a diverse territory together in ways that would not otherwise

have occurred. While the content of that education is not particularly important for their

theories, it is for mine. I will demonstrate that the Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya

schools, through a myriad of choices about such things as what languages to teach and

how to teach history, offered a curriculum which sought very intentionally to entrench a

particular imagining of the nation among their students. While we have no way of

knowing how many of their students “bought” that imagining, and acted to make it a

reality, I would suggest that when thousands of children receive their education in schools

whose curricula are intentionally designed to convince them that the only legitimate

nation is the one based on a particular understanding of the religion practiced by their

community, it behooves us as social scientists to understand how this conviction is

formulated and transmitted. This is particularly the case, I argue, when these thousands of

children are educated not in a myriad o f different schools set up by different people

espousing roughly the same ideology, but in a large number of schools set up by a single

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movement which is thus in an excellent position to disperse a unified understanding of

the nation to a large number of the colony’s youth.

For Weber, Anderson, and Brass, bureaucratic employment helps to produce

nationalism in one of three ways - by serving as a conduit to middle or upper class status,

by stretching and shaping bureaucrats’ imaginings of the nation, and by serving as a kind

of barometer of the success of particular communities vis-a-vis others in the competition

for prestigious jobs. I would agree with Weber and Anderson that while exclusion from

the bureaucracy may lead frustrated youth to join nationalist movements, it is entry into

the bureaucracy which gives rise to more institutionalized and long-term opposition to

colonial rule. While I don’t argue with Anderson’s suggestion that bureaucratic

employment could have profound effects on bureaucrats’ imaginings of the nation, I am

much more interested in how bureaucrats who had already formulated their particular

imaginings of the community could, through obtaining bureaucratic employment, gain

access to state resources which they could put at the service of the nationalist movements

to which they belonged. The creation of centralized Westem-school systems required

enormous increases in the size o f the state bureaucracy, which brought many members of

political and social movements into the state apparatus as well as putting increasing

amounts of state funding into the hands of private groups willing to run their own schools

in accordance with government regulations. When social movements are given significant

amounts of state resources to support activities which are in important ways oppositional

to state projects, then the familiar construct of the state as an entity entirely separate from

organized movements for change in society begins to break down. In the words o f

Timothy Mitchell, “resistance movements often derive their organizational forms from

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the military and their methods of discipline and indoctrination from schooling, and in fact

are often generated within the barracks, the campus, or other institutions o f the

state.. ..just as we must abandon the image of the state as a free-standing agent issuing

orders, we need to question the traditional figure of resistance as a subject who stands

outside the state and refuses its demands. Political subjects and their modes of resistance

are formed as much within the organizational terrain we call the state, rather than in some

wholly exterior social space.”48 As a result, Mitchell concludes, “the state should not be

taken as a free-standing entity, located apart from and opposed to another entity called

society. The distinction between state and society (should be seen) as the defining

characteristic o f the modem political order The essence o f modem politics is not

policies formed on one side of this division being applied to or shaped by the other, but

the producing and reproducing o f this line of difference.”49 In highlighting the difficulty

of drawing sharp boundaries between the state and civil society, I am not suggesting that

the concept of the state is irrelevant. On the contrary, this dissertation attempts to

demonstrate the enormous relevance of state institutions and resources for the growth and

development of oppositional movements in civil society. I am suggesting, however, that

in understanding why some of these movements are more powerful and long-lived than

others, examining the extent to which the state has “contracted out” its own work to

groups which oppose the very basis on which that state is constructed, and the extent to

which members of the movements become state bureaucrats themselves, is an important

48 Timothy Mitchell, “The Limits o f the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and Their Critics, " American
Political Science Review, March 1991, 93

49 ibid, 95

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step in solving the puzzle.

The Question of Comparability

A study attempting to draw conclusions from the experiences o f one Hindu and

two Muslim nationalist movements, two of which are based in countries with the world’s

second and fourth largest populations, virtually begs to have its methodology challenged.

Comparisons of dissimilar systems producing similar results are a stock in trade of

comparative politics, but they are always subject to challenges that the systems being

compared are too dissimilar - over-endowed with variables whose effects cannot all

adequately be accounted or controlled for - to produce valid results. There is no question

that the contexts within which the Arya Samaj, Muhammadiya, and the Muslim

Brotherhood operated - colonial North India, Indonesia, and Egypt - were quite different

from one another, and they were different in ways that have enormous implications for

the construction o f a national identity. They include an area which was extremely

religiously diverse - North India; a colony which was quite religiously homogenous -

Egypt; and a colony in which a large number of animist and Hindu rituals and world­

views subsisted under the umbrella o f an Islamic identity claimed by the majority o f the

population - Indonesia. They also include a colony whose existence as a political unit far

predated colonialism - Egypt; an area which had some precedent for being governed

(albeit in some cases rather loosely) by a single political entity - North India under the

Mughal Empire; and a colony whose colonial boundaries did not remotely resemble

those o f any pre-colonial state or empire - Indonesia. The religions in whose name these

three movements organized - Islam and Hinduism - are also very different. One is clearly

monotheistic; the other, in the understanding o f the overwhelming majority of its

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followers, is not. One is centered on a single text whose centrality is acknowledged by all

members of the faith; the other contains a variety of scriptures upon which practitioners

may draw for inspiration and guidance.

Despite these differences in political and religious context, religious nationalist

movements emerged in each o f these three areas which organized in very similar ways to

achieve strikingly similar goals. One of these goals was religious reform. The reform

agenda advocated by these movements revolved around three axes - returning to

particular texts which were defined as the sole legitimate sources of correct practice,

assaulting practices and traditions whose foundations could not be traced back to those

texts, and battling traditional religious leadership for its alleged laxness in pursuing the

first two.

As was noted earlier, Muhammadiya and the Muslim Brotherhood are two

manifestations of a wider current of Islamic modernism, articulated most powerfully by

the Egyptian Muhammad Abduh and transmitted to Indonesia in the late 1800’s largely

by Indonesian pilgrims who studied at al-Azhar in Cairo. The most central tenets of

Islamic modernism are a stress on the Quran and hadith (sayings and actions attributed to

the Prophet) as the sole infallible sources of guidance for Muslims, with learned

commentaries on the texts being relegated to a much lesser position except insofar as they

clarify what is already in the former two, and an emphasis on ijtihad, or individual

engagement with and interpretation of religious texts. This call for a return to particular

texts as the model for correct practice was even more sharply pronounced in the case of

the Arya Samaj. While all Muslims, modernists or not, view the Quran as the central text

outlining their faith, mainstream Hinduism draws scriptural sanction from many different

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religious texts, none of which alone is viewed as central or exclusive o f the truths

addressed in the others. Samaj founder Dayanand Saraswati, by contrast, began from the

premise that only the Vedas and other Hindu scriptures written while Vedic scholarship

still flourished were authoritative. After the war described in the epic Mahabharata

Vedic scholarship had declined, which to Dayanand meant that any post-Mahabharata

text which differed from the Vedas was a priori incorrect and should not be consulted.

This attempt to stress one particular text in Hinduism as central was alien to the Hindu

tradition; it entailed, among other things, labeling popular post-Vedic scriptures such as

the Puranas as false, and it has been suggested that it was part of a larger campaign to

make Hinduism more similar to Semitic faiths30on the assumption that a more centralized

faith with fewer authoritative texts would be more politically and mobilizationally viable

The concept of returning to particular texts meant that only practices whose

origins could be traced directly back to those texts could be sanctioned. This position in

many cases set the Samaj, Muhammadiya, and the Brotherhood on the warpath against

common practices often, although misleadingly, referred to as "popular" Islam or

Hinduism which the movements argued had no such scriptural sanction. For

Muhammadiya, this meant eliminating Hindu and animist traditions from the rituals

practiced by Indonesian Muslims, discouraging them from seeking the help of dhukuns

(magical healers)31 or participating in rituals to celebrate or placate various gods and

goddesses whose very existence Islam denied. Muslim Brothers battled particular ways

30 Romila Thapar, “Syndicated Moksha?”

51 Mitsuo Nakamura, The Crescent Arises Over the Banyan Tree, (Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University
Press, 1983),91

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o f celebrating mulids, or the birthdays of Muslim saints, which to their mind diverged

significantly from proper Muslim behavior as outlined in the Quran and hadith. "A very

strong element o f the medieval fair,"52 in Gilsenan's words, obtains at most mulids,

complete with women singing, people sleeping in the streets, and brightly decorated

carnival games; the Brotherhood condemned these practices in its newspapers in the

harshest of terms55and sought the intervention o f the Minister of Religious Endowments

to “reform” the Sufi brotherhoods which the Brothers blamed for these and other “un-

Islamic” activities.54 Dayanand took on a ritual which was one of the most widely-

practiced at all levels of Hindu society - image worship. While this practice was so firmly

imbedded in everyday Hindu life that “to open a place o f worship where there was no

image of a god or goddess was in itself a revolution,” 55 Dayanand was convinced that

Hinduism as outlined in the Vedas was a monotheistic religion and that image worship

was an illegitimate, post-Vedic accretion which must be ended.

Many of the widespread practices which the Samaj, the Brotherhood, and

Muhammadiya attacked were also opposed by the Hindu and Muslim religious

establishments, and at times common cause was made against these customs. More often

than not, however, these movements condemned the orthodoxy, either for intentionally

d2 Gilsenan, Michael, Saint and Sufi in Modem Egypt: An Essay in the Sociology o f Religion, (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 1973), 48

53 For example, the November 1, 1934, issue o f The Muslim Brotherhood asked rhetorically, “Have you
seen the women in the clubs o f the mulid, claiming that they are the sheikhs o f the brotherhood while they
do what the sharia rejects?” The article goes on to describe women’s activity at the mulid as “reeling
among the men moaning” and asks “isn’t the voice of women proscribed and her dancing among
m en in the name o f .... religion even more shameful?”

54 Ghanem, 273

55 op cit, 1

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perverting the doctrines o f the faith for their own gain or for being insufficiently zealous

in rooting out these perversions. Aryas argued that Brahmins knew that the practices over

which they presided were in fact violations of Hinduism, but that they continued to do so

because it was profitable to them. While accepted practice only allowed Brahmins to read

or hear recitation of the Vedas, Dayanand argued that this monopoly on access to

religious texts was the reason that the Brahmins had been able to continue their

perversion of Hinduism unhindered, and called upon all Hindus to read the Vedas for

themselves. Aryas often referred to Brahmins as “popes,” “an epitaph of condemnation

assimilated from the Protestant missionaries ”56 which is made all the more evocative by

the rough symmetry between the project of Luther and that of the Aryas, and in order to

diminish the centrality of Brahmins in the community’s religious practices Dayananda

wrote the Samskar Vidhi, a set of instructions and Sanskrit texts for ceremonies

commemorating births, deaths, and other important life events which enabled Aryas to

perform these ceremonies without Brahmins. The Muhammadiya reform project was

similarly premised on allowing direct access to religious texts while denying the

centrality of “corrupt” religious officials to the community’s practice of its faith.

Members of the movement stressed the importance o f thoroughly learning Arabic rather

than just memorizing the Quran, so that students would not have to rely upon the

inadequate or incorrect interpretations of traditional religious teachers. The movement’s

actions in various parts of Indonesia often targeted the religious establishment, as in the

late I920’s when it moved to take the collection of zakat (religious taxes) at the end o f

56 Jones, 109

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Ramadan for religious officials in the village of Kotagede on Java and put it in the hands

of “representatives of the umma,”” thus depriving the religious establishment of an

important source of income.38 Similarly, the Muslim Brothers routinely attacked the

ulema of al-Azhar, the seat o f religious orthodoxy in Cairo and a world-renowned center

of Islamic learning, for being too concerned with obtaining degrees and titles and too

oblivious to the decline o f Islam.

These three religious nationalist movements were pursuing similar agendas of

religious reform for an identical purpose - the rejuvenation of the nation through its

return to correct religious practice. Their understanding of the “nation,” and their attempt

to counter “secular,” territorially-based imaginings of the community, will be addressed

at length in Chapters Two, Six, and Seven; the common thread running through those

understandings was that the “nation,” regardless of how many religious communities

lived in it, was to be defined by the traditions and practices of the religious community

which these movements represented.

As the paragraphs above have made clear, members of the Arya Samaj, the

Muslim Brotherhood, and Muhammadiya were trying to carve out a very distinct terrain

for themselves within their societies, one which often put them at odds with both the

masses and the religious elite of the community. This was simultaneously an attempt -

to borrow economic terminology - to accomplish “product differentiation” between

themselves and religious reform/nationalist movements which sprung up before and after

57 Nakamura, 91

38 Some indication o f the threat that this posed is given by the fact that one district level religious official
told Nakamura that prior to these reforms he collected enough rice in this period to support his household
for six months.

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them within the same colony. The Samaj, Muhammadiya, and the Brotherhood were not

the first movements which sought religious reform in their areas. The Arya Samaj was

preceded, and initially heavily influenced by, the Brahmo Samaj, a Hindu reform

movement which was founded in Calcutta in 1828; similarly, the establishment of the

Brotherhood in 1928 followed the founding of the Gamaiyya el Sharaiyya in 1913 and

the Supporters of the Sunna (Gamaiyyat Ansar el Sunna el Mohammadiya) in 1926.

These movements are not indistinguishable from one another; each movement’s reading

o f the texts, its goals, and the way it went about achieving them differed substantially

from its predecessors and followers. In focusing on the three movements that I have

chosen, then, I am not suggesting that these movements emerged, tabula rasa, out o f an

organizationally barren colonial context, nor am I suggesting that they pioneered within

their colonies all of the understandings of religious reform that they were trying to enact.

They were, however, the first movements to combine a vision o f religious reform and one

o f national renewal in a set of institutions which allowed their appeal to outreach, and

outlast, any previous incarnation of organized religious activism in their milieus.

The goals and methods of the Arya Samaj, the Brotherhood, and Muhammadiya

were quite similar; how similar were the colonies in which they emerged? The reason

north India is considered as the unit of analysis rather than India as a whole is because

identity-based conflict in north India revolved largely around religiously defined

communities - Hindus, Muslims, and in some cases Sikhs - whereas in South India these

conflicts were centered more on a narrative of Aryans from the north conquering non-

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Brahmin Dravidians in the south.59 Beyond the similarity engendered by India and Egypt

having been part o f the same imperial empire, these three areas were very different from

one another; even the seeming similarity of British control in Egypt and India was

mitigated by the fact that many British officials in Egypt had come from India determined

to implement different policies in Egypt those that they felt had failed in South Asia. As

will readily become apparent, my background is as a Middle East scholar, and the

sections of this dissertation which discuss the Muslim Brotherhood are based primarily

on research that I conducted in Cairo archives. The most provocative result of this

research was the discovery of correspondence between Brotherhood leaders in Cairo and

members throughout Egypt, particularly in the Egyptian countryside. As our best

historical studies o f the Brotherhood in this period focus almost exclusively on the

development o f the movement in Cairo,60 locating large numbers of letters from rural

Brothers was an especially exciting find. My research on North India and Indonesia is

59 Nicholas Dirks, “The Conversion o f Caste: Location, Translation, and Appropriation,” in Conversion to
Modernities: The Globalization o f Christianity, ed. Peter van der Veer, (New York: Routledge, 1996), 117-
120. Dirks demonstrates not only that the premise o f much Dravidian activism - that Dravidians were
suppressed by northern Aryans - is largely the “invention” o f the missionary Robert Caldwell, but also that
Caldwell developed this concept - premised on an assertion that Brahmins were “foreigners” in the
Dravidian south - out o f frustration with the ways in which Brahmins repeatedly stymied missionary
attempts to convert Indians.

60 Without question, the best study in English (as well as the most thorough study o f the Brotherhood that I
have read in Arabic) o f the Muslim Brotherhood is Richard Mitchell’s 1969 classic The Muslim
Brotherhood. The book is based in large part on several years o f in-depth interviews with Brothers in the
mid-1950’s, a level o f access which contemporary American researchers, gathering data under the ever-
watchfiil eye o f a security-conscious Egyptian state, can only dream of. When I first began presenting my
research on the Brotherhood in the U.S. I was asked several times what I could possibly add to M itchell’s
magisterial work. My answer is twofold - while Mitchell had an unparalleled, birds’-eye view o f the way
the movement functioned in Cairo, his work does not address in any detail the very different context in
which the Brothers functioned in the countryside, where the bulk o f their members were located. And
secondly, while Mitchell’s research is based on published Brotherhood documents and on interviews, both
o f which may well censor out unflattering information, most o f my work is based on correspondence which
was never meant to be read by someone outside the movement and which discusses in detail the
difficulties, both in the countryside and in the city, o f sustaining Brotherhood activity.

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based almost entirely on secondary sources; in the case of Indonesia, these sources

included a number o f outstanding ethnographies, such as those of John Bowen,61 which

center on or make substantial reference to, religious nationalist movements in the colonial

era. Among the secondary sources on north India, there are a number of books written

originally in English by members of the Arya Samaj which I was able to consult, and

much of the Arya Samaj literature quoted in the secondary sources which I consulted,

particularly many of the Samaj newspapers, were also originally written in English.

Having conducted original research in Egypt after having spent several years there and

after having become fluent in Arabic, however, I am very sensitive to the limitations of

research based on secondary sources used by someone unfamiliar with day-to-day life in

the country on which they are based, and hope that my in-depth knowledge o f religious

movements in the Egyptian milieu has provided me with enough more generalizable

background to make a wide-ranging comparison such as this one fruitful, and not too far

off the mark.

M See, for example, John Bowen, Muslims Through Discourse: Religion and Ritual in Gayo Society,
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), and Bowen’s Sumatran Politics and Poetics: Gayo History,
1900-1989, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991)

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Chapter Two: Nationalism, Religious and Otherwise: An


Interrogation (And Extension) of the Literature

One of the most evocative parts of Partha Chatteijee’s Nationalist Thought in the

Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse comes in his discussion of the way that Nehru

interpreted Mahatma Gandhi, his partner in the Indian national struggle. Chatteijee

argues that in reading Nehru’s discussions o f Gandhi in the former’s autobiography,

“what comes across most strongly is a feeling of total incomprehension.” 1 Nehru was

puzzled by the fact that although Gandhi's economic and social ideas were (to Nehru's

mind) obsolete and even reactionary, “the fact remains that this ‘reactionary’ knows

India, understands India, almost is peasant India, and has shaken up India as no so-

called revolutionary has done.”2 Recalling Gandhi's increased role in Congress activities,

Nehru writes “I used to be troubled., .at the growth of this religious element in our

politics....I did not like it at all the history and sociology and economics appeared to me

all wrong, and the religious twist that was given to everything prevented all clear

thinking but I was powerless to intervene, and I consoled myself with the thought that

Gandhiji used the words because they were well known and understood by the masses.

He has an amazing knack o f reaching the heart o f the people.”2

Just how Gandhi reached the people is described in another passage of Nehru's

autobiography: “His calm, deep eyes would hold one and gently probe into the depths: his

1 Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse, (Minneapolis:
University o f Minnesota Piess, 1993), 150

2 ibid

3 ibid, p. 151

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voice, clear and limpid, would purr its way into the heart and evoke an emotional

response. Whether his audience consisted of one person or a thousand, the charm and

magnetism o f the man passed on to it.”4 Unable to rationally explain Gandhi’s appeal,

Nehru says that this “feeling had little to do with the mind”5 and likens Gandhi to a

magician.6 Despite their discomfort with him, Nehru and his more secularly minded

allies in the Congress “allowed” Gandhi to interpret the nationalist struggle to the masses

as he wished, because while his “irrationality” was useful in mobilizing the masses,

Nehru and associates planned to make sure that after independence a more “rational” way

of doing politics prevailed. “We gave him an almost blank cheque,” Nehru says in his

autobiography, “for the time being at least. Often we discussed his fads and peculiarities

among ourselves and said that when Swaraj (independence) came these fads must

not be encouraged.”7

While Gandhi frequently formulated his appeals in religious terms, and while his

privileging of issues and symbols central to Hinduism alienated many non-Hindus, he and

Nehru were both striving to create a territorially defined political community which

would accord all of its citizens, regardless of religious affiliation, would have equal rights

and responsibilities. Nehru’s description o f Gandhi’s role implies a two-track approach to

nationalism, in which educated, rational Indians would be won over by Nehru’s well-

reasoned, secular analyses of the nation while Gandhi’s simpler, religion-suffused

* ibid

5 ibid

6 ibid, p. 150

7 ibid, 151

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appeals would simultaneously bring the masses on board. This two-track approach

exemplifies the same assumptions and biases that inform most social scientists’

understanding o f the religion-nationalism connection. In this understanding, nationalism

is an inherently secular project - a “state of mind in which the supreme loyalty is felt to be

due the nation-state”8 - and so dressing it up in religious terms can only mean one o f two

things. Either the use of religious discourse to define and justify the existence of the

nation is merely a way o f making nationalism more appealing to the masses - while in no

way altering its fundamentally secular nature - or else this religious discourse accurately

reflects the intent of the nationalists who espouse it, in which case what they are

advocating is not nationalism at all but something else entirely.

The work of almost all scholars on nationalism presumes a teleological view of

history in which pre-modem religiously-based forms of identity were definitively

replaced by secular nationalist imaginings of the community in the modem era. While

scholarly conceptions of nationalism have changed in many ways over the years, this

teleological view has not; it informs Hans Kohn’s 1955 suggestion that “an

understanding of nationalism and its implications for modem history and for our time

appears as fundamental today as an understanding of religion would have been for

thirteenth century Christendom”9 as much as it underlies Benedict Anderson’s Imagined

Communities. If this teleology is accepted, then a framework of analysis is created in

which secular nationalism, as the only modem form o f national identity, becomes the

8 Hans K.ohn, Nationalism: Its Meaning and History, (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1955), 9, quoted in
Juergensmeyer, 14

9 Kohn, Nationalism, 4, quoted in Juergensmeyer, 14

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yardstick against which all other forms o f national identity are measured, and in relation

to which these other forms can only be understood as deviations from, perversions of, or

at best as immature forms of secular nationalism. Pandey has traced the ways in which

colonialist writers sought to understand communalism in India by situating it in a

universe o f irregular or perverted forms o f secular nationalism, referring to it as a

“subcontinental version of nationalism - the nearest thing to the genuine article that the

South Asian region could produce,”10 as some “Eastern form of nationalism,”11 or, in the

words of Louis Dumont, as an “intermediary form” of identity which bridges the gap

between pre-modem and modem political formations.12 If Dumont imagined the

development of national identity as a progression in which communalism was a

preparatory step on the path to secular nationalism, Juergensmeyer implies that religious

nationalism is a successor to secular nationalism gone bad. The very structure of his A

Mew Cold War?, in which his attempt to explain religious nationalism appears under the

heading “The Loss of Faith in Secular Nationalism,” makes clear Juergensmeyer’s

assumption that the roots of the success o f religious nationalism lie in the ruins of failed

secular nationalism.11

Borrowing from Bipin Chandra, who defines communalism as the belief that

“because a group of people follow a particular religion they have, as a result, common

10 Pandey, 1

" ibid, 2

12 Dumont, Religion/Politics and History, p. 110, quoted in Pandey, 4

13 Juergensmeyer introduces his discussion o f religious n atio n alism under the heading o f “the loss o f faith
in secular nationalism,” (11) later discusses “how secular nationalism failed to accommodate religion”
(26-44), and repeatedly frames the rise o f religious nationalism as coming chronologically after, and in

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social, political, and economic interests,”141 would define secular nationalism as a set of

two beliefs - the belief that because a group of people live within a particular territory

they have, as a result, common social, political, and economic interests and values, and

the belief that these common interests and values are more central to the identity of, and

deserve to be privileged over, any commonalities that people within the territory might

have with those outside it. This does not mean that secular nationalists are themselves

irreligious, or that they never make religiously-based appeals or use religious language or

symbols in talking about the nation. What it does mean is that the vision o f the nation

which they advocate does not elevate the status o f a particular religious community above

that of the others, and that the discourse o f nationalism which they employ accords equal

importance to the contributions and cultures of each religious community to the nation,

even though this purported equality may not be borne out in actual state policy after

independence.

[f the first task of secular nationalists is to establish why a shared geographical

identity should be privileged above all others, then the second task is to construct a basis

for legitimate sovereignty - to establish that only someone from within the territorially-

circumscribed nation has the right to rule over it, or in Hobsbawm’s words, “that the

political and national unit should be congruent” - that Egyptians should rule over

Egyptians.15 Sovereignty exercised by any other person or people constitutes what

Gellner calls “a quite outstandingly intolerable breach o f political propriety” - “the

response to, the rise and decline o f secular nationalism.

u Bipin Chandra, Communalism in Modem India, (Delhi, 1984), p. 1, as quoted in Pandey, 7

15 ibid

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rulers of the political unit belong(ing) to a nation other than that of the majority of the

ruled.” Since those within the territory share interests and values that are not shared to

the same degree by others outside it, it follows that people from outside the territory

could not correctly apprehend and defend those interests, and that their rule over the

territory would thus be inherently exploitative in nature.

In contrast to secular nationalism, the concept o f religious nationalism has

remained exceedingly amorphous and ill-defined. Juergensmeyer and other authors,

primarily scholars such as Peter van der Veer whose background and primary expertise are

in South Asia, employ the term religious nationalism without really defining it.16The

closest Juergensmeyer comes is to suggest that religious and secular nationalisms are based

on competing ideologies of order,17with religion “answering) the question o f political

legitimacy” that is answered in the “modem West” by secular nationalism.18 “Religious

nationalism in today’s parlance,” he continues, “means the attempt to link religion and the

nation-state.”191 define religious nationalists as those who place religion at the center o f

national identity by advocating that their co-religionists - not only those in the territory in

which they themselves live, but their co-religionists worldwide - should live within states

which govern in the name o f their religion. Religious nationalism as I understand it, then,

16 Peter van der Veer, Religious Nationalism: Hindus and Muslims in India, (Berkeley: University o f
California Press, 1994), never defines what he means by religious nationalism, although in fairness to his
argument he does not claim to be “explaining) religious nationalism as it occurs in India in its full
historical and social complexity”, and that he is not striving to “provide a straightforward narrative o f the
development o f religious nationalisms.” Van der Veer, ix.

17 Juergensmeyer, 31

18 ibid, 34

19 ibid, 40

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is just as concerned with sovereignty - with the right of the community to be ruled by one

o f its members —as secular nationalism is, but it defines the community as those who share

the same religion, and so only those of a particular religious identity have the right to rule.

In other words, Indonesian Muslim religious nationalists believe that Indonesia should be

ruled by an Indonesian Muslim in accordance with Muslim principles; they also believe

that Muslims outside Indonesia who wish to be governed in the name of Islam by a Muslim

from their territory should be supported in their quest to achieve this. This point is worth

dwelling on for a moment, because it shows that while both secular and religious

nationalists seek to expel the colonizing power, they do it for entirely different reasons. For

Egyptian secular nationalists, the British must be expelled from Egypt because only

Egyptians have the right to rule over Egyptians, and because the only way to national

prosperity is to turn that right into a reality. For Muslim nationalists in Egypt, the British

must be expelled not because British men per se should not rule over Egyptians, but

because the British as Christian occupiers stand in the way o f a return to true Islam, and a

return to true Islam is the only route to national prosperity. This understanding of national

identity is very similar to that advanced by John Stuart Mill in Considerations on

Representative Government - an understanding which similarly focuses on feelings of

loyalty and the centrality of sovereignty but does not insist that it they be defined in

territorial terms. “A portion of mankind,” Mill wrote, “may be said to constitute a

nationality if they are united among themselves by common sympathies, which do not exist

between them and any others, which make them cooperate more willingly than with other

people, desire to be under the same government, and desire that it should be government by

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themselves, or a portion o f themselves exclusively.”20For secular nationalists, “themselves”

is a reference to people living in the territorially-defined nation and the “common

sympathies” are feelings of shared interests and values which they purportedly share as the

result of living in the same geographical area. For religious nationalists, “themselves”

refers to people who share their religion, and the “common sympathies” are the desire to

have a reformed version of that religion inform daily life within the nation.

In this chapter I will argue that many of the most persuasive theoretical

expositions of nationalism are so insistent on its inherently secular character because their

theories of its emergence are excessively structural in nature. I will use the analyses of

Benedict Anderson and Ernest Geilner to illustrate my point; both highlight the way in

which the advent of capitalism gives rise to institutions - print-capitalism and mass

education systems respectively - which in their theories inevitably work to render a secular

conception of the nation hegemonic. I agree that these institutions are extremely essential to

nationalism, but that Anderson and Geilner’s excessive structuralism, which functions to

factor human agency out of the equation entirely, blinds them to the possibility that these

institutions could be used to different ends - or in fact consciously used to serve any ends

at all. If we reread people back into the picture, I argue, we can see how these institutions

can be, and have been, used very effectively to propagate religiously-based imaginings of

the nation in the colonial period. The first part o f this chapter will demonstrate how

Anderson and Geilner’s excessive structuralism lead them to accept a teleological view

20 John Stuart Mill, Considerations on Representative Government, Chapter XVI: O f Nationality, As


Connected with Representative Government, excerpted in The Nationalism Reader, eds. Omar Dahbour
and Micheline Ishay, (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1995), 98

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which presumes that secular nationalism definitively replaces religiously-based imaginings

of the community in the modem era. I will then flesh out my definition o f religious

nationalism and respond to some common critiques of this concept, and will conclude by

demonstrating that one of the main vehicles in the spread of secular nationalism - Benedict

Anderson’s newspaper - was used very consciously to propagate religious imaginings of

the nation in British Egypt.

What Is Nationalism?

The trees that have been felled in the attempt to fashion a universally acceptable

definition of the nation could fill a small forest. Attempts to define a nation as a group of

people who share a particular ascriptive characteristic such as a common language,

religion, or history have foundered, as Hobsbawm notes, because “either cases

corresponding to the definition (of nationalism) are patently not (or not yet) ‘nations’ or

possessed o f national aspirations, or undoubted ‘nations’ do not correspond to the

criterion or combination of criteria.”21 Even the attempt to base the definition of

nationhood on such a relatively amorphous concept as shared traditions has become

increasingly problematic, as historical research continues to demonstrate that many of

these “traditions” are relatively recent “inventions.” The attempt to reduce the varied

universe of nations to a single shared set of ascriptive characteristics, it seems, can only

be successful if it is phrased in the most general of terms and punctuated with many

caveats, as in Ernest Barker’s 1928 definition o f the nation in The Study o f Political

Science and Its Relation to Cognate Studies as “a body o f men, inhabiting a definite

21 E.J. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth, Reality, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1990), 5

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territory, who normally are drawn from different races, but possess a common stock of

thoughts and feelings acquired and transmitted during the course of a common history;

who on the whole and in the main, though more in the past than in the present, include in

that common stock a common religious belief; who generally and as a rule use a common

language as the vehicle o f their thoughts and feelings; and who, besides common

thoughts and feelings, also cherish a common will.”

In light o f the difficulty in finding ascriptive characteristics shared by all members

of a given nation, the seminal contribution of Benedict Anderson to the nationalism

literature lay in his argument that nationalism is based not on a set of shared objective

criteria, but rather on a set of shared imaginings of the community. For Anderson, “the

nation is an imagined political community it is imagined because the members of

even the smallest nation will never know most o f their fellow-members, meet them, or

even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion it is

imagined as a community because, regardless o f the actual inequality and exploitation

that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal

comradeship.”22 According to Anderson, all nationalists basically engage in the same

process - they seek to create a convincing story about why one type of identity must be

privileged over all others, and they work to create the conditions under which people who

possess that privileged identity will rule over those who share it. As will become clear

throughout this dissertation, I find Anderson’s conception of nationalism as a way of

imagining the community one of the most compelling that we have for understanding this

22 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread o f Nationalism,
(London and New York: Verso Press, 1983), 7

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phenomenon. What I find ironic, though, is the strict limitations which Anderson assigns

to his process o f imagining. He suggests that the national community is imagined

because it requires people to pledge their ultimate loyalty to others whom they have never

seen, yet whose existence they firmly believe in and on whose behalf they are willing to

sacrifice themselves, somewhat like the imaginary friends whose existence young

children believe in just as strongly as they do the existence of their more physically

tangible schoolmates. But in contrast to more common understandings of the word

imagination, in which the constraints of the physical world are abandoned and people are

free to dream o f things as they could be rather than as they are, the end-result of

Anderson’s imaginings is strictly circumscribed - he sees no other way o f imagining the

modem national community except as an entity which prioritizes loyalty to and

commonality with people who live in the same geographical area over all other types of

commonality. The limited scope of this imagination conjures up Henry Ford’s statement

that one could buy the Model-T in any color he wished, as long as it was black.

I suggest that the reason that Anderson and other theorists see nationalism as an

inherently secular phenomenon is that despite their emphasis on the importance of people

coming to imagine new forms of identity, their theories of how national identity is

constructed are not based on agency or human creativity at all, but on an excessively

mechanical understanding of the development o f the particular institutions which they

single out as central to the creation of national identity. For Anderson and Geilner, two

of the most influential theorists of nationalism, these institutions are the newspaper and

mass education systems respectively. Both argue that capitalism in the first place makes

possible, and in the second place both sustains and is sustained by, the development of

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these two institutions, and that the structure of the market requires that these institutions

have a secular content.

The issue of religion and religious identity appears repeatedly in Imagined

Communities, but almost exclusively as part of a recurring narrative in which secular

nationalism comes to substitute for religion in the fulfillment of particular functions in

society. Anderson first argues that the success of nationalism is largely due to the fact

that it fills a psychological need previously satisfied by religion - the need for

immortality.

“In Western Europe the eighteenth century marks not only the dawn
of the age o f nationalism but the dusk of religious modes o f thought. With
the ebbing of religious belief, the suffering which belief in part composed
did not disappear. Disintegration o f paradise: nothing makes fatality more
arbitrary. Absurdity of salvation: nothing makes another style of continuity more
necessary. What then was required was a secular transformation of fatality into
continuity, contingency into meaning. ...few things ....are better suited to this end
than an idea of nation. If nation-states are widely conceded to be ‘new’ and
‘historical,’ the nations to which they give political expression always loom out of
an immemorial past, and, still more important, glide into a limitless future.”
(emphasis m ine)23

Lest he appear to be embracing a teleological view of history the end-point of

which is secular nationalism, Anderson is careful to issue a caveat: “needless to say, I am

not claiming that the appearance of nationalism towards the end o f the eighteenth century

was ‘produced’ by the erosion of religious certainties, nor am I suggesting that

nationalism historically ‘supersedes’ religion. What I am proposing is that nationalism

has to be understood by aligning it, not with self-consciously held political ideologies,

23 Partha Chatteijee, The Nation and Its Fragments, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 5

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but with the large cultural systems that preceded it.”24 He then proceeds, however, into a

discussion of the rise o f print capitalism in which the premier carrier of secular

nationalism - the newspaper - rises out of the ashes of the former carrier o f religious

identity - the sacred language. Religious identity organized around the idea of sacred

languages such as Latin became a casualty of the printing press, whose advent led

printers to go beyond the small market of Latin readers to exploit the profits made

possible by printing in the vernacular. Interestingly, the printed work that “for the first

time (created) a truly mass readership and a popular literature within everybody’s reach”25

was not a secular work but a statement of religious reform - Luther's theses - whose

popularity Anderson credits with being a major factor in the spread of vernacular

printing, accounting for one third of all German language books sold in a period between

1518 and 1525 in which the number of books published in German increased threefold.26

Curiously, Anderson does not remark on the irony of the fact that it was a religious text

whose publication initiated the process of commercial vemacularization which would

reduce sacred languages to the dustbin of history. Perhaps this is not surprising, though,

since in Anderson’s narrative Luther’s theses and the Reformation itself are important not

for their content, but only because of the function that they fulfill, which is to act as a key

“factor” giving impetus to the “revolutionary vemacularizing thrust o f capitalism” by

24 Anderson, 11-12

25 ibid, 39

26 ibid

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encouraging the publishing o f (secular) works written in the vernacular rather than

religious texts written in the sacred languages.27

This sense o f the substitution of secular nationalism for religious identity is

especially pronounced in the metaphors which Anderson uses to describe the role which

the carrier of the new secular nationalism - the newspaper - plays in modem life. In

describing this role, Anderson notes that “the significance of this mass ceremony is

paradoxical. It is performed in silent privacy, in the lair o f the skull. Yet each

communicant is well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated

simultaneously by thousands (or millions) o f others of whose existence he is confident,

yet o f whose identity he has not the slightest notion.”28 While the language Anderson uses

in this passage seems to conjure up some kind of trans-national religious observance,

such as Muslims gathering for prayer or Jews observing the Sabbath, Anderson is in fact

describing the members of an incipient nation reading the newspaper. He goes on to make

the substitution of secular for religious identity explicit by noting Hegel's statement that

newspapers serve modem man as a substitute for morning prayers,29 and in presenting the

image of the new newspaper reader he asks “what more vivid figure for the secular,

historically clocked, imagined community can be envisioned?”(emphasis mine)30 When

describing readers’ awareness that many other people also read the same paper, Anderson

notes that “these fellow-readers, to whom they were connected through print, formed, in

ibid

28 ibid, 35

29 ibid

30 ibid

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their secular, particular, visible invisibility, the embryo of the nationally imagined

community.” (emphasis m ine)31

In Anderson’s narrative, then, print capitalism has severely marginalized the role

of sacred languages in favor of (secular) vernacular ones, the morning newspaper has

been substituted for dawn prayers, and the feeling of connection to members of one’s

religious community has been supplanted as one’s primary form of identity by connection

to one’s fellow newspaper-readers. But while we can all agree that the mass printing o f

the newspaper in vernacular languages came about as an impersonal, unintended response

to the profit structure of capitalist markets, why can these newspapers subsequently

function only to spread a territorially-based imagining o f the community? For Anderson,

the content of the newspaper is dictated not by the predilections of its editors but once

again by the “natural” and “apolitical” evolution of capitalist markets, as “what brought

together, on the same page, this marriage with that ship, this price with that bishop, was

the very structure of the colonial administration and market system itself. In this way, the

newspaper of Caracas quite naturally, and even apolitically, created an imagined

community among a specific assemblage of fellow readers, to whom these ships, brides,

bishops, and prices belonged.”32 In this formulation, editors and writers do not choose to

cover certain events and neglect others in order to promote secular imaginings of the

community; they merely cover the events which occur in the geographical area in which

they are located. Their juxtaposition of the story, in Anderson’s words, of this bishop

31 ibid, 44

32 ibid, 62

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with that ship arrival with news of that marriage “just happens” to foster secular

imaginings of the community which supplant the religious ones that preceded them.

Anderson starts from the assumption that the agents of nationalism are literate and

then analyzes how literacy-dependent activities such as newspaper reading contribute to

the imagining of national communities. Ernest Geilner, by contrast, makes the process of

becoming literate and educated the main hallmark o f nationalism itself, but he shares

Anderson’s acceptance of a teleology in which religion is the key force which binds

people together in the pre-modem period but is effectively privatized and driven out of

the sphere of national imagining in the modem era. For Geilner, the progression of world

history is as much about the expansion of educational opportunities as it is about the rise

and fall of empires. Mankind first develops literacy during the agrarian age,33 when it is

confined to the clerical class, as “(agrarian) societies simply do not possess the means for

making literacy near-universal and incorporating the broad masses of the population in a

high culture.”34 Nor do they possess the need to do so, as literacy is not necessary to

perpetuate the socioeconomic system found in agrarian societies, in which the majority of

people are either peasants or skilled craftsmen who learn their trade not in school but

through apprenticeships.35 In agrarian society, then, the main purpose of literacy is to

serve the sacred; monopolized by the clerics, it is used almost exclusively to read holy

texts and to transmit religious knowledge to the next generation of clerics.

55 Geilner, 8

34 ibid, 11

33 ibid, 26

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Industrial society, however, as “the only society ever to live by and rely on

sustained and perpetual growth, on an expected and continuous improvement,”36 requires

that literacy assume a completely new function. The perpetual growth which underlies

industrial society presumes a perpetually changing division of labor in which a man,

rather than being bom and dying a shoemaker, may enter the work force as a secretary,

go back to school and become a lawyer, and then open his own consulting firm. In order

to move from job to job, members of industrial society must share a common educational

base that allows them to quickly pick up the skills necessary for many different

workplaces over the course of their lifetimes, making generalized literacy transmitted

through a school-based culture the hallmark of industrial society. It is also, for Geilner,

the defining characteristic, the prerequisite, o f nationalism. “What happens,” he asks,

“when a social order is accidentally brought about in which the clerisy does become, at

long last, universal, when literacy is not a specialism (sic) but a pre-condition of all other

specialisms, and when virtually all occupations cease to be hereditary?....in an age of

universalized clerisy the relation of culture and polity change radically. A high culture

pervades the whole of society, defines it, and needs to be sustained by the polity. That is

the secret of nationalism.” (emphasis Gellner’s ) 37

Why, in Gellner’s narrative, must this high culture, and the educational

institutions which perpetuate it, be inherently secular? Because once education becomes

universal, “the absolutist high cultures o f the agrarian age are obliged to shed their

36 ibid, 22

37 ibid, 18

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absolutism, and allow the wells of truth to pass into public, neutral control. In brief, the

price that these high cultures pay for becoming the idiom of entire territorial nations,

instead of appertaining to a clerkly stratum only, is that they become secularized. They

shed absolutist and cognitive pretensions, and are no longer linked to a

doctrine.”(emphasis m ine)38 More to the point, an education focused on religious

doctrine does not permit the production of people with interchangeable skills who can be

trained for many jobs; in a capitalist world, a woman who knows her prophets is not as

useful as one who has the secular skills to make profits. “Nationalism,” Geilner argues, is

“the organization of human groups into large, centrally educated, culturally homogeneous

units” - i.e. units characterized by mass secular education.39

According to both Anderson and Geilner, then, the impersonal, invisible hand o f

the market dictated the emergence of both a newspaper which would create a territorially-

based sense of community, and a mass school system which would create a homogenous

culture based on shared secular knowledge. I would agree that both the newspaper and the

mass school system came into being in response to the demands of capitalism and were

not the creations o f individual political activists keen to find more effective ways of

spreading their message. And not being a Europe specialist, I am in no position to assess

whether once these institutions had come into being, nationalists of one stripe or another

consciously used them, at the peak of the development of national feeling in Europe, to

disseminate their imagining o f the community as opposed to other extant imaginings. In

38 ibid, 78

39 ibid, 35

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many places in the non-Western world, however, almost as soon as the newspaper and the

mass school system were transplanted into foreign soil they were used quite consciously

by proponents of different national imaginings to spread those imaginings. While the

spread o f Gellner’s mass education may have been an organic part of the development of

domestic capitalism in Europe, it was not in most colonized non-Westem societies, which

at the moment of their encounter with colonialism and the rise of nationalist movements

cannot be characterized as being either capitalist or industrialized. In these societies, a

social order in which the clerisy becomes universal and literacy the pre-condition of all

specialisms was not, in Gellner’s words, “accidentally” brought about as an organic

outgrowth of a process of capitalist development - the development of a secular

education system. To the extent that such a social order was created at all, it was the

product of an institutional mechanism - Westem-style education - consciously initiated

by two foreign intruding forces - the colonial power and missionaries - for their own

purposes. In the case of the latter, this mechanism, far from being introduced to impart

the secular skill of literacy, was designed purposely to impart a particular set of religious

beliefs. Little wonder, then, that religious nationalist movements in some o f these

colonies responded to missionary efforts to spread education with their own schools,

which were similarly designed to shore up particular religious beliefs. As much o f the rest

of this dissertation will be dedicated to demonstrating how Western educational systems

in India and Indonesia were purposefully used by religious nationalists in both countries

to spread their religious imaginings of the community, I will not respond any further to

Gellner’s arguments here. In the rest of this chapter, I will further develop the concept o f

religious nationalism as I define it, respond to some common critiques o f that concept,

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and demonstrate how Benedict Anderson’s insights about the importance of the

newspaper as a vehicle for national imaginings can be reread in order to see how religious

nationalism and its claims for sovereignty were intentionally advanced through that

vehicle.

The Definition of Religious Nationalism

I define religious nationalists, once again, as those who place religion at the

center o f national identity by advocating that their co-religionists - not only those in the

territory in which they themselves live, but their co-religionists worldwide - should live

within states which govern in the name o f their religion. The idea that national identity

can be based on a shared religious identity rather than on a shared existence in the same

geographical territory, however, is not widely accepted by scholars, who generally raise

three types of objections to the concept - one of scope, one o f sovereignty, and one of

what constitutes nationalist activity.

The question of scope seems to be the most troublesome part of the idea of

religious nationalism for many scholars. They argue that while nationalism by definition

is supposed to be limited to a particular, geographically circumscribed area, religious

nationalism seems to be an inherently trans-national phenomenon which conjures up

images, for example, of a Muslim caliphate superseding individual Muslim nation-states

as the repository o f the supreme loyalty of Muslims worldwide. While it is true that

earlier in this century Egyptian, Iraqi, and Palestinian Muslims found nothing unusual in

swearing allegiance to a Muslim caliph of Central Asian descent based in Turkey, I

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would agree with authors such as James Piscatori40 and Juergensmeyer that for today’s

religious nationalists “virtually every reference to nationhood assumes that the

modem nation-state is the only way in which a nation can be construed.”41 Contemporary

Muslim religious nationalists in Egypt, for example, would not suggest that there is no

distinction between themselves and Chinese or Australian Muslims, nor are Muslim

religious nationalists living in established states such Egypt, Algeria, or Pakistan

seeking to dissolve the states in which they live in favor of some new supra-national

Muslim government. These nationalists do, however, advocate that the states in which

they live be ruled in accordance with Islamic norms as they define them, and that

Muslims in other countries have the ability to construct similar states for their own

governance.

This conception o f religious nationalism does not mean that the phenomenon and

its goals are limitless in scope. It does not mean, for instance, that Muslim religious

nationalists seek to turn every country in which Muslims are located into a Muslim state

(the claims of some Muslim groups that Britain will be a Muslim state in a matter of

decades notwithstanding). It does mean, however, that where Muslims are striving to

create a state ruled by Muslims in the name o f Islamic law, Muslim religious nationalists

living in other countries would feel compelled to support their efforts. This concept of

shared identity may well require Muslim religious nationalists in Egypt to provide aid to,

and perhaps even to go and physically fight for, the right of Afghani Muslims to be ruled

40 James Piscatori, Islam in A World o f Nation-States, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)

41 Juergensmeyer, 40

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by a (sufficiently rigorous) Afghan Muslim government. It would explain why Muslim

Brothers in colonial Egypt dedicated as much effort to fighting Zionists in Palestine as

they did to expelling the British from Egypt - not because Egyptian Brothers wanted to

incorporate Palestine in some trans-national Muslim political entity, but because Palestine

was an Islamic land which could only legitimately be ruled by Muslims. Religious

nationalists’ understanding of sovereignty - i.e., the necessity of and their right to work to

establish the sovereignty of their co-religionists - may well lead them to violate accepted

norms o f the sovereignty of the nation-state, which presume that the only legitimate

action to change the balance of power within a state is taken by those living within that

state. In this, of course, they would be very similar to Western democrats, whose

expressed concern for the sovereignty of the nation-state has rarely prevented them from

supporting people in other countries challenging their sovereigns in the name o f

democracy.

Religious nationalism, then, is not about establishing a new type of sovereignty in

which independent, self-governing states would be replaced by or subsumed within larger

political entities grouping all or most of the adherents of a particular religion. It is about

establishing who has the right to rule a particular country, and who has the right - indeed

the responsibility - to intervene in the politics o f that country if outside aid is sought to

make that a reality. The secular nationalist criterion o f sovereignty is satisfied as long as

some national of the country - in theory, any national - rules over it. For a secular

Indonesian nationalist, a Christian Indonesian has as much right to rule the country as a

Muslim one; for an Indonesian Muslim religious nationalist, the universe o f potentially

appropriate rulers is smaller. It is smaller in two ways - because only Muslim

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Indonesians can rule this predominantly Muslim country, and because not just any

Indonesian Muslim will do, only those Indonesian Muslims who will rule in the name of

a (reformed version of) Islam. This is why religious nationalism can be just as relevant a

concept in a country made up overwhelmingly o f members of one religion - such as

Egypt, 85 to 90% of whose population is Muslim - as it is in a more religiously

heterogeneous country such as India. It is also why religious nationalism can remain such

a potent concept long after the colonial power has left the scene. For a secular Egyptian

nationalist, the battle has been won when the British have been expelled and an Egyptian,

of whatever religion, rules the country. For the Muslim Brotherhood, the fact that Egypt

has been ruled by Egyptians for almost fifty years, and that all of its presidents in those

years have been Muslim, is not nearly enough; until those rulers agree to rule Egypt in

accordance with Islamic law, the movement’s main goals have not even begun to be

achieved, living within its borders.

The question o f establishing the right of a particular, religiously-defined group to

exercise sovereignty might suggest that religious nationalists are primarily engaged in a

political struggle, waged on the familiar political terrain of demonstrations, boycotts,

elections, and extending, in more extreme circumstances, to armed struggle against one’s

opponents. When religious nationalists engage in this kind of activity directed against the

colonial power, most would have little trouble in classifying them as nationalists, of

whatever kind, and the three movements discussed in this dissertation did participate in

these types o f activities throughout the colonial period. I want to make the case, however,

that their involvement in ostensibly “apolitical” activities, such as agitating in favor of

widow remarriage or encouraging fasting during Ramadan, were also nationalist activities

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because of the way that these movements understood the causality underlying the

establishment, and future demise, of colonial rule in their countries.

My understanding of what constitutes nationalist activity is informed by the work

of Chatteijee. In The Nation and Its Fragments, Chattel]ee argues that “we have all taken

the claims of nationalism to be a political movement much too literally and much too

seriously.”42Traditional historiography of Indian nationalism, he notes, dates the

beginning of the nationalist movement to the 1885 founding of Congress and suggests

that this was preceded by a preliminary phase, from the 1820’s through the 1870’s, in

which future nationalists dedicated their efforts to social reform, including projects such

as banning sati and raising the age of marriage. In Chatteijee’s rereading, however, the

rise of a nationalist sensibility and action dates back to the point, decades before the

founding o f Congress, at which Indian social reformers stopped enlisting the assistance o f

the British for their projects because such assistance had come to be seen as interference

in national culture. At this point nationalists began to see their own society, and the

effects of colonial practice on it, as divided into material and spiritual domains. The

material domain, including the economy and most particularly science, was one in which

the West’s “superiority had to be acknowledged and its accomplishments carefully

studied and replicated. The spiritual, on the other hand, is an ‘inner’ domain bearing the

‘essential’ marks o f cultural identity. The greater one’s success in imitating Western

42 Partha Chatteijee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1993), 5

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skills in the material domain, therefore, the greater the need to preserve the distinctness of

one’s spiritual culture.”'13

Chatteijee’s ascription of a bifurcated world view to nationalists - one in which

the technological superiority of the West is acknowledged while the spiritual superiority

of the East requires that “native” cultural practices be insulated from colonial interference

- is to some extent an overgeneralization. Many religious nationalists in the colonial

period would not accept the idea of placing science outside the realm of culture and

religion and recognizing Western superiority in the former. Dayanand argued at great

length that all of the scientific triumphs o f the modem age had been pre-figured in the

Vedas, while the Muslim Brotherhood triumphantly touted scientific discoveries

delineating behaviors which had been shown to decrease incidences of cancer, gleefully

noting that they were the very behaviors enjoined upon Muslims by God - such as

abstaining from drink, ablution, and fasting - through the daily practice of their religion.34

While they may have been unwilling to concede scientific superiority to the colonial

power and the world from which he came, religious nationalists absolutely agreed,

however, that their cultures were spiritually superior, as long as that culture was defined

in terms of practices and symbols of their own religion and not those of other religious

communities within the colony. Chatteijee views the withdrawal of social reform

projects from the colonial political arena as nationalist because it is an assertion of

41 ibid, 6

44 The Muslim Brotherhood, August 24, 1934, reported excitedly on a paper presented by an Egyptian
doctor, Dr. Muhammad Afifi, at the International Conference o f Cures By X-Ray, Electricity, and Radium
in Zurich, which purportedly demonstrated that the daily practices o f Islam were particularly good for
preventing cancer. The article concluded that these findings demonstrated that the teachings o f Islam were
appropriate for all times and places.

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sovereignty on the part of the nationalists, who are thereby saying that only nationals o f

the country were permitted to act, reform, or reshape power in the arena which really

mattered - the way in which culture was practiced. In this reading, social/religious reform

becomes “political” and “nationalist” when certain categories of people are defined as

unable to participate in it. My argument, in contrast, is that these reform projects are an

inherently nationalist activity if they are motivated by the conviction that the reforms are

preconditions to expelling the colonial power and creating a politically and culturally

sovereign nation. I see Chatteijee’s contribution here as being his contention that what is

deliberately done outside the sphere of interaction with the colonial power can be just as

nationalist as that which is done in direct confrontation with it; in the same way, I would

argue that seemingly apolitical reforms which have no immediate implications for the

continuation of colonial rule can be nationalist if they are done with the understanding

that colonial rule cannot be ended without them. In the words of Dayanand, “the causes

o f foreign rule in India are: mutual feud, child-marriage, marriage in which the

contracting parties have no will in the selection of their life-partners, indulgence in carnal

gratification, untruthfulness....... the neglect of the study of the Vedas, and other

malpractices. It is only when brothers fight among themselves that an outsider poses as an

arbiter.”45

The question o f ostensibly apolitical activities, and their role in spreading

nationalism, brings us back to the work of Benedict Anderson. For Anderson, the

newspaper serves to spread secular nationalist conceptions of community not because its

45 Charles Heimsath, Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform , (Princeton: Princeton University Press,
1964), 128

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writers and editors consciously use it to do so, but because the “natural” and “apolitical”

evolution o f capitalist markets bring together, “on the same page, this marriage with that

ship, this price with that bishop, was the very structure of the colonial administration and

market system itself. In this way, the newspaper of Caracas quite naturally, and even

apolitically, created an imagined community among a specific assemblage of fellow

readers, to whom these ships, brides, bishops, and prices belonged.”46 The juxtaposition

of the story of, in Anderson's words, this bishop with that ship arrival with news of that

marriage “just happens,” in his narrative, to foster secular nationalism. In the final section

o f this chapter, I will use the case of Muslim Brotherhood newspapers to demonstrate that

the decision of which brides, bishops, and ships were written about in the newspapers of

any particular territorial area under colonial rule was a hotly contested and inherently

political one, and that religious nationalists could use the medium of the newspaper very

successfully to project conceptions o f the boundaries of the nation, and who should

exercise sovereignty over it, than those espoused by secular nationalists.

Pharaohs vs. Pakistanis: The Print Battle over the Boundaries of the Egyptian
Imagined Community

Unlike the many Arab and African countries which were created out of whole

cloth by the colonial powers, Egypt had existed within basically the same geographic

boundaries since the time of the Pharaohs. Prior to World War I, Egyptians took pride in

an Egyptian heritage which distinguished them from other Muslims and Arabs, but they

also perceived a strong bond between themselves and other Muslims which manifested

itself politically in loyalty to the Ottoman Empire.

46 ibid, 62

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By the early 1920s three major political changes had brought the boundaries of

the Egyptian imagined community into question. The first was the collapse o f the

Ottoman Empire after its defeat in World War I. This meant that although Egyptians still

felt a spiritual bond with other Muslims, there was no longer a larger entity to bring Arab

and Turkish Muslims together and to mark them off as a community distinct from other

groups. The second was Egypt’s 1919 ‘revolution,’ a series of widespread anti-British

uprisings resulting from Britain’s exile o f Saad Zaghloul and other Egyptian nationalist

leaders to Malta. As Gershoni and Jankowski point out, the 1919 ‘revolution’ was

characterized by an unambiguously territorial nationalist character and was centrally

concerned with Egypt’s existence as a nation and its right to full political independence/7

and the political party founded by Zaghloul - the Wafd - vigorously promoted a secular

conception o f the Egyptian nation.

The coup de grace to the idea of Egypt as part of a larger Muslim community,

however, was delivered by the third political change - Ataturk’s abolition of the caliphate

in 1924. Although the political roof of the Ottoman empire had been destroyed in World

War I, Egyptians had continued to look to the Caliph as their nominal leader and a living

link between themselves and other Muslims. Now, the idea of a larger Muslim

community had no institutional basis whatsoever. Small wonder, then, that by the mid

1920s the idea of a secular, territorially based Egyptian nationalism seemed to have won

out over the idea o f a religiously based pan-Islamic sense o f community.

47 Israel Gershoni and James P. Jankowski, Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian
Nationhood, 1900-1930, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986), 40

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The question of which imagining would reign supreme was fought out in the

newspapers, the result of a print capitalism which had become well established in the

1860’s, when Reuters established an international news agency in Alexandria, and in the

1870’s, when Egypt's flagship paper until the present day - al-Ahram - was founded. A

“second wave of nationalistic (sic) publications”48 appeared in 1881, the year before the

British occupation, and in the period between 1880 and 1908 a remarkable 514

newspapers were being published in Cairo and Alexandria, a 21-fold increase over the

number of papers published in the preceding 28 years.49 While it is safe to assume that

most of these papers never gained a substantial readership, it is also clear that the number

o f Egyptians reading a newspaper was dramatically increasing. In 1927-28 the total

circulation for the leading dailies and weeklies was 180,000; in 1947 the circulation of

the leading dailies was 200,000 and weeklies 360,000.5° And as in all countries with a

high degree o f illiteracy, a single newspaper was often read by, or to, several people. Ami

Ayalon quotes travelers in turn of the century Egypt who wrote that “we often see

servants, donkey breeders, and others who cannot read gather around one who reads

while they listen. The streets of Cairo and of other towns are full o f this.”51 The evidence,

then, suggests that by the 1920's reading, or listening to the reading of, newspapers on a

48 Ami Ayalon, The Press in the Arab Middle East: A History, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995),
45

49 ibid, 50

50 ibid, 151

51 ibid, 157

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regular basis had become an established habit among a sizeable part o f the Egyptian

population.

By the 1920’s, then, regular access to newspapers had become part of many

Egyptians’ lives, and the newspaper was to play a central role in the formation of

Egyptians’ imaginings of their community. However, the community that came to be

imagined was not created as a result of the invisible hand of capitalism producing

newspapers which unconsciously furthered the spread o f secular nationalism by

juxtaposing stories o f this sheikh from Cairo with the story of the arrival of that boat in

the port of Alexandria with a description of a marriage in Minoufiyya, a la Anderson. The

issue of the way in which the Egyptian community was to be imagined was a hotly

contested one, and advocates o f many different imaginings purposefully and cleverly

used the newspaper as a medium to win converts to their particular conception of what

Egypt and its loyalties should be.

By the early 1920s the collapse of the Empire and the euphoria surrounding the

1919 ‘revolution’ had made Egyptians more receptive to territorial imaginings of their

community. Throughout this decade, the editors of Egypt’s most widely read newspapers

- such as Abd el Qadir Hamza, editor of the Wafdist el Bilagh el Usbuuiyi, Salama Musa,

editor of el Hilal, and Ismail Mazhar, editor of el Uusuur - were committed to the

concept of Egypt as a secular nation separate from any larger Muslim entity. The idea of

Egypt as part of a larger Muslim community played heavily on a belief in the superiority

of the Arabs as the people to whom the Quran had been revealed, and in practice that idea

meant strengthening Egypt’s ties to the rest of the Arab world. In order to promote their

view of a separate and secular Egypt, then, the secular nationalists needed to discourage

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greater ties with other Arabs. This was done mainly in two ways. The first was by

regulating the amount of coverage of Arab affairs that would appear in Egyptian

newspapers and, in the instances when such coverage did appear, by promoting a sense

that these affairs had little to do with Egypt, lest Egyptian readers begin to feel that events

in Baghdad or Damascus concerned them as much as events in Cairo did. For example,

when the Syrians were engaged in major battles against the French in July of 1920, these

battles were covered in-depth only by the Syrian-run papers in Egypt. While Egyptian

editors wrote articles criticizing the French use of force against the Syrians, Gershoni and

Jankowski note that “there seems to have been no sense that Egypt was either involved in

or able to influence events in Syria.” The British assessment of the situation agrees with

that of Gershoni and Jankowski, noting that the July 1920 clashes “evoked little

excitement (in Egypt) outside of local Syrian circles, and no serious attempt has been

made to arouse anti-European feeling in this connection,” which suggests that beyond

occasional articles condemning the French position Egyptian-run newspapers did not

devote much attention to these events.52 In Anderson's terms, by declining to put battles

in Damascus on the front page of the newspaper next to the arrival of a ship in

Alexandria, a sheikh in Cairo, and a marriage in Minoufiyya, Egyptian newspaper editors

were painstakingly trying to negate any sense of Egyptian community that extended

beyond the Sinai.

The second way that newspaper editors lobbied for a secular and separate

imagining of the Egyptian community was by printing negative portrayals of Arabs in

52 ibid, 51-52

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their newspapers. Many scholars of nationalism have commented on the tendency of

nationalists to rewrite history in order to convince peoples who may have had little in

common historically that they are members of a single nation which has existed from

time immemorial.53 For Egyptian territorial nationalists, the task was the reverse. Instead

o f having to convince people in Cairo that they shared a historical link with people in

Aswan or Alexandria in order to create loyalty to a larger Egyptian nation, territorial

nationalists needed to fragment the conception of Egyptians as part of an overarching

Arab Muslim civilization and convince them that Egyptians were distinct from, and

superior to, the Arabs. This was a delicate task, since the territorial nationalists had to

disparage the Arabs without diminishing the glory of Islam, in whose history they had

played a central part. One way of doing this was through a proliferation of newspaper

articles (as well as books, but that is beyond the scope of this article) which presented

new versions o f Islamic history in which the Arab contribution was carefully ignored or

minimized. In a 1925 article on ‘The Arabs and Islamic Civilization,” Muhammad

Hussein Heikal argued that the Arabs had contributed little to Islamic civilization. True,

they had created the unified political and administrative framework that brought people

from Iran to Spain together and created a brilliant new cultural synthesis, but this was not

a difficult task because these cultures already shared a common geographic and climatic

milieu. The real triumphs o f Islamic civilization - the pioneering developments in the arts

and sciences that had made medieval Islamic culture famous - in fact had nothing to do

with the Arabs at all. At the time of the coming o f Islam, Heikal posited, the Arabs had

53 See, for instance, Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism, (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 48-
49

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had no civilization of their own, and it was only through coming into contact with more

advanced civilizations through the conquests that Islamic civilization flourished.54

Having thus “de-Arabized” Islamic history, territorial nationalists then went on to

contrast the Arabs' purported lack of civilization to the triumphs of Egyptian history.

While the Arabs were a people who had wandered in the desert for over a thousand years,

incapable of creating a durable, lasting civilization, the Egyptians had built the pyramids

and supported great dynasties during their millenia of sedentary rule. Lest any reader

think that this distinction between the nomadic Arab and the settled Egyptian was a

purely historical one, Heikal and other writers noted that this same situation of wandering

“continues to prevail in the Arab peninsula to this very day.”55 One important point needs

to be made in regard to the negative stereotypes o f Arabs that flourished in Egyptian

territorial nationalist publications in the 1920s and 1930s. Although territorial nationalists

like Heikal, Taha Hussein, and Salama Musa undoubtedly personally believed that

Egyptians were superior to Arabs, the articles that they wrote to that effect were not just

unconscious mirrors of their own prejudice to the wider Egyptian public. As Gershoni

and Jankowski argue in discussing the newspapers of this period, “it must be

emphasized that this negative image o f the Arabs was an intentional construct.

Consciously created rather than unconsciously assumed, it was an image that Egyptian

nationalist intellectuals sought to inculcate in all Egyptians. In their view, the Egyptian

nation had to adapt a negative image o f the Arabs in order to achieve its own renewal.”56

34 Gershoni and Jankowski, 111-112

53 ibid, 105

36 ibid, 97

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This use of newspapers to spread a secular nationalist view o f Egyptian history

represented a deliberate attempt to use the weapons print capitalism offered in the battle

between different imaginings of the Egyptian community, and, implicitly, different

directions for its future.

While the downgrading of Arab contributions to Islamic civilization may have

been effective in a negative sense - that of convincing at least some Egyptians not to

identify themselves as part o f a larger Arab community - it did little to convince them o f

the positive nature of identifying solely as Egyptians. The Egyptian territorial

nationalists were well aware of this problem, but in 1922 they were provided with, as it

were, a godsend to their efforts to create a separate Egyptian identity - the discovery of

Tutankhamun's tomb.

The discovery of the tomb, coming so soon after the explosion of Egyptian

nationalism manifested in the 1919 ‘revolution’ and the demise of the Ottoman Empire,

provided the foundation for an alternate imagined community, that of the Egyptians as a

separate people which stretched back into antiquity and whose ancestors had created

some o f the greatest marvels known to man. Although Egyptians, particularly the

territorial intellectuals, had certainly been aware o f Egypt’s Pharaonic heritage before

1922, it had seemed like a somewhat dead history, one that was certainly harder to relate

to than the more recent triumphs of Islamic - and by extension, Arab - civilization. After

the discovery of the tomb, however, territorial nationalists lost no time in repeatedly

publicizing the wonders of Pharaonic civilization in their newspapers in order to bolster

their claim that Egypt had been, and could once again be, a great nation all by itself.

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Tut’s tomb figured prominently in newspapers throughout the 1920s, becoming a

powerful symbol of the destiny of an independent Egypt. The ceremonial opening of the

tomb was timed to coincide with the inauguration of Egypt's first elected parliament in

March, 1924, and days before the inauguration the king and several deputies of the

parliament toured the tomb. Far more interesting than this elision of political power with

historical greatness, however, was the relation of the territorial nationalist newspaper

editors themselves with the tomb. Many of the most outspoken o f these nationalists went

on pilgrimages to Lower Egypt to visit the the tomb. Only months after the discovery of

the tomb in 1922, Heikal visited the tomb, the Valley of the Kings, and the Kamak

temple complex. He effusively described in the papers how amazing these sites were, and

he encouraged all Egyptians to make pilgrimage to the tombs themselves. “As men of

today,” Heikal exhorted, “you will never be able to accomplish anything and will be

retarded in your understanding of science, art, and the precision characteristic of your age

until you have stood in the presence of these monuments.”57Abd el Qadir Hamza, editor

of el Bilagh el Usbooyi, also made the pilgrimage to the tomb and subsequently informed

his readers that “we must look at....(the Pharaohs’) remains in order to fill our spirits with

pride and power, in order to escape this (mentality of) inferiority which centuries of

humiliation and slavery have created in us.”58 Ahmed Hussein wrote about his trip to

upper Egypt as part o f a school tour in 1928. He reminisced that the night he first saw

57 ibid, 171

58 ibid, 173

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Kamak was a turning point in his life; he felt as if the statues were speaking to him and

he dedicated himself to reviving the glory o f Pharaonic Egypt.59

Perhaps the most interesting part of the pilgrimages of the secular nationalists, and

their accounts of these pilgrimages in their newspapers, was the heavy religious

symbolism conjured up around this highly secular trip. The fact that prominent

intellectuals all felt it necessary to embark on the long trip to the tombs in search of

enlightenment, and the fact that they encouraged their readers to do the same, gave the

Pharaonic sites the aura of religious monuments and the trip to them the feeling o f a

religious pilgrimage. Just as Muslims make pilgrimage to Mecca because this is where

the Quran was revealed, or as Christians journey to Jerusalem to travel the stations of the

cross where Jesus walked, Egyptians were encouraged to make pilgrimage to the

Pharaonic tombs that symbolized the birth of their own great civilization. Just as people

make pilgrimage to holy sites in search of blessings and miracles, Heikal and Hamza

promised miraculous results upon seeing the tombs - that by seeing them Egyptians

would trade centuries of humiliation for an ability to truly understand the science and art

o f the age and be filled with power. Hussein, in describing how he felt the statues at

Kamak speaking to him and was moved to rededicate his life to reviving the glory of

Egypt, sounds uncannily like Paul on the road to Damascus, who heard the voice of God,

was temporarily struck deaf, and as a result o f this experience converted to Christianity.

Through their pilgrimages to the tombs, and through their repeated coverage o f Pharaonic

issues in their publications, secular nationalist newspaper editors consciously attempted

” ibid, 173-74

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to displace their readers’ sense of affiliation with a brilliant Muslim - and Arab - past and

replace it with a loyalty to an even greater past, one which was the patrimony of

Egyptians alone and was not tied to a specific religion.

In the same year that Ahmed Hussein went on his school trip to Kamak, the

Muslim Brotherhood was formed. Far from basing Egyptians’ sense of community on

past Pharaonic glories, the Brotherhood wanted to expand that feeling o f belonging even

beyond its previous borders, those delineated by the Ottoman Empire. The community to

which Egyptians properly belonged was not only that o f Arab Muslims, it was that o f all

Muslims worldwide. That this revised definition of the community left Egypt’s Coptic

Christians - approximately ten percent of the population - in an uncomfortable position

was clear. According to Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Brotherhood, Egyptian

Muslims and Christians could and should live together in harmony and dedicate

themselves to a common struggle for the betterment of Egypt. But it was clear that the

primary solidarity of Egyptian Muslims should not be to those who lived in the same

geographical area as they did, but to those who followed Islam, wherever they lived.

The Brothers understood the importance of newspapers to his campaign to

Islamicize Egyptian society and lost little time in establishing their own newspaper. The

first Brotherhood newspaper was published on June 16, 1933, and promoting the paper

was one of the group's primary goals. The records of the meeting of the Brotherhood's

Consultative Council (Maglis el Shura) in early 1934 give a sense o f just how high a

priority the paper was; after a set of measures crucial to the institutionalization of the

movement, such as an agreement that Banna would compose a list o f the Brotherhood's

general principles so that new Brothers could better understand the movement, and a plan

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to make branch presidents provide lists of their members to the head office in Cairo, were

quickly dispensed with, the lion's share of the meeting was dedicated to discussions on

how to encourage the spread of the paper, and on the logistics of founding a Brotherhood

printing press.60 The Brotherhood’s paper in the first year of its existence was published

by a religious colleague at his printing company, but the Brothers were keen to establish

their own press as a prelude to the expansion o f the paper, and in 1934 they formed the

Brotherhood printing company. Like all of the Brotherhood’s later business enterprises,

the printing press was funded by the issue of low priced shares. Unlike the other

enterprises, however, it was written into the printing company's rules that only members

of the Brotherhood could own shares in the company, in order to ensure that Brothers

could oversee its moral content.61

From the very inception of the paper, the Brotherhood’s view of the borders o f

Egypt’s imagined community was made clear. In the first issue, editor Tantawi Gowhari

wrote, “the Muslim Brotherhood newspaper considers itself the servant of every Muslim

whatever his homeland or his nationality, and it views ahl el qibla (literally, the people

who pray in the direction of the qibla\ i.e., all Muslims) as one man as they were

represented by the Prophet....that is why (the newspaper) brings to its readers all of the

news of the Muslim world so that every reader may be aware o f it and so that every

reader can do his duty towards his Muslim brothers. (The paper is) not biased in favor of

any particular group o f Muslims, but wishes all Muslims well”(my translation).62 What

60 See accounts o f the meeting as described in The Muslim Brotherhood, February 8, 1934

61 ibid

"2 The Muslim Brotherhood, June 16, 1934

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is included in this statement is as important as what is excluded; not only is there no

mention o f Egypt in the newspaper’s statement of purpose, but Gowhari goes so far as to

promise that the paper will not be biased in favor of any particular group o f Muslims,

implicitly including his fellow Egyptian Muslims.

The Muslim Brotherhood quickly became a central component of the

Brotherhood’s efforts to create an imagined community of Islam. Although the

Brotherhood was an important part o f the battle to expel the British from Egypt, coverage

of Egypt’s anti-colonial struggle and other aspects of Egyptian life did not dominate the

newspaper. Instead, stories on Egypt were juxtaposed with stories of Muslims in other

parts o f the world, and the paper’s Egyptian readers were exhorted to help those Muslims

just as often as they were called upon to work for reform in Egypt. The April 18, 1948,

issue o f The Muslim Brotherhood illustrates this juxtaposition well. The main story on

the front page recounts a battle between Egyptian and Zionist forces in Palestine, in

which Muslim Brotherhood volunteers played an important part. This story shares the

front page with an article about the Brotherhood's request that the king cancel a party

planned by the Egyptian Journalists’ Syndicate, partially because the entertainment would

be provided by a famous belly dancer. This article reprints another newspaper's criticism

o f the Brotherhood’s position, to which the latter responds that journalists are supposed to

be a “tool of guidance” for the public and an “example of good morals” who should never

sully their moral credibility by participating in an immoral party o f this nature. On the

second page there is an article about the resolution of a conflict between the Egyptian

government and Bank Misr, Egypt's largest bank. This is juxtaposed with an article on the

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Muslim Brothers who were martyred in the fight in Palestine.63 For the Egyptian reader of

The Muslim Brotherhood, the fight against Zionist colonialism in a neighboring country

is every bit as relevant as attempts at social reform within Egypt (the journalists’ party)

and news about domestic Egyptian finances (Bank Misr).

The November 17, 1947, issue o f The Muslim Brotherhood similarly

demonstrates the seamless interweaving of “foreign” and “domestic” issues so

characteristic o f the paper. The first page is dominated by an article about the attempts of

Muslims in America - some of whom were missionaries from the Brotherhood in Egypt -

to spread their faith there. The second, third, and fourth pages contain stories about a

cabinet shakeup in Egypt, a protest against the hiring practices of the British-owned Suez

Canal Company, which is accused o f discriminating against Egyptian workers, and an

article urging readers to mobilize for the battle to expel British troops from Egypt. Side

by side with these stories are articles about the president of Syria’s call for a fight to the

death to defend Palestine, news of the building of a large mosque in London, a story

about Indonesia's negotiations with Holland over independence, and another about

Pakistan and India's conflict over Kashmir.64

It is important to note that these stories are not separated into different sections of

the newspaper; the articles on Indonesia, Pakistan, and London are not relegated to the

back pages of the paper while Egyptian domestic news is in the front, nor do the

“foreign” stories appear together under a heading entitled “foreign affairs.” They appear

63 The Muslim Brotherhood April 18, 1948

64 The Muslim Brotherhood, November 17, 1947

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side by side with the stories on domestic events in Egypt, and are not distinguished from

them in any way. In discussing how the rise of print capitalism spread secular nationalism

in the Americas, Anderson argues that “what brought together, on the same page, this

marriage with that ship, this price with that bishop, was the very structure of the colonial

administration and market-system itself. In this way, the newspaper of Caracas quite

naturally, and even apolitically, created an imagined community among a specific

assemblage of fellow-readers, to whom these ships, brides, bishops, and prices

belonged.”65 In Egypt, what brought together this independence negotiation in Indonesia

with that cabinet shakeup in Cairo, this mosque in London with that discrimination by the

Suez Canal Company against Egyptian workers, was not the apersonal structure of the

colonial administration or an agent-less market system. To paraphrase Anderson, by

bringing these “foreign” and “domestic” events together, The Muslim Brotherhood

“quite intentionally, and quite politically, created an imagined community” which was

not that of a territorially circumscribed Egyptian nation, but one o f a world community of

Muslims.

In addition to spreading imaginings o f community, newspapers also create a

perception o f power and of sovereignty. Just as readers who repeatedly see stories of

Caracas bishops and brides in the newspaper come to view themselves as Venezuelans,

readers who constantly see accounts of Nehru traveling around Indian support o f the

national cause, or o f Gandhi addressing the enthusiastic masses, come to believe that

Nehru and Gandhi are powerful men who have a right to rule India and deserve popular

65 Anderson, 62

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support. The Muslim Brotherhood was very successful not only in portraying an

imagined community of Muslims, but in conveying the idea that the Brotherhood was a

leading force in that community. The Brotherhood engaged in many “foreign” policy

efforts that are usually reserved only for official representatives of sovereign nations, and

The Muslim Brotherhood afforded extensive coverage to these efforts. The front page of

the November 23, 1947, issue of the paper, for example, juxtaposed a story about a

Brotherhood religious celebration in Cairo which was attended by 20,000 people with a

story of Brotherhood assistance to Pakistan, and with a long letter from the editor o f the

paper, who was visiting Pakistan at the invitation of the Pakistani government. Other

issues of the paper carefully highlighted similar Brotherhood efforts in far-flung parts of

the Muslim world, and the standing which they were accorded by Arab leaders.66 The

first page of the September 7, 1947, issue of the paper printed Hassan al-Banna's letter to

King Abdullah of Jordan advising him against pursuing his plan of creating a greater

Syria that would incorporate present-day Jordan and Palestine within its borders. The

letter had been hand-delivered to King Abdullah by Banna’s emissary, and Abdullah’s

letter in reply was printed in the paper side by side with Banna’s.67 Similarly, during the

March, 1948, civil war in Yemen, the March 7, 1948, issue documented the activities of

the Muslim Brotherhood delegation to Yemen, including the head of the Arab League’s

taking a member o f the delegation aside to ask why Hassan al Banna was not part o f the

group, and the reception of the delegation at Sanaa airport by Yemeni princes.68 The

66 The Muslim Brotherhood, November 23, 1947

67 The Muslim Brotherhood, September 7, 1947

“ The Muslim Brotherhood, March 7, 1948

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March 10 issue prominently displays a picture o f Abd el Rahman Azzam, the head of the

Arab League, with the Brotherhood delegation in Saudi Arabia on their way to Yemen.69

By juxtaposing the letter of King Abdullah with that of Banna, or photographing Azzam

with the Brotherhood delegation, these stories (which are always featured prominently on

the front page) give the unmistakable impression that the Brotherhood’s power and

influence in the Muslim world is on a par with that of official representatives of sovereign

nations, and supports the group’s claim to moral (if not political) leadership of that

world.

The rise of print capitalism in Egypt coincided with the beginnings of the

nationalist struggle for an independent Egypt. The first Egyptians to realize the potential

of the newspaper to inculcate various imaginings of the community were the secular

nationalists, whose newspapers reinterpreted Islamic history and revisited the Pharaonic

past in an attempt to convince Egyptians that they were a separate nation. Soon after its

founding, the Muslim Brotherhood entered the battle of imaginings with its own

newspaper, whose extensive coverage of events throughout the Muslim world did much

to communicate the idea of Egypt as part o f a larger Muslim community. Gershoni and

Jankowski have persuasively argued that while an “exclusivist territorial nationalism” had

reached the height of its popularity in Egypt in the 1920s, by the mid 1930s it had lost

significant ground, while the popular perception of Egyptians as part of an overarching

community of Muslims had grown substantially.70 While The Muslim Brotherhood is not

09 The Muslim Brotherhood, March 10, 1948

70 Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski, Redefining the Egyptian Nation, 1930-1945, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995) 1, 54

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the sole reason for this shift, it was an important part of the battle in favor of imagining

the Egyptian community as part of a larger Muslim one. By the 1940s, then, the Muslim

Brotherhood as a movement and as a newspaper had made many Egyptians see

Palestinians and Pakistanis as being a more relevant part of their identity than the

Pharaohs.

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Chapter Three: The Creation of Centralized Education


Systems in North India, Indonesia, and Egypt
“At the heart of the colonial enterprise was an adult-child relationship.
The colonizer took the role o f the adult, and the native became the
child. This adult-child relationship entailed an educational task. The
colonial master saw it as his responsibility to initiate the native into
new ways of acting and thinking....some of the natives had to be
educated so that they could be civilized according to the master’s
idea the agenda was to train the native to become a citizen.”

Krishna Kumar, Political Agenda o f Education: A Study o f


Colonialist and Nationalist Ideas, (New Delhi: Sage Publications,
1991), 24

Political science analyses o f the ways in which colonialism altered non-Westem

political landscapes often highlight the heightened salience of ethnic identity, or the

reshaping o f local power structures through the elevation o f some groups within the

population and the demotion of others. They rarely, however, examine the effects that the

colonial-era creation of centralized systems of Westem-style education had on local

communities.1This may well be because so few of these systems were created in the

colonial period, as most colonizers were content to leave educational provision to

missionaries or local private incentive, despite its very limited scale. The result o f this

type o f education policy - or lack of policy - was that the provision o f Westem-style

education was spotty in the extreme and that its content varied widely across the colony.

1 Timothy Mitchell’s Colonising Egypt, (Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1988), while focusing on
changes implemented in the immediate pre-colonial period, is one o f the few exceptions to this rule and has
been instrumental in my thinking on this issue. Unlike political scientists, anthropologists have paid much
closer attention to the reshaping o f methods o f transmission o f knowledge under colonial rule, and the way
that m odem concepts o f education affected non-Westem societies. For the most part, though, their studies
focus on analyses o f educational change in individual communities or on textual analysis o f curricula,
while m y work focuses on change at the systemic level, or more accurately, the creation o f a system o f
W estem-style education to begin with.

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In some colonies, however, the educational enterprise was taken much more

seriously. In these cases, the colonizer went beyond subsidizing the scattered efforts o f

missionaries or the creation of a handful of government schools to create a centralized

school system which provided Westem-style education according to a set o f rules and

regulations formulated by the colonial government. This did not necessarily mean that

the colonial government itself built and managed an extensive network of Westem-style

schools. In fact, in the three cases to be discussed in this chapter, it meant that the

government decided what education should look like in the colony, founded schools

which provided it, and subsidized schools run by private groups which followed

government regulations.

A recapping of the definition of the key terms of my argument - “Westem-style”

schools and “school system” - is in order here. By “Westem-style” schools, I mean

schools in which a person who had received formalized, replicable training as a teacher

taught students divided into groups on the basis of their age a set of subjects which were

perceived as being independent o f one another and whose truth claims were not based

primarily on religious faith. As Gauri Viswanathan’s analysis of British government

schools in India has demonstrated, even if a subject’s truth claims are not based on

religious faith, purportedly “secular” subjects can easily be taught through materials and

methods thoroughly permeated with religious beliefs and values.2 As long as these

beliefs and values are not justified through reference to religious texts, however, schools

teaching them can still be considered “Western” schools according to my definition. As

the term “formalized, replicable training” suggests, the idea o f these schools existing in

2 Gauri Viswanathan, Masks o f Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India , (New York: Columbia
University Press, 1989)

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large numbers as independent entities, outside o f a larger institution which supplied them

with instructors and formulated their curricula is difficult to conceptualize. By the

existence o f a system of Westem-style schools, then, I mean the insertion of these schools

into a framework in which decisions about what subjects to teach, what age students

should be at each level of schooling and how they should pass from one level to the next,

and how people become qualified to teach are centrally made and enforced.

Just how different this system of Westem-style schools was from the type of

education prevailing in most areas prior to colonialism, and specifically from the type of

education found in North India, Indonesia, and Egypt, will be the subject of the first part

of this chapter. The remainder of the chapter will be a detailed discussion of the

emergence of a centralized system of Westem-style schools in these three colonies,

demonstrating that in these colonies, over a period of roughly a century, what was

initially a largely alien understanding of education came to be the norm, and in some

cases the only game in town, for increasingly large segments of the population.

Some General Statements About Pre-Colonial Education

When Western powers first established their control over colonial territories, the

transmission o f skills and knowledges from adults to the young as practiced in most of

these territories was a completely decentralized affair. Boys learned religious ritual and

practice from a local religious figure and were initiated into their roles as hunters or

merchants or craftsmen by adult practitioners o f those skills. According to Michael

Crowder, in non-Muslim Africa prior to the advent o f colonial rule education consisted of

learning how to hunt, fish, wage war, dance, practice religion and understand their

physical environment. These sets of knowledges, essential for the functioning o f the local

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community, were complemented by the skills necessary to integrate the community into

the larger world, aschildren were taught the skills of barter and the rates of exchange

among the different currencies in use in their area.3 In religiously heterogeneous areas,

the process of transmitting knowledge - and the content o f that knowledge - often

differed substantially among different religious communities. Obviously the rituals and

practices which boys had to master to become full members of the religious community

were different for different faiths, but because it was common for certain confessions to

monopolize certain professions, the functional knowledges which boys of different faiths

were expected to absorb might also be completely different. The institutionalization of

different practices of education leading to different trades and professions in different

religious communities may have reached its most formally elaborate level in the

immediate pre-colonial period in the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman territories were formally

divided into millets, or separate religious communities which enjoyed almost complete

autonomy as long as they paid their taxes and did not violate Ottoman law. In a typical

Ottoman city each millet would occupy a particular portion of the city, govern itself in

accordance with its own religious laws, educate its own children, and practice the

occupations historically associated with its religious community. While the education

and occupations of members of different faiths may not have been subject to such rigid

divisions in other areas, religious difference often resulted in different educational and

professional trajectories in the pre-colonial period.

While all communities had accepted norms for what constituted an education,

individual teachers usually had great latitude in how, when, and what they taught. In fact,

3 Michael Crowder, West Africa Under Colonial Rule, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968),
372

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to call them “teachers” is something of a misnomer, since in today’s parlance this

conjures up an image o f a person whose full-time occupation is the transmission o f a

specific body o f knowledge to others. In the pre-colonial period, however, at all but the

most advanced levels of religious education there were no adults whose full-time

responsibility was to educate. Outside o f the highest levels of religious schooling, there

was no larger hierarchical structure which took responsibility for producing and

replicating teachers or holding them to particular standards. Teachers were hardly

unaccountable, however; rather than reporting to a remote and impersonal educational

structure they were responsible on a much more regular basis to a more local and

demanding constituency - the community in which they plied their trade. This

ecommunity controlled their livelihood by providing for them in the form of gifts or fees,

but it also accorded them honored status and held them in great esteem.4

Pre-Colonial Education in North India, Indonesia, and Egypt

Education in Indonesia, Egypt before the Ottoman-era reforms begun by

Mohammed Ali, and to a somewhat lesser extent in North India prior to colonial rule,

strongly resembled thepicture sketched above. Since education was largely inseparable

from religion, Egyptian and Indonesian boys of different faiths rarely studied together.

Each community followed its own educational trajectory, with each step up the ladder of

educational achievement - from teaching the alphabet to becoming a renowned scholar -

located within the confines o f one’s religious

community.

4 Yet another way in which education has changed from the pre-colonial period until the present.

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Egyptian children - Muslim and Coptic Christian - attended schools known as

the kuttab. In Muslim kuttabs children memorized parts o f or the entire Quran and

learned the rituals necessary to correct practice of the faith. The specificity with which

these rituals might be imparted is described by a European visitor to a Muslim kuttab in

the 1830’s, who noted that “inquiries as to the quantity o f adulteration, which makes

water improper for ablution, into the grammatical turn of the language or prayer, into the

cases in which the obligations to fast may be modified, into the gestures in adoration

most acceptable to Allah - are the controversies which are deemed of the highest

importance” in kuttab study.5 Upon concluding their kuttab studies, most Muslim boys

learned basic arithmetic, weights, and currency from the public weigher in the

marketplace.6 The handful of boys who were inclined to seek further knowledge - and

whose families were able to spare them from more immediately remunerative activities -

embarked on an educational pilgrimage whose first stop was madrasas located at

teaching-mosques in Egypt’s larger cities, such as al-Ahmadi in Tanta and Ibrahim Pasha

in Alexandria. The path o f higher education for Muslim boys culminated in Cairo at the

pinnacleof learning not just of Egypt but of the entire Muslim world - al-Azhar. At al-

Azhar future religious scholars studied Koran recitation and exegesis, Islamic

jurisprudence, the traditions of the Prophet, calculation o f the times of prayer and o f

Islamic holidays, and mysticism, as well as grammar, logic, arithmetic, astronomy, and

algebra. Coptic children in Egypt also began their education in kuttabs, which taught

them to memorize portions of the Psalms and the Gospels or the Epistles as well as

5 Gregory Starrett, Putting Islam to Work:Education, Politics, and Religious Transformation in Egypt,
(Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1998), 39

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prayers in the Coptic language for use in church services.7 Since the range of occupations

which Coptic boys would practice, including such traditional Coptic professions as tax

collecting, accounting, or land-surveying, were fairly clearly defined, Coptic kuttabs

supplemented religious studies with subjects such as arithmetic and geometry that were

necessary for the successful practice of those occupations.8 According to Heyworth-

Dunne, in Egypt in this period there is no evidence of distinct higher education for

Copts.9 As in Egypt, children of different faiths followed different educational paths in

pre-colonial Indonesia. Elementary education for Muslims revolved around recitation of

the Quran, which was learned either in the homes of mosque leaders or in prayer houses

known as langgars.10 In Java the next step for Muslim boys was the pesantren, “a

monastic school of sorts” where students began at the age of about ten and sometimes

continued into their thirties.11 Products of the pesantren might journey to regional

centers of Islamic learning analogous to Egypt’s teaching mosques, or to Mecca or to

Cairo to study at al-Azhar. Elementary education for Christian children centered on

reading Malay translations of the Bible and learning songs for church services, with the

latter receiving as much attention as prayer and ritual instruction did in Indonesian

6 J. Heyworth-Dunne, An Introduction to The History o f Education in Modem Egypt, (London: Frank Cass
and Company Ltd., 1968), 2-3

7 ibid, 85-87

8 ibid

9 ibid, 87

10 Karel Steenbrink, Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islam, Contacts and Conflicts, 1596-1950,
(Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B.V., 1993), 86

11 H. Kroeskamp, Early Schoolmasters in A Developing Country: A History o f Experiments in School


Education in Nineteenth-Century Indonesia, (Assen: Van Gorcum and Comp, 1974),?

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96

Muslim schools.12

The educational situation in India differs somewhat from those of pre-colonial

Egypt and Indonesia. Information on what pre-colonial schools were like in India is quite

limited,13 and the only systematic attempts to report on the state of education in particular

areas of the country were conducted by the British in the first three territories which came

under their control - Bombay, Madras, and Bengal. Some information on pre-colonial

education in Punjab is included in Nurullah and Naik’s magisterial A History o f

Education in India, in Mukeiji’s History o f Education in India: Modem Period, and in

Mehta’s History o f The Growth and Development o f Western Education in the Punjab,

and I have tried to indicate the differences that these reports highlight between the

educational process in Punjab and that of other parts of India. These reports sketch out an

educational process which, while heavily informed by religion, was not exclusively

determined by it.

North Indian boys, like their counterparts in Egypt and Indonesia, seem to have

frequently enrolled in schools meant only for members o f their own faith. In Punjab

Mehta reports that the menu of choices for elementary education included Hindu

pathshalas which taught Mantras and imparted a basic knowledge of the Shastras,

Muslim Koran schools, and Sikh Gurmukhi schools. The latter provided instruction in the

Gurmukhi script o f the Punjabi language historically associated with Sikhs, exposed boys

to the Granth, the sacred text o f Sikhism, andtaught them skills specific to their position

12 Steenbrink, 86

13 Syed Nurullah and J.P. Naik, among the foremost historians o f Indian education, note that “it is
unfortunate that the sources o f information regarding the character and extent o f the indigenous system o f
education in the earlier half o f the nineteenth century should be extremely meagre the available sources
refer only to British territories which, at that time, formed but a small part o f India, and w e have next to no

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as members o f the Punjab’s ruling class, including “learning to ride and being a

warn or.
. . f n r r .V -L r

Unlike the cases of Egypt and Indonesia, however, we also have evidence of

Indian children o f different faiths attending the same schools, at least at the elementary

level. British inquiries about education in Bombay carried out from 1823 to 1825 noted

that at the elementary school level “it must be said that as a rule, the common schools

were not communal in their working and they were open to all who could afford to pay

for their schooling. The schools conducted for the Muslim community where Persian or

Hindustani (Urdu) was taught were, no doubt, exclusively resorted to by Muslim

children. But the Hindoo (sic) schools were open to the Muslim boys if they wanted to

attend them.” 15 In Punjab, Mukeiji reports that two types of elementary schools

dominated—Sikh and Muslim ones, with many Hindu boys attending Muslim schools.16

Literacy in Persian, the court language until 1837, was a central component of elementary

education in Punjab, and while it was taught almost exclusively by Muslims, it was

learned by students of all faiths in whatever elementary school they attended.17 Prakash

Tandon, the Hindu memoirist of British Punjab, noted that in the early 1850’s his

data regarding the vast remaining area which was under the rule o f several Indian potentates.” Nurullah and
Naik, A History o f Education in India, During the British Period, (Bombay: Macmillan Press, 1951),!
u H.R. Mehta, A History o f the Growth and Development o f Western Education in the Punjab, 1846-1884,
(Punjab Government Records Office, Monograph No. 5), 1929, 14

15 A Source-Book o f History o f Education in the Bombay Province, Part I, Survey o f Indigenous Education
(1820-1830), editorial note by Shri R.V. Parulekar, quoted in Nurullah and Naik, 9

1<>S.N. Mukeiji, History o f Education in India - Modem Period, (Baroda: Acharya Book Depot, 1966), 108

17 ibid, 15

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grandfather received his elementary education and learned Persian at a school attached to

a Sikh dharamsala or temple.18

Beyond the level of elementary education, it seems that most opportunities for

higher education in pre-colonial India were separated on the basis of religious affiliation.

Descriptions of education in Bombay in the 1820’s mention Hindu schools o f higher

learning, including 16 in Ahmednagar and as many as 164 in Poona C ity.19In the Bengal

of the 1830’s William Adam, author of the most reliable British assessments o f pre­

colonial education, reported that there were no Muslim institutions of higher learning but

there were 38 Sanskrit colleges.20 In Punjab Mehta cites the existence o f Hindu secular

schools “of various kinds” which taught philosophy, astronomy, astrology, and medicine;

Muslim madrasas which taught theology,/?^, astronomy, and the yunarti system of

medicine, and Sikh seats of learning, such as the Amritsar Akalbunga, which provided

students with free education as well as shelter, food, and clothing.21

From the reports cited above we know that pre-colonial education in Indonesia

and in Egypt was provided separately to children of separate faiths, a pattern which

seems to have occurredless frequently at the lower stages of education in India and very

commonly at the higher levels. These reports and others also tell us what the everyday

experience of education was like for students in these areas, an experience which is

characterized most strongly by three elements; the lack of boundaries separating

18 Punjabi Century, 1857-1947, Prakash Tandon, (Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1961), 15

19 Nurullah and Naik, 15

20 ibid, 23

21 Mehta, 17

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education from other arenas such as religion and commerce, the centralityof recitation

and memorization as methods of learning, and the almost absolute autonomy

which teachers possessed in their schools.

The most immediate difficulty preventing the establishment of education as a

discipline separate from other arenas was the physical space occupied by the school.

Schools in this period were almost never located in buildings solely used for the process

of learning. Elementary education in India seems to have been overwhelmingly provided

at home; an 1830’s report on the state o f education in Bengal found that “the number of

children under domestic instruction was nearly nine times the number of pupils in public

schools,”22 while Bombay elementary schools in the mid-!820’s were located in sites

which varied from private homes to the sheds of barbers and potters. Government

surveyors of education in Bombay noted that “in all the reports under consideration, there

is no mention of a single school which was held in a house exclusively used for itself.”23

Elementary education in Modjokuto, a region in Java, was provided in schools known as

pondoks which were founded by pilgrims returning from Mecca. Since these schools

were literally a one-man affair, they were located wherever that man could find space for

them. The most formal and permanent sites for education in this period were invariably

houses o f worship; Egyptian Muslim kuttabs were located in mosques, at saint’s tombs,

or, in larger towns, in buildings adjacent to the public fountain, while Mehta reports that

22 Nurullah and Naik, 23

23 ibid, 9

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Punjabi schools were usually attached to places of worship - mosques, Hindu temples, or

Sikh dharamsalas.24

One difficulty in creating a discipline of education separate from the practice of

religion or commerce was the location of the schools in which that education took place;

this difficulty was only compounded by the fact that teachers were not full-time

educators. Egyptian Muslim kuttabs were presided over by a f i q i , which Mitchell

defines as the “local healer, Quran reciter, and holyman,” 25 and teachers in Punjab, as in

much of the rest of India, were often priests or mullahs. Commercial endeavors often

went hand in hand with educational ones. In the pondoks o f the Modjokuto region of

Java, students divided their time between learning to recite the Quran and working in the

fields of their teacher or at cloth-dyeing or cigarette-producing factories attached to the

pondok2t while children in Egyptian kuttabs could at times be found making straw mats

for the teacher to sell or use.27

Just as there was no clear division between various life activities and schooling,

there was also little if any division of different types of knowledge into different

disciplines, each based on its own sources. Books used to inculcate religious faith also

served as the primer o f more “secular” subjects, as in the Christian schools in Indonesia

in which “geography was limited to Palestine and the Apostle Paul’s travels,” and

“history was practically identical with the biblical history.”28 Epics and collections of

24 Mehta. 15

25 Mitchell, 87

25 Clifford Geertz, The Religion o f Java, (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1960), 134

27 Starrett, 35

28 Steenbrink, 86

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moral sayings also served as the basis for the teaching of history. William Arnold,

Director of Public Instruction in Punjab from 1856-59, was scandalized to find that

students’ knowledge of the rise of Islam in India was derived from the Sikandamama, a

mythical history which sought to underline the high status of the Moghul emperors by

placing them in a lineage with, and implicitly comparing them to, Alexander the Great.

The Sikandamama was routinely recited by Punjabi students as an integral part of the

process of becoming literate, but because in Arnold’s estimation it was a “narrative of

facts which are not true,”29 it had to be replaced with “authentic” history.

Whatever texts were used, the key way of internalizing them was through

memorization and recitation, commonly referred to as “singing,” “chanting,” or

“rocking” by disapproving British officials. One European author wrote that in an

Alexandria kuttab which he visited in the early 1830’s,'“while studying, or rather learning

to repeat, their lessons, each boy declaims his portion of the Koran aloud at the same

time, rocking his body to and fro, in order, according to their theory, to assist the

memory.”30 Alfred Milner, under secretary for finance in Egypt, had choicer words for

the process, saying that “to sit on the ground swinging your body backwards and

forwards, and continually repeating, in a monotonous chant, a quantity of matter which

you are taught to regard with religious reverence, but never taught to understand,” was in

fact “anti-educational.” 31 Similarly, Arnold wrote that in the Punjab of the 1850’s “a

whole population agreed together that to read fluently and if possible to say by heart a

29 Krishna Kumar, Political Agenda o f Education: A Study o f Colonialist and Nationalist Ideas, (New
Delhi: Sage Publications, 1991), 57

30 James S t John, Egypt and Nubia, 1845, pp. 31-32, quoted in Starrett, 35

31 Milner, England in Egypt, p. 366, quoted in Starrett, 36

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102

series of Persian works of which the meaning was not understood by the vast majority,

and of which the meaning when understood was for the most part little calculated to edify

the minority, constituted education.”32

While each community had a common understanding of what constituted an

“education”, within those broad parameters teachers exercised a great deal of freedom in

picking what and how they taught. Geertz describes each Modjokutan pondok as “a kind

of small religion of its own under its own teacher and as often as not antagonistic to all

other schools in the area.”33 In pre-colonial Punjab, Mehta reports that teachers were not

subject to any systematic oversight, either by the state or by town or village councils.34

Certain texts by common agreement were supposed to be learned, but “individual

teachers seem to have had considerable room for exercising their own judgement and

taste in the selection of texts that students could read on their own”35 once they had some

degree of language proficiency.

Just as there was often a great deal of variety in what was taught, in many cases

there were students of a great variety of ages and skill levels in a single school learning

the same material together. The students learning Koran recitation in Modjokutan

pondoks ranged from six to twenty-five years of age,36 while in many schools in Punjab,

“all though (sic) small knots of boys received their lessons together in some o f the books,

32 Kumar, 50-51

33 Geertz, 134

34 Mehta, 22

35 Kumar, 72

36 Geertz, 134

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yet there was no system of classes, nor teaching boys in divisions according to their

different attainments.”37 But other Indian and Indonesian schools developed elaborate

mechanisms for dividing students into different skill levels and teaching them

accordingly. In the larger Muslim schools in Java rural religious teachers known as

kiyais taught the advanced pupils or santris, who in turn taught the beginners, meaning

that a school run by one kiyai could have thousands of students.38 Written exams, which

were not in use in Britain before the 1800’s,39 were unknown in pre-colonial India,

Indonesia, or Egypt; individual teachers decided when a student had mastered enough

material to move on to the next level of education.

While teachers were largely autonomous in this period, that autonomy was

tempered by teachers’ need to please their constituency - the community in which they

taught. Mehta’s description of the place of teachers in Punjab accurately describes their

position in Indonesia and Egypt as well. “His status, the respect he might command, and

indirectly his remuneration were all determined by the reputation he enjoyed for his

learning, character, and his interest as a priest in the well-being o f his flock.” While

teachers in Muslim kuttabs in Egypt might receive some sort of salary from the

adminstration of waqf properties, like teachers elsewhere they also depended on the

largesse o f the community in which they practiced. To paraphrase Mehta, “in a word,

public opinion, not an appointment order issued by the State or the village council,

determined (the) deserts and (the) living wage ”40 of pre-colonial teachers in India,

37 Mehta, 21-22

38 Steenbrink, 85

39 Richard Symonds, The British and Their Successors: The Government Services in the New States,
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966), 45

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Indonesia, and Egypt, and many teachers enjoyed the esteem of their community and

enjoyed a relatively high standard of living.

On the eve of colonial rule in India and Java, and prior to the inception of

Muhammad Ali’s modernizing reforms in the 1820’s in Egypt, education was a process

almost inseparable from religion, equated with memorization, provided simultaneously to

boys o f different ages, and purveyed by teachers with a great deal of autonomy in what

and how they taught. Beginning in 1813 in India, in the 1820’s in Egypt, and in the

1830’s in Java, a system of Westem-style schools would be created which would first

grow side-by-side with, and would eventually supplant, their pre-colonial predecessors.

The rest of this chapter describes in some detail how these systems evolved in each o f my

three cases.

The Construction of A Centralized Education System in India

The Portuguese discovery o f the sea-route to India in 1498 initiated four and a

half centuries of close contact between Europe and the subcontinent. The first Westem-

style schools for Indians were founded by Portuguese missionaries in the 1500’s, efforts

which were continued by French and Danish missionaries over the next two centuries. It

was a German missionary, Frederick Schwartz, who created what seems to have been the

first school system providing Westem-style education - albeit on a very small scale -

subsidized by a local government in India. Schwartz’s schools, which taught English,

Tamil, Hindustani, and account-keeping, were, by his arrangement, inspected by and

40 Mehta, 16

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submitted their financial statements to the Court of Tanjore, in return for which they

received Court subsidies/7

When the British East India Company assumed control o f Bengal in 1757,

making Britain the pre-eminent European power in India, the Company displayed no

interest in going into the education business. Company officials, however, had founded

two important schools by the end of the century. At the urging of the local Muslim elite,

concerned even at this early stage with communal competition for bureaucratic posts,

Warren Hastings, the first governor-general of India, founded the Calcutta Madrasa in

1781 in order to “qualify the sons o f Mohamedan gentlemen for responsible and

lucrative offices in the state, even at that time largely monopolised by the Hindus.”42 This

institution was followed by its logical counterpart in 1791, when the Resident at Benares

founded the Benares Sanskrit College, intended to “accomplish the same purpose for the

Hindus as the Madrasa for the Mohammedans, and specially to supply Hindu assistants to

European judges,” while also acting “for the preservation and cultivation of the Laws,

Literature, and Religion of the Hindoos.”43 While support for traditional learning helped

the Company to curry favor with the Hindu and Muslim elite, missionary attempts to

spread Christian education paid no such dividend, and in 1783 private Europeans were

forbidden to enter India without the permission o f the British government.44

41 Mukerji, 20. This account of the development o f Westem-style education in India during the colonial
period is based largely on the works o f Mukeiji and o f Nurullah and Naik.

42 A.P. Howell, Education in British India, (Calcutta: Government Printing, 1872), p. 1, as quoted in
M ukeiji, 22.

43 H. Sharp, ed.. Selections from Educational Records, Part I, (Calcutta: Government Printing, 1920), p.
31, as quoted in Mukerji, 23.

44 Mukerji, 25

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The missionaries, however, would not be denied. They continued, under the threat

of deportation, to surreptitiously conduct the educational institutions that they had already

established, while mounting pressure in England for the removal of the ban on their free

entry into India. Almost all of the major changes in the East India Company’s policy

were made by parliament on the occasion of its renewal of the Company’s Charter every

twenty years, and the Company’s policies on education were no exception. Prior to the

1813 renewal missionaries blanketed the English public with “evidence” that the

Company was blocking the spread of Christianity in India, and when the charter was

renewed that year, two provisions had been inserted which were to change the face of

education in India dramatically. The first was that parliament authorized the Governor

General to spend 100,000 rupees a year on education in India and instructed him to

provide educational facilities which would enable Indians to enter the public services.45

The second was that British subjects, including missionaries, were to be permitted to

enter the country freely.

Nurullah and Naik, whose history of education in British India is one of the most

authoritative texts on the subject, call the 1813 Charter Act “the beginning o f the State

system of education in India under the British rule.”46 As with all good state projects,

this one began with a call for a study on the topic. In 1822 the Governor of Madras

authorized a survey of educational efforts in his province, followed by similar studies

begun in Bombay in 1824 and Bengal in 1835. Surveyors in Madras were charged with

gathering a list of the schools in each district which taught reading and writing, a list of

45 Mukeiji, 46

46 Nurullah and Naik, xvi

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the books used in these schools, a count o f the number of students in each school, their

caste affiliations, how long they remained at the school, the sum that they paid for their

education, and the existence, if any, of a public endowment to supplement these school

fees.47

By the end o f the 1820’s, then, the East India Company had begun to ascertain the

shape of education in the territories under its control, and had been committed to

spending part of its revenues to further develop that education. The question of what kind

of education the Company’s money would support remained to be decided, a decision

which came in 1834. The Charter Act of 1813 had authorized the Company to spend

100,000 rupees for “the revival and improvement of literature and the encouragement of

the learned natives of India and for the introduction and promotion of a knowledge of the

sciences.”48 Disagreement about how to interpret this authorization had erupted among

various British officials, who can be roughly divided into three camps: Orientalists,

Anglicists, and Vemacularists. Orientalists contended that by “literature” the Charter

intended Arabic and Sanskrit literature, and they argued that the Company’s resources

should be used to support the extension of education in those areas. Anglicists, as their

name implies, advocated instead the spread of European knowledge through English,

while Vemacularists supported giving instruction in the medium of the vernacular

languages of a given area. Lord Macaulay, as the head of the General Committee of

Public Instruction which managed education under the East India Company, was asked to

decide this controversy, a decision with enormous ramifications for the school system

47 Sir Thomas Munro, Minute o f June 25, 1822, quoted in Nurullah and Naik, 2-3

48 Mukeiji, 33

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that developed under British rule. Macaulay’s decision, issued by Lord Bentinck as a

Minute in 1834, stated that Company-supported education should not be carried out in

the Indian vernaculars, which in his opinion were “too poor and crude to be made

vehicles of thought and expression.” He also argued that English was more useful as a

medium o f instruction than Arabic or Sanskrit because the former was the “key to

modem knowledge,”49 in addition to which vocal members of the Indian elite wanted the

Company to commit itself to English-language education, a point which will be discussed

further in Chapter 6. The Company’s decision to promote English-language education,

and the receptiveness of many Indians to it, were further supported by the substitution of

English for Persian as the official language in 1837, as well as a Government Resolution

in 1844 opening the doors to higher posts in the civil service to Indians who had received

English-language higher education.

The educational policy of the Company from 1834 until 1854 was based on what

Mukeiji calls “the filtration theory” - the idea that the duty of the Company was not to

educate the mass o f Indians, but to illuminate a handful of elites who would then assume

the task of educating their countrymen. This elite, who would serve as the gatekeepers of

education for their countrymen, would be trained to carry out their task properly by being

given a European education in the medium of the English language, creating “a class of

persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in

intellect.”50

49 Mukeiji, 70-71

50 Macaulay’s Minute, quoted in Mukerji, 71

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The filtration theory remained at the core o f Company education policy until

1854, when Wood’s Despatch was issued. On the occasion of the 1853 renewal o f the

Company’s Charter, it was noted that in that year in the five provinces under British

control - Bengal, Bombay, Madras, the Northwest Provinces, and Punjab - only Bombay

Presidency and the NW Provinces had a system o f Westem-style elementary education.

By this point fewer than 40,000 students in all five provinces studied in government

schools of one type or another, and less than 1% of government revenue was being

directed toward education.51 In 1854 Wood’s Despatch, sometimes attributed to John

Stuart Mill, who was a clerk in the India Office at the time, signaled a sea change in the

form that subsequent Company educational efforts. The Despatch stated that the efforts

of the government would heretofore be focused on providing education for the masses

rather than for a handful of elites and charged the government with “creating a properly

articulated scheme o f education, from the primary school to the university” which would

spread Western learning by creating vernacular schools for primary instruction and

English-medium instruction for middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities.52

If Wood’s Despatch signaled the Company’s intent to become actively involved

in the provision of Westem-style education from the elementary level on up,

parliament’s 1854 mandate that the Company substitute competitive written exams for

patronage53 as the way to gain jobs in the service ensured increased Indian demand for

precisely that type of education. The exam which granted admission to the coveted higher

posts in the Company service required knowledge of European classics as well as facility

51 Mukerji, 111

52 ibid, 48

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in Latin and Greek; lower-level appointments were less demanding but still necessitated

completion of varying levels of Westem-style education. Increasing numbers of Indians

sought that type o f education over the next decades as the Company’s service, and the

local bureaucracy of the Crown once the Queen assumed direct control of India after the

Mutiny of 1857, became more and more Indianized. In the 1860’s and 1870’s a “broad

vernacular education” was necessary for any position paying more than Rs. 20 per month;

promotions to jobs paying Rs. 25 per month required passing a middle school

examination, and higher positions required literacy in English and a college degree.54 In

1879 almost all appointments to posts with salaries over 200 rupees were restricted to

Indians,55 and by 1891 the bureaucracy at all but the highest levels had been Indianized;

in that year a typical Indian administrative district of one million Indians had at most six

European officials. The subordinate civil service, which accounted for the overwhelming

majority of civil service positions, had a total of 110,000 officers in 1891, 97% of whom

were Indian.56

Just as the bureaucracy was Indianized in the period from 1854 until 1891, so was

the provision o f the Westem-style education necessary to gain access to it. Wood’s

Despatch, while calling for a major expansion of elementary education, simultaneously

threw the responsibility for its creation on private shoulders; the Despatch envisioned an

educational system in which non-state bodies would found schools and the government

53 Symonds 30

54 Kenneth Jones, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century Punjab, (Berkeley: University
of California Press, 1976), 59-60

55 Symonds 63

56 ibid

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would help to support them through the provision o f grants-in-aid.57 The main non-state

bodies involved in education in 1854 were missionaries; in that year they were already

educating almost twice as many primary school students as the 36,000 children enrolled

in government primary schools,58 and “it was expected that Government would gradually

withdraw from direct educational enterprises and would leave the field entirely to private

effort, which consisted mainly of missionaries at that time.”59 Between 1854 and 1882,

however, that private effort was increasingly being made by Indians, a pattern which

continued more dramatically after the Hunter Commission o f 1882. The Elementary

Education Act of 1880 had made elementary education compulsory for boys in

England,60and the Hunter Commission carried this concern for elementary education to

India by reaffirming the Wood’s Despatch decision to focus government efforts there on

primary education. The Commission also insisted that government should continue to

withdraw from direct educational provision and organize a better, more tightly-run

program of grants-in-aid to private sector providers. Affirming that the government did

not consider missionaries to be truly “private sector” entities, the Commission noted that

the government’s intent was not to cede the provision o f Westem-style education to

missionaries but rather to create a national education system based on private Indian

enterprise assisted by government subsidies.61 The result, as Nurullah and Naik report,

57 Nurullah and Naik, xvii

58 Mukeiji, 132

59 ibid, 123. The fact that according to Wood’s Despatch grants were to be based on perfect religious
neutrality did not constitute an obstacle to funding missionary schools in practice, since while “the
Government declined to force the study o f the Bible on non-Christian students, they did not refuse
to give grants to schools where Christianity was taught.” Mukeiji, 123-124

60 ibid, 142-3

61 ibid, 142-150

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was that between 1880 and 1900 that Indians had founded so many schools and colleges

that they had become “the key agency for spreading Western education.”62 Outside of

Madras, Bengal, and Assam, however, by 1902 the government was still funding and

founding the lion’s share of primary schools as well as many o f the secondary schools.63

Large-scale British involvement in Indian education only began in 1813, but over

the next century the shape of that education had changed enormously. “In the early

1800’s,” Nurullah and Naik argue, “the indigenous system o f education held the field, but

by the end of the 1800’s this system had “disappeared almost completely and a

new system of education, which aimed at the spread of Western knowledge through the

medium of the English language, was firmly established in its place.”64 Nurullah and

Naik contend that when Wood’s Despatch called on the government to create a system

of Westem-style education from primary school to the college level, the British had not

intended this as a death blow to indigenous education. But after 1854 “the officials of

those days generally neglected these (indigenous) institutions out o f utter contempt; in

some instances attempts at improvement were made which, though well-meant, were so

ill-advised as to lead rather to destruction than to improvement (and) these errors of

commission and omission combined with the patronage that was extended to the new

system by the free employment of persons trained in it in Government service led to the

almost complete extinction o f the indigenous system of education..... by 1900, practically

62 Nurullah and Naik, xix

63 Mukerji, 157

64 Nurullah and Naik, xiv

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all the institutions of higher education used English as the medium of instruction and

aimed at the spread o f Western knowledge and science.”65

Students of Indian history will notice that I did not single out the 1857 Mutiny

and the subsequent transfer o f control over India from the East Indies Company to the

Crown as an important turning point in the development of a Westem-style education

system there. In fact, the assertion of Crown control over India did not signal any change

in Britain’s educational policy in its colony. Parliament, through the medium of its

renewals of the Company’s Charter every twenty years, had been making education

policy for India for decades prior to the Mutiny, and while Westem-style schools

expanded after 1857, they did so within the framework of a system that had already been

set in place by the mid-1850’s.

The Particulars of Punjab

Since my argument about the role that the Dayananda Anglo-Vedic schools

played in the expansion o f the Arya Samaj centers in large part on the founding and early

growth of these schools in Punjab, I want to briefly place Punjab in the context of the

overall story about the evolution o f a Western education system in India in the nineteenth

century. The case of Punjab is not markedly different from that sketched above, but it

does suggest some important qualifications to it. Punjab came under British control later

than educational pioneers such as Bengal and Madras, only becoming a British province

in 1849. Perhaps this difference in timing accounts for the comparatively slower

development in Punjab both o f Western education in general and in the extent to which

Indian groups and individuals were providing it. Nurullah and Naik report that between

1880 and 1900 the initiative in spreading Western education in India had devolved from

65 Nurullah and Naik, xviii

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the government and missionaries onto Indians, some of whom received government

subsidies while others did not. This was definitely true of Madras and Assam, and

especially of Bengal, where Indian effort in the educational sphere far outstripped

government effort. In the rest of India, however - in Bombay, the United Provinces, the

Central Provinces, Berar, Coorg, and Punjab - the total number of Westem-style schools

at all levels were, by 1902, still overwhelmingly being run directly by the government. In

Bombay in 1881-82 there were 3,811 government primary schools as opposed to 196

aided private schools; in 1901-2 the numbers were 4,670 government primary schools

compared to 1,929 aided private schools.66 In the United Provinces Indian educational

effort, helped by government subsidies, increased dramatically between 1881-2 and

1901-2, but in the latter period the government still decisively held the field. In 1881-2

there were 5,561 government primary schools in the U.P. compared to 243 aided primary

schools; in 1901-2 the numbers were 4,598 government primary schools and 2,463 aided

ones. 67

In Punjab, the number of privately founded, government-subsidized Western

schools also increased much more slowly than the number of government-founded ones

did. In 1881-2- four years before the Arya Samaj’s first DAV school opened - there

were 1,549 government primary schools and 278 private, government-subsidized ones. In

1901-2 there were 1,802 government primary schools compared to 636 Indian-founded

primary schools receiving government assistance.68 The government was also way ahead

of private initiative at the secondary school level; in 1883-84 government English

66 Mukerji, 157

67 ibid

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secondary schools (as opposed to vernacular secondary) enrolled 3,289 students, while

aided private secondary schools educated only 1,393 students.69 Not only did

governmental provision of Western education outstrip that o f private provision in Punjab;

in 1881-2, four years before the first DAV school opened, almost all private secondary

schools in the province were being run by non-Indians. In that year the Punjab had only

two English-language private secondary schools run by Indians, while 118 secondary

schools were being managed by non-Indians. Since private initiative in the educational

sphere was overwhelmingly taken either by Indians or by missionaries, it seems safe to

assume that this means that only four years before the first DAV school opened almost all

private secondary education was being provided by missionaries,70 a point which will be

revisited in Chapter 5. According to Nurullah and Naik’s figures, this was the most

lopsided ratio of non-Indian private secondary schools to Indian private secondary

schools to be found among the provinces of Madras, Bombay, Bengal, N.W. Province

and Oudh, the Central Provinces, and Assam in that year.71

The statistics cited above all refer to schools either directly run by the government

or receiving aid from it, which means that these schools were teaching a fairly similar and

standardized curriculum. This curriculum represented a radical change from pre-colonial

education and was developed largely by William Arnold, the Director of Public

Instruction in Punjab from 1856-9.

68 Mukerji, 157

69 Mehta, 63

70 Nurullah and Naik, 297

71 ibid, 287

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Upon surveying the educational landscape in Punjab as he found it in the mid-

1850’s, Arnold found many practices which clashed with his conception o f what

constituted an education. “We found a people ignorant o f the geography of their own

province, ignorant that there was such a science as geography, and therefore prepared to

reject geography as men are inclined to reject whatever is strange or new to them.”72

Local methods for teaching math were equally unacceptable in Arnold’s eyes. He

described “Khattries” (sic) - a Hindu trading caste - as quite adept in “mental arithmetic”

but unable to “(go) beyond their accustomed problems because (they were) unacquainted

with scientific methods.”73 This way of learning math would not be tolerated in Arnold’s

government schools, because after all, “a Government school is not an eleemosynary

institution. We are bound to give them the best education we can; and if we think the four

rules of arithmetic - the rule of three methodically taught through the medium of legible

character - more profitable to the scholar than the cumbrous processes and illegible

handwriting of Banias’ book-keeping, we are I think bound to teach the former.”74 By

1858, Arnold was proud to report that students in schools at the sub-division level could “

‘ pass a good examination’ in the geography of India, Asia, and the globe,”75 as well as

knowing the “first four rules” of math.

The biggest sea change affected by Arnold and his successors in Punjabi

education, however, was in the subject of Persian instruction. In 1837 English and the

vernacular languages o f British India replaced Persian as official languages, and in North

72 Arnold, quoted in Kumar, 56

73 Arnold, quoted in Kumar, 56

74 Arnold, quoted in Kumar, 57

75 Kumar, 57

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India the vernacular which became the official language was not Hindi in the Devanagari

script but Urdu in the Persian script. By 1855 Urdu had taken the place of Punjabi and

Persian as the official language o f the lower levels of administration.76 Yet in the late

1850’s Arnold found that “a whole population agreed together that to read fluently and if

possible to say by heart a series of Persian works of which the meaning was not

understood by the vast majority, and of which the meaning when understood was for the

most part little calculated to edify the minority, constituted education.”77 This situation

was rapidly rectified by making Urdu - a vernacular language - the language of

instruction, a change which “went against the idea that people had of a language fit for

education, for they associated being educated with ‘erudition and learning’.”78 Until this

point Urdu had not been taught in schools in Punjab, nor in Bengal, where Adam reported

with astonishment that while Urdu was the spoken language o f educated Muslims, there

were no schoolbooks written in Urdu and “it is never taught or learned for its own sake or

for what it contains.”79 Arnold was well aware of the popularity of Persian in Punjab,

noting that “little as the w ords are understood by these boys, there is no doubt that

they are much enjoyed. In one of the too frequent cases of child murder with robbery o f

ornaments, the victim, a lad of 13, was enticed out by his murderer.. ..on the pretext of

having the Bostan (a Persian text) read to him.”80 Neither popular enjoyment, nor

76 Jones, 59

77 Kumar, 50-51

78 ibid, 55

79 Adam’s Reports, quoted in Nurullah and Naik, 26

80 Kumar, 55

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widespread local conceptions o f what constituted an education, however, could be

allowed to stand in the way of creating a proper system o f education in Punjab, and

Arnold reported that “ we have greatly limited (the) number (of Persian books),

prohibiting everything which is grossly indecent.. .and everything which pertains to

religion on another ground, and limited altogether the time allowed for Persian as

distinguished from Urdu studies.”81

Not only were students opposed to these changes, but so were teachers, who were

unfamiliar with the subjects in the new curriculum and had to be sent for periods from six

months to two years to study subjects such as history, geography, and math at the Normal

School in Lahore. As Kumar describes it, “what (the teacher) had been used to regarding

as knowledge was now declared to be either false or useless.”82 This indignity was

compounded by the appearance of government inspectors on the horizon, expecting to

receive the reports and paperwork that teachers were now required to file. Perhaps the

worst change faced by teachers in British Punjab, however, was a precipitous drop in

their standard of living. Salaries for teachers in government schools were set by the

government and based on its calculation of teachers’ pre-colonial standard of living, a

calculation which was often quite wide of the mark. In the late 1850’s in Bengal, for

example, the British decided that Rs. 3 per month was what primary teachers lived on;

between 1854 and 1900 primary schoolteachers in other areas o f the country were

allocated government salaries o f Rs. 5- 15, with salaries in Northern India generally

lower than those in the South. The gap between this salary and the teacher’s pre-colonial

81 Arnold, quoted in Kumar, 55

82 Kumar, 58

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pay is demonstrated by the fact that in the pre-colonial period each student usually paid

his teacher 2 rupees per month, in addition to a monthly gift of rice, vegetables, salt, and

other edibles sufficient to provide one day’s breakfast and dinner for the teacher’s family.

These payments were supplemented by gifts on holidays and special occasions. But

“once the teacher started to get a government salary, (these extra earnings) began to dry

up. Thus, the village teacher was squeezed from both ends - the government paid him a

low wage on the ground that his income had always been small, and his extra earnings

from the community started to shrink as soon as he entered the government’s payroll.”83

Considering the decrease in his autonomy, the devaluation of his knowledge, and his

greatly diminished standard of living, it is no wonder that one teacher of the period noted

in his memoirs the comment of a colleague that “an ass who dies carrying others’ burden

and munching dry grass becomes a teacher in his next life.”84

Centralized Education Systems, Dutch-Style: The Case of Indonesia

Just as British influence in India began through the commercial ventures of the

British East India Company and evolved into direct control o f the country by the British

government, so in Indonesia were hundreds of years o f trading by the Dutch East Indies

Company supplanted by the establishment of direct Dutch government control over the

archipelago, beginning with the conquest of Java at the conclusion of the Java War in

1830 and continuing over the next decades into the Outer Islands until 1910. Unlike

India, however, where the foundations of a system of Westem-style schools had been set

during the period of Company control, the creation of such a system in Indonesia only

33 Lai Behari Day, quoted in Kumar, 76

84 Padumlal Punnalal Bakshi, quoted in Kumar, 83

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began after the Dutch government established itself as the ruler o f Java in 1830. From

this point on the development of a system of Westem-style education can be divided into

four distinct periods. In the first period, dating from the end o f the Java War in 1830 until

1871, the government founded the first Westem-style schools but made no effort to

standardize the education provided in them nor to induce indigenous schools to adopt

Western methods or curricula. In the second phase, from 1871-1890, the foundations of a

system of Westem-style schools were set by the formulation o f detailed legislation

regulating the conduct of government schools, and a grant-in-aid policy was created to

bring private schools willing to comply with the regulations under the government

educational umbrella. The third phase, from 1890 until the announcement of the Ethical

Policy at the turn of the century, saw a remarkable expansion of opportunities for

Westem-style education as the government dropped its prohibitions on funding religious

schools, rendering mission schools eligible for government funding. In the final phase,

from the announcement of the Ethical Policy until the Japanese occupation of Indonesia,

the contours o f the system laid in the previous three phases were filled out by a further

increase in the number of Westem-style schools as the Dutch government put more of its

own resources into education, in addition to “inducing” villagers to do the same.

When the Dutch initially took over Java, it was not a paying concern. Like most

colonies, however, it would have to come to pay for itself, and to ensure that it did the

cultuurstelsel or cultivation system was rapidly implemented. Cultuurstelsel replaced

land taxes with compulsory cultivation o f export crops which would be sold to the state at

fixed prices. While this policy resulted in severe hardship for the Javanese, prompting

famines and epidemics as resources were diverted away from basic staples such as rice

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into the cultivation of export crops, it very effectively achieved the Dutch goal of

wringing profit out of Indonesia. In thirty years Indonesia had become one o f the most

profitable colonies in the history of imperialism, generating crops which accounted for a

remarkable 31% of Holland’s aggregate government revenue between 1851-1860.85

Ensuring the extraction and management of this level o f resources required the

creation o f a state bureaucracy, staffed at the highest levels by Dutch officials but relying

largely on educated Javanese. To produce local bureaucrats, an 1848 Royal Decree

authorized the Governor-General to “make provision in the East-Indies budget for a sum

of fls.25,000 per year for establishing schools among the Javanese, chiefly intended for

training native civil servants.”86 This was followed by the decree o f 30th August 1851,

which mandated the creation in each of Java’s twenty residencies of one school teaching

reading and writing in the vernacular, basic math and knowledge o f weights and

measures, the geography of Java and surrounding countries, and surveying and levelling,

would be founded. It was these twenty schools which would constitute the foundation

on which Java’s Western educational system would be built.

The government’s plan to provide residency schools unleashed extensive demand

for further Westem-style education. The Dutch had divided Java into twenty

administrative divisions known as residencies, which were further subdivided into 75

regencies; each regency in turn was made up o f smaller units called districts.

85 Gouda 24. Holland’s success at exploiting Indonesian resources became the marvel o f the colonial world
and a model for other colonizers. Between 1891 and 1904 25 French study missions visited Indonesia to
study the mechanics o f the cultivation system, and it was regularly featured in the Quinzaine Coloniale, the
magazine o f the French Colonial Union. According to Frances Gouda, the 1861 publication o f J.W.B.
M oney’s Java, or How to Manage A Colony led Belgium’s King Leopold II to “literally and figuratively
(go) shopping for a colonial empire in 1862 after reading i t ” Gouda 46.

86 Kroeskamp, 451

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Dissatisfied with the 30th August plan of establishing only one school per residency, the

regents - who constituted the highest-ranking Indonesian officials in the Dutch

administrative hierarchy - began establishing schools in the capitals o f their regencies, on

their own initiative and often from their own funds. With the 1860 institution of the

statistical and topographical surveys, which created a great need for clerks who could

keep the survey registers,87 the initiative for starting Westem-style schools passed from
o o

the regents to the masses, as local communities banded together to bring schools to the

district level. A division of labor emerged between regency and district schools in which

district schools which provided only two years o f reading, writing, and math were

attended by lower-ranking officials, while regency schools, which provided a more

extended form of elementary education, catered to the children of officials who would go

into government service.

By the end of the first phase of the development of Western education in Java in

1871, 77 government schools and 72 community or district schools funded almost

entirely by village communities constituted the foundations upon which the Western

education system would be built. These foundations, however, were very shaky. The

difficulty of arranging ongoing funding meant that district schools sprang up quickly and

died just as rapidly. The more fortunate schools were adopted as subsidiaries o f the

Regency schools, which then provided them with some funding. At this juncture, while

Westem-style schools were beginning to emerge in Java, nothing remotely resembling a

Westem-style school system had come into being. In the absence of central legislation or

87 ibid, 328

88 ibid, 329; Kroeskamp notes that this “was probably the first initiative in the sphere o f education in Java
which originated from below.”

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general school regulations, there was little approaching a common curriculum. The

closest approximation of a centralizing force - the 1848 establishment o f a teachers’

school in Surakarta - had not created uniformity in practice, as teachers were frequently

recruited from outside the teachers’ school.89 While the Westem-style schools existed

independently o f and with very little effect upon one another, they had even less effect on

indigenous Javanese education. They were two completely different types of education

catering to two totally different constituencies - Western schools to the Javanese elite,

and traditional schools to the masses.

In the 1860’s, however, two developments combined to produce both an increased

demand for Westem-style education as well as the commitment of the Dutch government

to provide it. The first development was a relaxation of restrictions on the entry of

educated Javanese into the bureaucracy. Since 1825 Dutch policy had restricted higher-

level posts to people bom and educated in the Netherlands, but in 1864 this restriction

was repealed. Admission into the service became contingent on passing either the major

or minor civil service exams; the purpose o f the latter was “to make possible the

appointment of so-called native children and natives, who may apply for a position as

clerk, telegraphist, or the like and can be usefully employed as such.’,9°Preparation for the

exam required completion of the full course of primary school as well as the possession

o f basic math, Dutch, and handwriting skills. Since only European schools taught Dutch,

and since after 1849 these schools had only been open to the children o f prominent

Indonesians, making the possibilities offered by the minor civil service exam a reality

89 For example, more than twenty schools had been established before the first class o f teachers graduated
from the teachers’ school in 1854. Kroeskamp, 325

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required opening the European schools to all Indonesian children, which was done in

1864.9’ The 1864 legislation was fully in keeping with the second key development o f the

1860’s - the rise o f Liberal governments in Holland determined that education in the

colony should be made available to all children and that the Dutch would assume the

financial responsibility for doing so. In 1867 the Department of Education, Religion,

and Industry was created to oversee government education, setting the stage for the

second phase of the development of Westem-style education in Indonesia.

This second phase, from 1871-1893, witnessed two fundamental changes in the

Dutch approach to education in Indonesia. The Fundamental Education Decrees and the

General Regulations issued in 1871 and 1872 signaled the government’s intent to bind

the heretofore independent Western schools scattered across Java into an educational

system operating in accordance with regulations determined in the colonial capital of

Batavia. They also made clear that the Dutch would not be satisfied merely with creating

a system of Westem-style schools while leaving indigenous education untouched. To

effect these changes, a grant-in-aid policy was formulated in accordance with which

indigenous schools which agreed to submit to government regulations would become

eligible for government subsidies.

The process of creating a standardized Western school system proceeded apace in

the 1870’s. Uniformity among different schools would be assured first by the creation of

nine teachers’ schools instead o f the previous two; each o f these schools would become

the apex of the Western educational pyramid in its region, drawing students from that

90 Publ. H.I. Onderw, Cie, No. 9 (1 “ Part), pp. 66-68, quoted in Kroeskamp, 385

91 Kroeskamp 385

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region and delivering graduates to it to serve as teachers. Teachers had to strictly observe

the table o f subjects laid down by the government inspector, and were forbidden to use

books other than those listed in the government catalog.

While the aforementioned regulations would not require schools seeking

government grants to drastically change their way of educating, other regulations would.

Government-subsidized primary schools had to substantially expand their offerings by

teaching not only reading, writing, and math but also optional subjects picked from a

government list.92 By far the most dramatic change, however, was the stipulation that

government-funded schools could not offer religious instruction. As if this would not

constitute a sufficiently fundamental shift in Javanese conceptions of education, aid

regulations also sharply curtailed the possibilities of supplementing Westem-style

schooling with traditional religious instruction. In this period Javanese Muslim boys

regularly received religious instruction from the age of six until they were twelve or

fourteen; only after this instruction was finished did they continue on to government-

funded schools.93 This meant that, by 1863, the ages of students in regency schools -

which were extended elementary schools - ranged from six to 29, with well over two-

thirds of the students coming from the 13-18 year old age group. In an attempt to impose

some uniformity on this diversity, Article 5 of the General Regulations stipulated that

each school should be subdivided into three forms or classes, and in 1886 new

regulations insisted that no pupil over the age of 17 would be permitted to attend school.

The result of this policy was that by 1893 the distribution o f age groups in the various

92 Kroeskamp, 454

93 ibid, 333-334

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levels of government-funded education had become much more standardized. Now that

Westem-style elementary education was limited to young boys, however, the traditional

Muslim education that they had been expected to obtain prior to enrolling in Western

schools had to be significantly condensed. In this way changes initially intended

primarily to affect schools providing Westem-style education leaked into the surrounding

milieu o f traditional religious education as well.

The initial result of the Fundamental Education Decrees and the General

Regulations was to increase both the number of schools run by the government directly as

well as the number of indigenous schools brought into the government education system

through grants-in-aid. In 1873 there were 82 government schools in Java and Madura

educating 5,512 children; ten years later this had increased to 193 government schools

educating 16,214 students.94 The common practice among prominent Javanese of inviting

a relative or a teacher - frequently low-level government clerks - to teach their children

to read and write became eligible for subsidies on the condition that these classes be

opened to Indonesians of any social class, enroll a minimum of twenty students, teach

reading, writing, and math in the vernacular or Malay languages, and provide proof of the

ability of the teacher.95 As was the case in schools directly administered by the

government, these schools were eligible for subsidies only if they did not provide any

religious instruction.

After an initial increase in Westem-type schools prompted by the Fundamental

Education Decree and the General Regulations, the number of subsidized schools

94 Kroeskamp, 391

95 ibid, 408-410

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dropped off considerably, from a high of 119 schools in Java and Madura in 1878 to a

low of 55 early in 1888. The realization that the spread of Western education had hit a

road block led the Dutch government back to the drawing board, and into the third phase

o f the colony’s development of a Western school system. Seeking an explanation for the

decline of Western schooling in the colony, in 1884 the Dutch East Indies government

commissioned a study o f education in India and Sri Lanka in the hope that these colonies’

experience could shed light on that of Indonesia. The study found that a key reason for

Indonesia’s poor performance in Westem-style education was the Dutch government’s

insistence on religious neutrality in its schools. The study’s author compared the

lackluster Dutch performance with the positive results which mission schools achieved

and argued that the success of the latter could be directly attributed to their religious

beliefs.96 These conclusions gained strong support in 1888 when the Dutch Protestant

party won the Netherlands elections and a mission supporter was appointed Colonial

Affairs Minister. The new minister lost little time in replacing the previous policy

mandating “religious neutrality” with a concept which he termed “positive neutrality,”

under which all types of private education, including Islamic schools, would be eligible

for subsidies as long as they fulfilled certain government conditions.97

Making missionary schools eligible for government funding paved the way for a

significant increase in Westem-style schools in the archipelago. It also came to signal a

shift in the identity o f those providing that education, as the number of students in

schools founded by the government became much smaller than the number of students in

96 Jan Aritonang, Mission Schools in Batakland (Indonesia) 1861-1940, (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994), 13

97 ibid, 14

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missionary schools funded by it. At the end o f 1871, when mission schools were

ineligible for government subsidies, the government directly educated the lion’s share of

those receiving Westem-style education in Java - there were 4,850 students in regency

(government) schools and 3,100 students in district or community schools (paid for by

local government in the form of district schools) in Java in that year, compared to only

350 students in mission schools. By 1898 the balance between government and

missionary schools had definitively shifted - the number o f government schools and the

number o f mission schools was almost identical in that year- 505 to 503 - but the

number o f students they enrolled differed considerably, with government schools

educating 22,400 students while mission schools enrolled 57,000 students.98 This

dramatic increase in mission schools demonstrates the centrality of state funding to the

spread of Western education in the colony. Making missionary education eligible for

subsidy also furthered the standardization of Westem-style education in Indonesia, as

acceptance of subsidies after 1890 required mission schools to come into compliance

with government regulations regarding school buildings, curriculum, administration,

teacher qualification, the number of classes schools would offer and the exams or other

ways in which students would progress from one class to another.99

To recap the story until this point, in the first two phases of the spread o f

Westem-style schools in Java, the foundations o f a Western educational system had been

set, first by creating schools providing Western education and then by creating a grant-in-

aid policy which had begun to incorporate some indigenous schools into a nascent

98 Kroeskamp, 414

99 Aritonang, 29

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government school network. The number o f schools in - and thus the number of students

affected by - this network, however, remained small until, in the third phase, the lifting

of restrictions on subsidizing mission schools greatly increased the number o f Western

schools in a very short period. In the fourth phase, opportunities for Westem-style

education continued to dramatically expand as the government directed more resources

into the Westem-style school system. This phase also saw an increase in the need for

Javanese civil servants which led both to more Javanese enrolling in that system and to

an integration of the various levels of schools such that more Javanese could now

proceed all the way to university-level education.

The fourth phase in the development of a Western school system in Java was

ushered in at the turn of the century by the pronouncement of the Ethical Policy in 1900.

Beginning with the 1860 publication of Max Havelaar by a former Dutch official,

increasing exposes of the suffering of the Javanese under the cultuurstelsel system

appeared in Holland and created guilt in some quarters. By the turn of the century the

Queen spoke o f a shift in Dutch priorities in the archipelago, in which the Dutch would

embark upon a “moral mission” to educate and uplift Indonesians. This would be

accomplished by creating more schools, building transportation and infrastructure, and

increasing access to health care;100 between 1900 and 1930 Dutch spending on health

care alone grew by a factor of almost ten.101 This expansion of services required

additional civil servants, whose production was a key goal of the Ethical Policy in its first

years. Producing a larger Javanese bureaucracy, the first director o f education under the

100 Gouda, 24

101 M.C. Ricklefs, A History o f Modem Indonesia, (London: Macmillan Press, 1981), 147

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Policy proclaimed, would not only reduce the need for Dutch civil servants and thus

Dutch costs - it would also produce a “grateful and cooperative elite” and help to

“(restrain) Islamic ‘fanaticism.’”102

In order to produce this expanded cadre o f Javanese bureaucrats, not only would

new schools have to be added, but the existing schools would have to be integrated into a

progression whereby Javanese could achieve the highest levels of education. In 1893

elementary schools for Indonesians had been divided into two kinds: Second Class

schools which provided three years of elementary education and were intended for non­

elite Indonesians, and First Class schools, which provided a more advanced elementary

education over five years for children of elite families.103 These schools were upgraded

under the Ethical Policy, with First Class schools being lengthened to six years and

adding Dutch to their curriculum, while Second Class schools, which now became known

as Standaardschools, extended their program to five years. These improvements,

however, did not solve a fundamental problem - First and Second Class schools

constituted a school system for Indonesians, and since the only secondary schools were in

the European school system, graduates of the First Class schools had no way to continue

their education. In 1914 this problem was remedied with the transformation o f First Class

schools into Hollandsch-Inlandsche Schools (Dutch-Native Schools), thus bringing their

elite Indonesian students into the European school system. MULO schools - which

Ricklefs terms a “sort o f junior high school”104 were opened in 1914 to Indonesians,

Chinese, and Dutch who had finished primary school; in 1919 AMS or middle schools

102 Ricklefs, 148

103 Aritonang, 14

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were created to take students to the level of university education, and in 1920 the opening

of a technical college in Bandung enabled Indonesians to attend university within the

archipelago for the first time.105 Education for non-elite Indonesians was expanded

through the creation in 1907 of “village schools,” or three year primary schools. These

schools, which were unwillingly funded by villagers themselves and supplemented with

some government subsidies, continued to spread, largely because o f the “ ‘ gentle

pressure’ (exerted by the Dutch) which typified the Dutch approach to village welfare

measures.”106 By 1912 there were more than 2,500 village schools; by the 1930’s this had

increased to 9,600.107 In 1900 there were 265,940 students in private or government

schools across the archipelago; by 1930-1 this number had grown to 1.7 million.108

From Mohammed Ali to the Modern State: The Creation of A Centralized


Education System in Egypt

In India and Indonesia, centralized Westem-education systems were created under

the auspices o f British and Dutch colonial power. Half a century before the British

occupation of Egypt in 1882, modernizing leader Muhammad Ali initiated a reform

package —including the creation o f Westem-style schools - designed to strengthen Egypt

and protect it from potential Western incursions. Ali’s policies began the first of three

stages in the process of creating a centralized Western education system in Egypt, a

process which was largely complete by the time of the Free Officers’ coup in 1952. In the

104 Ricklefs, 150

105 ibid - up until this point a handful o f Indonesians had gone to university in the Netherlands

106 Ibid, 151

107 Ricklefs, 151

108 ibid

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first period - from the 1820’s until the British occupation in 1882 - Ali and his

successors tried to create a system of schools providing Western education alongside the

existing kuttabs which continued to educate the overwhelming majority of Egyptians.

The success of these attempts was closely tied to the fate of Muhammad Ali’s military

campaigns and to the dramatic fluctuations in state revenue faced by his descendants, and

their end result was the creation of some Western schools at all levels of education while

the kuttabs remained largely outside government control. That would change in the

second phase of the development of a Western educational system in Egypt - the period

from the British occupation in 1882 until Britain granted Egypt partial independence in

1922. In this period, the creation of a grant-in-aid policy brought increasing numbers of

kuttabs into compliance with state-formulated regulations on education, creating for the

first time a system o f schools providing Westem-style education which enrolled a large

percentage of students in Egypt rather than a tiny elite. By the final phase, dating from

partial independence in 1922 and concluding with the Free Officers’ coup in 1952, the

contours of a Western educational system had been created, and the task that remained

for the quasi-independent Egyptian government was to fill them out. That government’s

commitment to universal education, as well as its need for increasing numbers of

bureaucrats as the reach of the state continued to grow, led to the commitment of

substantial resources to the spread of education, such that while in 1878 only 2-4% of

Egyptian children attended elementary schools as represented by the kuttab,109 by 1940-1

69 out of every 1,000 Egyptians was enrolled in some level of government school.110

109 Starrett, 28-29

110 Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski, Redefining the Egyptian Nation: 1930-1945, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995), 12

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Muhammad Ali was sent to Egypt in 1798 by the Ottoman sultan to turn back the

Napoleonic invasion. After the French had been sent packing, Ali embarked upon a

process o f defensive modernization designed to bring Egypt’s resources under central

government control so that they could be made available for the larger project of creating

a modem military machine. One resource that Ali laid claim to was that o f educated

boys; in the 1820’s he began to establish preparatory and technical schools on the

outskirts o f Cairo which were filled with boys between the ages of ten and 20

requisitioned from the kuttabs. The prospect of having their sons subjected to this type of

“scholarly conscription,” 111 which would presumably be followed by outright military

conscription, led parents to withdraw their sons from the kuttabs in droves,112 prompting

Ali to bring some kuttabs under government control as well as to spread state primary

schools into the provinces.113 Ali’s purpose, however, was not to revamp Egyptian

education but to create a network of institutions for the elite who would staff his military

machine, so these efforts at centralizing control of the kuttabs were limited at best. By

1837 the outlines of a Western educational system on a very small scale begin to emerge

with the creation of 50 primary schools teaching Arabic and religious studies in a three to

four year curriculum. These schools, in turn, would feed into two four-year preparatory

schools teaching algebra, geometry, history, geography, Arabic, Persian, Turkish,

drawing, and calligraphy.114 Ali’s rule also saw the creation of professional schools for

111 The phrase is that o f a future Egyptian minister o f education, Yacoub Artin, quoted in Ibrahim Salama’s
L 'Enseignement 1stantique en Egypte: Son Evolution, son influence sur les programmes modemes, quoted
in Starrett, 27

112 Starrett, 27

1.3 ibid

1.4 Starrett, 27-28

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engineers, doctors, veterinarians, and translators. Ali’s attempts to build a primary and

secondary school system which would prepare students for these professional schools,

however, largely failed; the fate of an educational system meant to create a strong

government and military was inextricably linked to the success of Ali’s military

campaigns, and after his 1841 rout in Syria the size of the army was severely decreased

and all but three o f his flagship primary schools were closed.

The modernizing enterprise, however, was far from dead; it would be resuscitated

and fundamentally modified under Ali’s successors. Ali’s son Ismail, who came to power

in 1863, continued his father’s project of extending the reach of the central government

throughout the country, building 1,200 miles of railway lines and 9,500 miles of

telegraph lines and presiding over the proliferation o f government councils and courts

throughout the countryside responsible for “exercis(ing) a host of supervisory and

regulatory functions, recording births and deaths, overseeing tax collection, (and)

inspecting charitable foundations.”115 But while Ali’s understanding o f bringing human

resources under state control amounted to placing increasingly wide swaths of the

country under the reach o f his military machine, Ismail and his successors were

developing a more sophisticated understanding o f state control, one in which state

resources would be used to remold Egypt in such a way as to create a new Egyptian

socialized into the good health, morals, and behaviors necessary for the country’s

entrance into the modem world. Social reformer Ali Mubarak, wearing his hat as Ismail’s

Minister of Public Works, presided over an unprecedented overhaul o f the capital,

bulldozing huge sections of the narrow, crowded streets of Cairo and replacing them with

115 Hunter, “Egypt Under the Successors o f Muhammad Ali,” 190

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spacious boulevards in accordance with contemporary European beliefs that the former

were incubators o f crime and disease.116 Wearing his other hat - that o f Minister of

Schools - Mubarak presided over the first attempt to develop regulations standardizing

Western education. Symbolizing that modem education would no longer be limited to

military citadels on the outside of the capital as it had been during Ali’s day but would be

a key force in the lives of all Egyptians, Mubarak began by placing the new Bureau of

Schools as well as several of the government’s most prominent and newest schools in a

palace in the heart of Cairo.117 Legislation passed in 1867 withdrew what had been one

of the key prerogatives o f teachers - the ability to decide when their charges had

mastered the materials given to them and could be called “educated”. The 1867 law

stipulated a complicated hierarchy for the conduct of exams for students in government

schools, in which students would be examined each month by their teachers, each term by

the superintendent of their school as well as by government inspectors, and at the end of

each year by the district governor as well as other government officials.118 The Organic

Law of 1868 went much further, “determin(ing) the subjects to be taught in every

(elementary) school and those who were to teach in them, those who were to administer,

the books to be used, the timetable o f instruction.............the location o f each school, the

source o f its funds, (and) the schedule of its examinations.”119 In 1873 the creation of an

Inspector-General of Schools office launched a national system of school inspections.

116 Mitchell, 65

" 7 ibid, 64-65

1.8 ibid, 77

1.9 Mitchell, 76

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The culmination o f pre-colonial attempts to centralize the fledgling Western

school system came in the 1881 work o f the Commission on the Organization of

Knowledge. The Commission signaled its intent to bring the educational system

described above to the entire country, dictating that every village or group o f villages

with a population of 2 -5,000 would have a third class elementary school (one teacher and

forty pupils), that each area whose population was between 5,000-10,000 would have a

second class elementary school (two teachers and two classes), and that every large town

would have a first class elementary school. Students continuing their education would

attend secondary schools, of which there would be one in every province, and their

education would culminate in Cairo, where the apex of the system would naturally be

located. All children - boys and girls - would attend reformed primary schools, whose

curriculum would move beyond a primary focus on religion to encompass reading and

writing skills obtained through study of the Quran, basic grammar and math, and training

in swimming, horsemanship, and “methods of protecting and fighting for the nation.”120

Preparatory or secondary education would be limited to a smaller number o f students,

while higher education would be only for those o f the political elite.121 The

Commission’s plan sought to regulate the provision of schooling to the minutest degree -

including drawing specific building plans for each type of school which were then used

as the blueprints for state schools in Giza, Zaqaziq, and Damanhour. The intent to create

a discipline o f education distinct from the performance of other life activities was made

120 ibid, 77

121 ibid, 76-77

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clear through the Commission’s instructions on what the interior of the schools would

look like, including rows of benches with teachers sitting at a chair on a platform.122

Ambitious though these plans were - and Egypt’s repeated financial crises in the

1870’s and early I880’s prevented many of them from being fully realized - the attempts

o f Ismail and his successors to create a national education system only created a new

form o f education - government controlled schools providing Westem-style education -

which existed parallel to the form of education which educated the overwhelming

majority of Egyptian children - the kuttabs. Hunter notes that government plans in this

period included establishing “control over a large number of Islamic primary schools in

the countryside, establishing rules that minutely regulated their activities, and

administering the properties and monies bequeathed to them from charitable

endowments,” 123 - waqf - but by 1878 the approximately 5,000 kuttabs which remained

the “only formal source of entree into the literal tradition”124 were still largely outside of

government control. It would fall to the British to create a single unified system in which

the kuttabs, the heart of the Egyptian educational system and the site from which

religious education was delivered, came under government control.

The second phase of the development of a Westem-style education system in

Egypt began with the British occupation o f the country in 1882 and ended when Egypt

was granted partial independence - including complete control o f its educational affairs -

in 1922. Egypt’s position in the British empire was always somewhat anomalous -

122 Mitchell, 76-8

123 F. Robert Hunter, “Egypt Under Muhammad A li’s Successors," The Cambridge History o f Egypt,
Volume 2, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 190

124 Starrett, 28-29

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occupied in 1882 as a response to a nationalist uprising, it remained technically a

province o f the Ottoman Empire until 1914, when the British desire to preserve the

fiction of Ottoman control was superseded by the need to guarantee the loyalty o f this

strategic area during World War I and a protectorate was declared. Protectorate status

continued until partial independence was granted in 1922. As in several o f its other

colonies, the British had disparate goals in occupying Egypt - primarily protecting the

route to India and ensuring that bankrupt Egypt repaid its debts to European creditors -

and what was supposed to be a brief occupation evolved into forty years o f direct British

involvement in the everyday affairs o f the country and thirty-four more o f physical

presence there.

The British approach to education had two parts - improving the Westernized

government school system to transform members of the elite into an efficient civil

service, and providing elementary education in Arabic to the masses through the kuttabs,

supplemented by technical education so people outside the primary and secondary

schools could leam a trade.125 In pursuit o f the latter goal, in 1895 the Department of

Public Instruction began to transfer to itself control over kuttabs. The kuttabs had

previously been subject to the waqf authorities, but this should not be understood to have

constituted an educational system of the kind intended in this chapter. While waqf

authorities had periodically checked kuttabs to ensure that Quran instruction was in fact

going on, and had then disbursed waqf funding to said kuttabs, they did not oversee the

training of kuttab teachers, did not impose a syllabus or course of instruction on those

teachers, and did not interfere in their conduct of their work. By contrast, when the

125 Robert Tignor, Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt. 1882-1914, (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1966), 322

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Department of Public Instruction stepped into the kuttab arena, it began by distributing

regulations and a syllabus. Kuttabs which wished to compete for government aid had to

open themselves for a monthly inspection by the Department of Public Instruction, had

to focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic, and were not allowed to teach foreign

languages.126 Over time the number of kuttabs both administered and those regularly

inspected by the Ministry of Education soared. In 1905 the Ministry ran over one hundred

kuttabs itself and inspected 2,500 other schools, bringing a total of approximately 83,000

students’ education under government supervision.127 By the following year the number

of inspected kuttabs had increased by 70%, doubling the number of students in

supervised kuttabs. The increases in school enrollment which were registered in the

1920’s occurred primarily in kuttabs directly administered by the government - in 1922

government-administered kuttabs enrolled over 23,000 students, but by 1930 these

schools served over eleven times as many students, while the number of kuttabs under

government control had increased by a factor of 13.128

While the British viewed (reformed) kuttab education as being appropriate for as

many non-elite children as wanted to take advantage o f it, access to higher levels of

foreign-language education was another issue entirely. Many of the early British officials

in Egypt had come from postings in India,129 including Evelyn Baring (later Lord

Cromer) himself, the first consul-general in Egypt and the formulator of Egypt’s early

126 Tignor, 46-47

127 ibid, 68

128 Starrett, 68

129 Tignor, 185.

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education policy. On the basis of his Indian experience, Cromer was loath to expand

opportunities for foreign-language education beyond the point where its graduates could

be absorbed into the bureaucracy, and when the British reduced appointments to the civil

service by one-third between 1883-1888 in order to redirect Egyptian resources towards

the repayment of debt,130 this led the British to discourage large numbers o f children from

pursuing a foreign-language education. The British policy of charging fees for schooling

at all levels, based on the belief that people would not take education seriously if they

received it for free, helped to limit access to post-kuttab education, as did the foreign

language requirements. Elite children began their educations in four-year primary

schools; in theory kuttab graduates could enter primary school after passing an entrance

exam, but since elementary school was conducted in English or French until 1915, while

government-aided kuttabs were only allowed to teach in Arabic, it was almost impossible

for children to make that transition. Elementary school was followed by four years of

secondary school, which was also conducted in French or English until 1915. At this

point, then, there were two tracks of education - Arabic-language kuttabs or trade schools

for the masses, and foreign-language elementary and secondary schools for the children

of the elite.

The conditions for entry into elementary and secondary schools in the British

period were always closely calibrated with the need for graduates of those schools who

could staff the civil service. In 1892 the bureaucracy was divided into upper and lower

levels; lower ranks would be filled with graduates of primary schools, who accounted for

130 Tignor, 203

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the majority of civil service members,131 while the upper ranks would be reserved for

graduates of the secondary schools. “This system,” Cromer stated in 1893, “will give a

very great impetus to the spread of education in this country. With an assured prospect of

employment in the Administration before them, a very considerable increase must take

place in the number of those who apply for the secondary and primary certificates of

education. Parents will more willingly spend money in having their children taught when

they feel that they are thereby providing them with a certain future.”132 Cromer had

predicted correctly; the increase in bureaucratic opportunities, coupled with Egyptians’

conviction that foreign-language education was the key to the future, led to systematic

increases in the enrollment of students in primary schools throughout this period. In 1890

there were 5,761 students in primary schools; in 1910 this number had increased to 8,

644.133 After Egypt’s debts had been repaid and the British began channeling more

resources into education, these numbers increased much more quickly - while in 1913

there were 73 government primary schools educating 11,810 boys, in 1922 87 such

schools educated 18,157 boys.134

As the number of educated boys increased, standards for admission into the

bureaucracy were raised. In 1901 Cromer decided that there were more students

concluding their educational paths at primary school than could be absorbed by the

government. In order to encourage these students to go on to secondary school, he

131 ibid, 202

132 Lord Cromer to the Earl o f Rosebery, from Cairo, March 9,1893, quoted in Morroe Berger, Bureaucracy
and Society in M odem Egypt, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957), 29

133 Tignor, 323

134 Fuad Mitwalli, The History o f General and Technical Education From the Beginning o f the Nineteenth
Century Until the End o f the Twentieth Century,, (Alexandria: Dar al-Ma”rifa al-Gamaiyya, 1989), 94

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increased tuition charges in the primary schools and issued the government mling that

holders of the primary certificate could not receive a salary in excess of LE 11/month.135

In 1905 the four year program o f secondary school was divided into two parts - students

finishing the first two years became eligible for lower-ranking government positions,

while taking the whole four qualified students for higher-ranking government jobs or

entry into professional schools.136 To avoid creating a glut of secondary school graduates,

however, Cromer kept the number of state secondary schools from going beyond three

until 1907; in 1902 they were only producing 100 graduates a year.137 Cromer’s adamant

opposition to the creation of an Egyptian university meant that it could not be opened

until 1908, after Cromer had left his post. In 1915, in response to years o f nationalist

demands, the British mandated that the language o f instruction in primary and secondary

schools be Arabic, which at least in theory meant opening them up to kuttab graduates.

By the end of the second phase, then, the foundations of a Westem-style school

system had been laid with the issuance of regulations for each level of schooling and the

incorporation of increasing numbers of kuttabs into the government regulatory regime

through the grant-in-aid policy. In the third and final phase of the development o f this

system, from the grant of partial independence in 1922 until the Free Officers’ coup in

1952, the number of state-funded schools at all levels increased dramatically.

In 1922 the British granted Egypt independence subject to what were called the

four Reserved Points - the British retained responsibility for the defense o f Egypt’s

135 Tignor, 204

136 Mitwalli, 89

137 Reid, 18

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143

borders, the protection o f foreign interests in Egypt, the Sudan, and British imperial

communications. Outside of these areas day-to-day control of Egyptian affairs -

including the conduct of government and the provision of education. - was now in

Egyptian hands. The 1923 Constitution stipulated that primary education would he made

free and universal and that government jobs would not be given to foreigners except in

exceptional circumstances, and by 1929 the number o f Europeans in the civil service had

dwindled to a very small number.139 In 1915, in response to years of nationalist pressure,

the British had made Arabic the language of instruction in primary and secondary

schools, and in 1927 the Egyptian government laid down new regulations for the primary

schools regulating the length of their program and setting requirements for admission and

exams.140 These new regulations had been preceded in 1923 by the creation o f a school to

train secondary school teachers and the setting o f minimum requirements for admission

into that school.141 The final move to create a system of education truly under

government control came in 1934 when foreign language schools were put under

government supervision, with their syllabi and exams decided by the Ministry of

Education. All foreign language schools would now have to include Arabic in their

curricula, and schools preparing students for government exams had, at a minimum, to

follow the ministry’s curriculum in civics, history, geography, and Arabic.142

138 M.W. Daly, “The British Occupation,” The Cambridge History o f Egypt, Volume 2, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1998), 251

139 Berger, 32

140 Mitwalli, 117

141 ibid, 90

142 Cochran, 29

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144

From 1922 on opportunities for Westem-style education and for employment in

the civil service both increased dramatically, as did government spending on education.

In 1923-4 the state education budget was 1,546,951 LE, constituting 4.9% o f the overall

state budget. In 1933-34 it was 3,467,723 LE, or 11.3% of the budget - and from this

point until the Free Officers’ coup in 1952 education spending never accounted for less

than 10% of the overall budget.143 In 1925 the government founded 762 primary schools;

144 in 1925-6 210,123 students were studying in state primary schools, and 16,979 in

state secondary schools. By 1935-6 the number o f students in state primary schools had

increased to 706,228 while 45,203 students were in state secondary schools, and in 1945-

6 there were 1,039,177 in state primary schools and 75,096 in state secondary schools.145

The growth of the reach of the state system of education in this final phase from 1922

until 1952 is made clear by the fact that while in 1925-6 only 15 of every 1,000 Egyptians

were in school, in 1940-1 the number was 69 of every 1,000.146

How Centralized Systems Changed Religious Education in Egypt

In approximately 130 years - from Muhammad Ali’s initial educational reforms

in the 1820’s until the Free Officer coup in 1952 - the educational arena in Egypt

underwent such a profound change as to be almost unrecognizable. An educational

process which until the 1880’s had relied almost entirely on the efforts of unregulated

kuttab teachers instructing students to memorize the Quran had expanded to include large

numbers of students in Westem-style elementary and secondary schools and universities

143 Mitwalli, 122-123

144 ibid, 111-112

145 Gershoui and Jankowski, 12

146 ibid

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145

on the one hand, and a thorough reorganization of the kuttabs which left their every

activity subject to government regulations on the other. Perhaps the best illustration o f the

magnitude o f these changes in the way that the provision of religious education was

changed is provided by an examination of the “reforms” in kuttab education undertaken

by the British.

When the British began bringing the kuttabs under their control, they were acutely

aware o f the sensitivity of a foreign government seeking to oversee and direct the

evolution o f schools the main purpose o f which was to teach students the practice of

Islam. Cromer himself, hardly a model of sensitivity to Egyptian concerns, wrote that “it

is hardly necessary to point out how much tact, prudence, and caution are called for in

making any attempt to direct....these indigenous schools,” concluding that “there must,

o f course, be an entire abstinence from interference with religious instruction.”147 These

hands-off intentions were short-lived, however. By 1903 Cromer was touting the success

o f his kuttab reforms, particularly in the area of the qualification o f kuttab teachers; “in

order to qualify for the post of head-teacher in a Mohamedan kuttab, a thorough

knowledge of the Koran and of the principles of Islam is required.” 148 In 1904 British

efforts to improve the quality of kuttab teachers were institutionalized with the

foundation o f a school to train kuttab teachers - something the Egyptian Muslim

population had never felt a need for before. The kuttab teachers’ school was continually

professionalized, expanding from a one-year program to two years in 1908 and

eventually to five years in 1910. Over a period of three years the kuttab teacher had gone

147 Cromer, “Reports on the State o f Egypt and the Progress o f Administrative Reforms,” Parliamentary
Papers, 1896, Vol. 97, p. 1011, quoted in Stanett, 47

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from being the “local healer, Quran reciter, and holyman ” 149 who did not need

specialized training in how to teach, to being the product o f a professional school whose

curricula were set by the British. The irony o f Christian, British colonial administrators

purporting to elevate the standards for the teaching o f Islam heretofore observed by a

Muslim population scarcely needs comment.

Of course, the whole point of the teacher training “reforms” is that the kuttab's

main purpose was no longer to teach about religion, but to provide basic reading, writing,

and arithmetic skills to the children of the masses. The newly marginalized role of

religious education in the kuttabs was made even more clear after 1910. In that year the

British began allowing Egyptian-run provincial councils to tax their populations and

spend the receipts on public works, particularly schools.150 Once the tax was put in place

in 1910, the issue of taxation without representation arose, leading later that year to a

Coptic Congress which demanded “the right of Copts to take advantage o f the

educational facilities provided by the new provincial councils.” 151 Copts felt excluded

from these facilities for two reasons. The first is that Copts attended their own kuttabs,

which were largely ineligible for government subsidies because they did not observe the

government prohibition on teaching foreign languages at the kuttab level. The second is

that most kuttabs funded by the government also received money from waqf bequests,

which meant that they had to teach the Quran. Short o f a change in policy, then, the Copts

148 Cromer, Annual Report, Parliamentary Papers, 1903, Vol. 87, p. 1009, quoted in Starrett, 47

149 Mitchell, 87

150 Starrett, 64

151 ibid, 65

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would be taxed in their communities to fund schools teaching the Quran, while their own

schools remained ineligible for such funds.

Faced with this dilemma, the British decided that government-funded kuttabs

would henceforth be open to both Muslim and Christian children. These kuttabs would

continue to provide instruction in the Quran, from which Coptic children would excuse

themselves. If there was a critical mass o f Coptic students in a given area, a solely Coptic

kuttab could be opened to provide Copts with a Christian education.152 It now became

necessary for the Anglican British to decide who was sufficiently qualified to teach

Coptic Christianity to Coptic children, and in 1910 the Khedivial Training College

created Christian religion classes to teach Christians about their faith at the primary

school level.153 As a result of these changes, the time-honored practice of educating

children of different religions in separate schools was discouraged. Under British

auspices, kuttabs were changing from schools intended primarily to train students to

become practitioners of their faith to Westem-style schools in which religion was just one

more subject in the curriculum.

Conclusion

In the course of a little over a century, the provision of education changed

dramatically in Punjab, Java, and Egypt. Where teachers had been honored members of

the community, financially supported by their students and autonomous in the conduct of

their classrooms, they were now employees of the state, living on the salary o f a

government which told them what to teach, when, and how. Where students had been

gathered with other boys of a variety o f ages, absorbing skills and knowledges as

152 Starrett, 66

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disparate as reading, writing, history and geography from religious texts, they were now

divided into separate classes to absorb a body of knowledge which had been separated

into distinct disciplines, each with its own sources and none reliant on religious texts as

proof of their truth or accuracy. Over that period o f slightly more than a hundred years,

then, a system of Westem-style schools, which I defined in the introduction to this

chapter as schools in which a person who had received formalized, replicable training as

a teacher taught students divided into groups on the basis o f their age a set of subjects

which were perceived as being independent of one another and whose truth claims were

not based primarily on religious faith had emerged. These schools replaced many o f the

more traditional forms of schooling, and rendered those that remained less and less

capable of equipping students for success in the colonial milieu.

One of the most significant changes that occurred in the educational arena in this

period was a change in the role religion played in the school. In the pre-colonial period,

education was provided primarily by religious figures to children separated into different

schools on the basis of their religious affiliation, and its central purpose was to train boys

in the rituals and practices necessary for full membership in their religious community.

The first addition to this traditional educational milieu came from other religious

providers - missionaries - but many of the missionaries initially functioned in the same

way that local religious educators did, observing no distinction between disciplines and

basing all learning on the Bible, just as Muslim kuttabs did on the Quran. Just as most

local religious figures teaching students in places like Java had no training in how to

teach, neither did the overwhelming majority o f mission teachers; just as knowing one’s

religion was enough o f a qualification to teach in the former case, so was it in the latter.

153 Starrett, 66

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The creation by the colonial state of Westem-style education systems led to the insertion

of a new model of education into the colony, in which teaching was a measurable and

transferable skill and teachers were expected to have mastered particular pieces of

information deemed by the colonial power to constitute “knowledge.” In addition to

introducing new, more “secular” subjects into the curriculum, Westem-style school

systems both marginalized the role of religion in education and professionalized and

standardized the ways in which it would be taught and the people who were judged to be

qualified to teach it.

The next two chapters will demonstrate the ways in which religious reform

movements were able to take advantage of state subsidies to build their own networks of

schools, in which their conceptions of religion and its role in the nation would play a

prominent role in the curriculum. This should not, however, be seen as the pendulum

swinging back to its original position, as Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya schools had

almost nothing in common with their pre-colonial predecessors beyond the fact that they

purported to act in the name of the same religion. These schools provided Westem-style

education not only in order to get subsidies, but primarily because that was the only style

of education that they believed could create the modem Hindus and Muslims upon whom

national renewal depended. In fact, Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya schools had much in

common with those of their arch enemies; reading missionary statements about the need

to free their students from religious superstitions sound eerily like those of Samaj and

Muhammadiya teachers. As the next several chapters will demonstrate, Arya and

Muhammadiya educators were modernists through and through, and the educational

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150

networks which they constructed represented a completely new synthesis o f reformed

religion and Western educational practice.

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Chapter Four: Missionaries, the State, and the DAV and


Muhammadiyah Schools

“When colonial rule had established itself so definitely that fear (of
Islam) was no longer required a clear feeling of superiority gained the upper
hand and a patronising attitude developed. The Dutch began to consider
themselves teachers or even as guardians of the still uneducated people. This
was manifested in two ways: secular ideas o f development, centred mainly on
education, and Christian missions. The two cannot finally be separated, however.
Perhaps it is not coincidental that the flourishing of the great missionary activity
took place precisely during the period o f the extension of the colonial system of
education. Indeed, many missionary activities were conducted by way of that
system of education.”

Karel Steenbrink, Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian


Islam: Contacts and Conflicts, 1596-1950,
(Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B.V., 1993)

“(The missionaries) are prepared to use every foul and unchristian means
to convert the people to Christianity. At present boys of tender age are mostly
their victims. These boys know nothing o f their own religion; they have not even
read their alphabet the boys who read in the mission schools rarely avoid
catching the disease with which their masters are afflicted for six mortal
hours daily have they to remain in the society of their Christian masters and how
is it possible for the poor things not to accept as truth whatever is said by
them whatever kind be the ideas you infuse in their minds in their infancy,
they will retain it to the end of their life unless some timely measures are
taken to nullify their influence.”

The Regenerator o f Arya Varta, (an Arya Samaj


newspaper), September 3, 1883, quoted in Kenneth Jones,
Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century
Punjab, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976),
48

A key argument of my dissertation is that religious reform movements were able

to build networks o f their own schools on a large scale only in those colonies in which

centralized Westem-style education systems had been constructed. These centralized

education systems provided the funding which made the creation of parallel school

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152

networks possible, but it does not follow that it building them desirable. Even with state

assistance, building schools was a daunting project reqi-'ring an enormous amount of

time and effort for uncertain return. Indeed, it might be more logical to assume that the

creation of a centralized system of education would lessen the motivation for religious

movements to form their own schools - if the government was willing to educate

members of the Arya Samaj in state schools, which cost the Samaj nothing, why should

the Samaj burden itself to build its own educational network? And if they built it, would

people come? If options for Westem-style education were readily available, why would

Indonesian Muslims choose to enroll their children in Muhammadiya schools?

One obvious answer to these questions would be that by building their own

schools, the Arya Samajes and Muhammadiyas of the colonial world could utilize these

institutions to educate children in their own beliefs. Presumably all religious movements

would jump at such an opportunity, but in fact religious nationalist movements did not

seek government subsidies to build their own schools in every colony which had a

centralized Westem-style education system. The existence of a centralized education

system with subsidies at the ready, then, was a necessary but not sufficient condition for

religious nationalist movements to create their own educational networks. In the first

half of this chapter, and in the first section o f Chapter Six, I will argue that only when

government subsidies of centralized educational systems were combined with prominent

missionary presence in the Westem-style educational arena did religious nationalist

movements seek to build their own school networks and succeed in doing so. In Chapter

Three I demonstrated that in Egypt, India, and Indonesia the British and the Dutch had

created centralized education systems willing to subsidize private schools which

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153

conformed to their regulations; only in the latter two colonies, however, did religious

nationalist movements build their own schools on a large scale. This difference, I

suggest, can be explained by the fact that missionaries played a much more prominent

role, for a much longer period of time, in the provision of Westem-style education in

Punjab and Java, where the Samaj and Muhammadiya were founded, than they did in the

Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt. This concentrated missionary presence in education made

the question of who taught the colony’s children a very controversial one and propelled

religious nationalist movements into the educational arena; where missionary schools

peaked early and then were marginalized, the incentive for religious nationalist

movements to found their own schools was significantly less pronounced.

Although groups such as the Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya were prompted to

found schools by the missionary presence, the schools soon came to provide a number of

benefits, and channel a variety of resources, into the parent movements and the other,

non-educational activities which they sponsored. While the Arya Samaj and

Muhammadiya dedicated enormous effort to school-building, both movements, having

mounted other religious and national reform campaigns which required substantial

resources to achieve success, had other irons in the fire as well. The extent to which the

school networks helped in concrete ways to support the movements’ non-educational

activities - for example, by fiinneling human or material resources into them or by

gaining members for the movement who then participated in its non-educational work -

is the subject of the second part of this chapter. In this section of the chapter I will

demonstrate the ways in which the DAV and Muhammadiya school networks

strengthened their parent movements by providing them with viable organizational

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154

structures which allowed them to survive crises within and outside of the movement, by

attracting money to the movement which could then be used for its other activities, by

helping to spread the movement itself throughout the colony, and by mobilizing new

members and activists on behalf of the causes which the movements sought to advance.

The Missionary Menace, or: The Educational Environment in Punjab circa 1886

Roughly half a century before the Arya Samaj founded the first Dayanand

Anglo-Vedic school in 1886, missionaries had begun establishing themselves in Punjab.

The first mission in Punjab - the Lodhiana Mission o f the American Presbyterian Church

- planted its flag there in 1834,' and each successive extension of British control in the

province brought new missions in its wake. Two years after Punjab was brought into the

East India Company’s orbit in 1849, a chapter of the Church Missionary Society (CMS)

was established there at the request of British officers stationed in the province.

Supported by the considerable moral and material resources of these officers,2 CMS

activity blossomed, growing from 13 central and 13 branch stations in 1882 to 23

central and eight branch stations by the turn of the century.3 When the East India

Company was replaced by the Crown after the 1857 Mutiny, missionaries extended their

reach once again, and by the 1880’s the American Presbyterian Church, the United

1 Kenneth Jones, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in Nineteenth-Century Punjab, (Berkeley: University
o f California Press, 1976), 8

2 John Webster notes that “without the initiative, continuing concern, and financial support o f these
evangelical officers, the CMS would have been a very small and probably very insignificant missionary
group in the Punjab.” John C.B. Webster, “Mission Sources o f Nineteenth-Century Punjab History,” in
Sources on Punjab History, (Delhi: Manohar Book Service, 1975), 178

3 ibid

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155

Presbyterian Church o f North America, and the Punjab Mission of the Church of

Scotland each had full-scale mission networks covering the entire province.4

As the number of missions grew, so did the number of converts. By 1881 3,912

Punjabis had converted to Christianity; this number increased to 19,750 converts in

1891, and again to 37,980 converts by 1901.5 As Jones notes, the number of conversions

compared to the population of Punjab was “statistically insignificant,”6 but relative to

their own earlier rates of conversion missionaries were gaining ground fast, increasing

the size of their flocks by 410% between 1881 and 1891.7 In the Sialkot District of

Punjab alone, the number of converts to Christianity increased over 3,000% during the

same ten year period.8

As had been the case in much of the rest of India, missionaries were the first to

provide Westem-style education in Punjab. Not all Punjabi missions built schools; the

CMS focused its efforts primarily on hospitals,’ and the Sialkot Mission of the United

Presbyterian Church o f North America characterized building mission schools to gain

converts as a cart-before-the-horse approach. As a leader of the mission wrote,

“Looking at it from a military standpoint, the educating o f men is


like the drilling of soldiers. If a British officer should enter Russian
territory, there to drill an army o f Russians, in the hope that some of
them would enlist and fight loyally for the Queen of England, we
would all pronounce his course unwise, and say that he had better
enlist them first and drill them afterwards. So men should first be

4 Jones, 8

5 ibid, 10

6 ibid

7 ibid

* ibid, 12

9 Webster, 177

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enlisted under Christ’s banner and then trained up to power and


efficiency in our institutions of learning.” 10

While missionaries were not unanimous on the usefulness of education as a

conversion technique, those missions which did build schools - particularly the

American Presbyterian (A.P.) mission - virtually monopolized the provision of Westem-

style education in Punjab for decades. As John Webster describes it, “the work of

the A.P. Mission followed a common pattern. Its missionaries usually began a school

in each city where they established a station. For at least thirty years, theirs were the

only schools both recognized and aided by the Government offering a Western

education in Ludhiana, Ambala, Jullundur, and Rawalpindi the A.P. Mission was

thus a pioneer in western education in the Punjab and in several important Punjabi cities

enjoyed a lengthy monopoly in this field.”"

Not only did missionaries pioneer Westem-style education in Punjab, their role

in providing that education remained much more important, for a much longer period, in

Punjab than it did in most of the rest of India. By the 1880’s the missionaries were

slowly but surely being edged out of the educational arena in provinces such as Madras,

Bombay, Bengal, and the Northwest Provinces, with government schools on the one

hand and private, Indian-run schools on the other providing the lion’s share o f Western

educational opportunities in those areas.12In Punjab, by contrast, there had been very

little private Indian initiative in providing Westem-style education, leaving a situation in

10 ibid, 180

" ibid, 173

12 J.P. Naik and Syed Nurullah, A History o f Education in India, During the British Period, (Bombay:
Macmillan Press, 1951), 287

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which almost all such education was provided either directly by the government or by

missionaries. In 1881-2, four years before the first DAV school opened, Punjab had 120

private, English-language secondary schools; two were run by Indians, and the other 118

by non-Indians.13If, as it seems safe to assume, almost all of the 118 non-Indian private

secondary schools were run by missionaries, then only four years before the first DAV

school opened private secondary education in Punjab was being provided almost

exclusively by missionaries. The reason for the disparity between local educational

initiative in Punjab and other Indian provinces is not clear; it may be that fewer private

resources were available in Punjab, making the extension of state subsidies to alternative

educational networks all the more essential to their success. What is clear, however, is

that this disparity constituted a strong incentive for private Indian groups, such as the

Arya Samaj, to begin building their own education networks.

On the eve of the founding of the first DAV schools, then, missionaries were at

the zenith of their power - educational and otherwise - in Punjab, and the six-year-old

Arya Samaj turned its attention to combating their efforts. After becoming aware of a

Hindu student’s intention to convert, Aryas in Lahore founded the Arya Updeshak

Mandali (Aryan Mission Circle) in 1882 “with the special object of dealing a death blow

to Christianity with weapons of reason and fair argument.”14Arya media kept up the

focus on student vulnerability to missionaries, noting in the September 3,1883, issue of

The Regenerator o f Arya Varta that

“they (the missionaries) are prepared to use every foul and unchristian (sic)
means to convert the people to Christianity. At present boys of tender age are

13 ibid, 297

14 Regenerator o f Arya Varta, Vol. 1, No. 7, August 20, 1883, p 3 , quoted in Jones, 47

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mostly their victims. These boys know nothing o f their own religion; they have
not even read their alphabet the boys who read in the mission schools rarely
avoid catching the disease with which their masters are afflicted and which,
though a disease, is put by those masters in the most favorable light. For six
mortal hours daily they have to remain in the society of their Christian masters
and how is it possible for the poor things not to accept as truth whatever is said
by them whatever kind be the ideas you infuse in their minds in their
infancy, they will retain it to the end of their life and their conduct, while living,
will be according to them unless some timely measures are taken to nullify their
influence.” 15

When Samaj founder Dayananda died in 1883, the perceived need for Hindu Westem-

style educational institutions combined with a desire to honor Dayanand's commitment

to religious reform prompted the Samaj to begin the campaign to found its own school.

After years of painstaking work, the Dayanand Anglo-Vedic (DAV) High School

opened in Lahore on June 1, 1886, enrolling 550 students in its first month of

operation.16The High School was a comprehensive school offering classes from the first

grade through the college entrance level, and once the DAV College was opened in

1889, the foundations had been laid for an educational system in which students could

progress from learning the alphabet to earning a bachelors’ degree completely within

Arya institutions. This foundation was quickly fleshed out by the proliferation o f DAV

schools; from urban Lahore the DAV schools expanded throughout the province, to

Jullundur in 1889, where the local Samaj founded a school which soon enrolled 300

students, to Ferozopore, where the Samaj started a popular girls’ school,17and even to

the Baghbanpura branch of the Samaj, which despite being one of the poorest in Punjab

15 The Regenerator o f Arya Varta, September 3, 1883, quoted in Jones, 48

16 Jones, 77

17 ibid, 87-88

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maintained both a boys’ and a girls’ school.1* In the words of Kenneth Jones, “education

became one of the major preoccupations of the Aryas. During the 1890s Aryas would

build an educational system throughout the entire province, from the primary grades

through college.”19The DAV schools soon spread beyond the borders of Punjab and

throughout North India, with “outposts as far south as Sholapur, Maharashtra, and

Hyderabad state,”20 and by 1941 the Samaj listed 179 schools and 10 colleges affiliated

with it in India and Burma.21

How was this effort possible in a province in which private Indian initiative in

founding Western-type schools had been limited at best as late as the beginning of the

1880’s? One answer is that the schools seem to have been perceived as filling an

important void in the community, and they quickly won financial support from a

remarkably wide base o f Hindus in Punjab and elsewhere. It also seems, however, that

government aid was an important part of their success in at least two ways - both

through the direct provision of government funds to the schools, and by giving the

schools the imprimatur of government approval by granting them official recognition

and praising their success in producing successful exam candidates, which in turn made

the Hindu public more willing to contribute to the enterprise.

The question o f how much financing various DAV schools obtained from

government sources is a sensitive one in Arya Samaj hagiography. The idea that the

**lbid
19 ibid

20 Daniel Gold, "Organized Hinduisms: From Vedic Truth to Hindu Nation", in Accountingfor
Fundamentalisms: The Dynamic Character o f Movements, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott
Appleby, (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1994), 557

21 ibid

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DAV College, as the flagship of the DAV system, was built solely on the contributions

of the Hindu public is reiterated time and again in Arya publications as a way o f

demonstrating the College’s centrality in the community. It is also used as a way of

differentiating the College from other communal institutions whose willingness to

accept government aid, it is implied, compromised their message in some way. At a

1914 Founder’s Day celebration in London, Arya educational leader Lala Lajpat Rai’s

recounting of the founding of the College included reference to an “unwritten law” of

the institution which created what he called a “moral obligation” not to seek government

aid.22 In his 1920 book The Problem o f National Education in India, Rai recalled that the

original prospectus of the College was marked by “an insistence that (its) scheme of

national education be absolutely independent of Government patronage and Government

help”23 - an insistence, he is careful to point out, that was not shared by the Mohamedan

Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh and the Hindu College in Benares, which did receive

such aid.24 Government financial assistance did come at some point, however, as Rai’s

1914 speech notes that the College’s “moral obligation” not to seek government aid had

been met, “unless a petty grant of a few thousand rupees made by the University be

considered an exception.”25 If we knew when this grant had been made we would have

more of a sense of how important it had been to the College’s early work. When the

DAV High School - the first part of the College project - was founded in 1886, the

22 Lala Lajpat Rai, A History o f the Arya Samaj: An Account o f its Origin, Doctrines and Activities with a
Biographical Sketch o f Its Founder, (Bombay: Orient Longmans Ltd., 1967), 141

23 The Problem o f National Education in India, Lala Lajpat Rai, (London: George Allen & Unwin., Ltd.
1920), 20

24 Rai, The Problem o f National Education, 23

23 Rai, A History o f the Arya Samaj, 141

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Samaj sought monthly subscriptions for its support based on an estimate that the

expenses of the school, which included classes from first grade through the college

entrance level, would be Rs. 400 a month;26 in this environment a grant of “a few

thousand” rupees may well have been indispensable to the School’s functioning. What

we do know for certain, however, is that while the flagship DAV school and subsequent

college may not have received government aid, many other DAV schools, in the words

o f Arya sympathizer Dhanpati Pandey, were “maintained by usual grants from the

Education Department.”27To that extent, even if the original DAV High School and

subsequent College did not receive government aid, it seems clear that the Arva Samaj

might well not have been able to go beyond these flagship institutions to build an

educational network without government grants. In this respect, the Arya Samaj would

be like any number o f religious nationalist or other groups which were able to pool all of

their resources and establish one or a small number of schools on their own, but which

were not able to go beyond this point without government assistance.

The existence of a state-run school system in North India, and of a government

willing to aid privately-run schools, helped the DAV schools financially in indirect ways

as well. The DAV College and later the affiliated schools offered a curriculum designed

to produce students who could successfully compete in the government exams which

regulated entry into the bureaucracy and the universities. In order to do so they had to

gear their syllabi to the content of those exams, and the DAV High School in particular

did this so well and so early in its development that by 1888 it was being praised by the

26 Jones, 76

27 The Arya Samaj and Indian Nationalism (1875-1920), Dhanpati Pandey, (New Delhi: S.Chand & Co.,
Ltd., 1972), 101

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government for having “supplied nineteen successful candidates for the Entrance

Examination or more than any other schools in the Province.”28 Official government

recognition of the school followed almost immediately. It was the success of the DAV

High School, and soon of its network of DAV schools, in providing a religiously “safe”

environment which was also praised by the government and which could produce young

men successful in government competitions which won it the strong and consistent

financial support of Hindus throughout Punjab and the United Provinces and made the

continuation of the Arya educational project possible.

Missionaries and Muhammadiyah: The Case of Java

Largely due to early Dutch restrictions on, and refusal to adequately fund,

missionary activity, missionaries were much slower in mounting a full-fledged effort

against Islam in Indonesia than their counterparts had been in seeking converts from

Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism in North India. Once these restrictions were removed,

however, missionaries turned their sights on Java, and they clearly visualized the

provision of educational services as a key weapon in their arsenal for conversion. “Once

the transformation of the Dutch presence in Java from a makeshift bazaar into a

decorous empire had taken place,”29a parallel institutionalization of missionary efforts

in Indonesia followed with the founding in 1797 of the Dutch Missionary Society in

Holland. Islam was considered to be much tougher competition for Christianity than the

animist or polytheist faiths practiced by a small minority of the Indonesian population

located mostly outside of Java - as late as 1911 one disheartened missionary at the 25th

28 Jones, 78

29 Frances Gouda, Dutch Culture Overseas: Colonial Practice in the Netherlands Indies 1900-1942,
(Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 1995), 66

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an intimidating opponent?”30- and missionaries’ initial efforts focused on converting

“pagans” to Christianity before they could be incorporated by Islam.31 When Dutch

regulations preventing missionary activity in Java were lifted in 1848, however,

missionaries flowed to the island, and in reports from missionaries in Indonesia in this

period, Steenbrink notes, “one significant element appears to emerge again and again:

Islam should not be attacked directly but should be curtailed by any means

available - from the promotion of ancient folk customs, adat and folk religions, regional

dialects (in contrast to Malay, thought to be of Islamic origin) to the modernization of

health care and education in particular .”32

Constrained by government willingness to subsidize mission schools, the

missionary educational effort initially grew very slowly. In 1871, twenty years before

government subsidies were made available, “mission schools on Java were still of little

significance,”33 enrolling only 350 students in comparison to the 4,850 students in

regency schools and the 3,100 enrolled in community schools.34 The turn of the century,

however, saw a dramatic strengthening of the missionary position. Changes in political

leadership, both within the colony and back home, brought avid supporters of

Christianizing Indonesia to the fore. The colony’s Governor-General, Idenburg,

publicly termed “the spreading of Christianity in the Indies a matter of great

30 Karel Steenbrink, Dutch Colonialism and Indonesian Islam, Contacts and Conflicts, 1596-1950,
(Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi B.V., 1993), 98

31 ibid, 106-7

32 ibid, 98-99

33 H. Kroeskamp, Early Schoolmasters in A Developing Country: A History o f Experiments in School


Education in Nineteenth-Century Indonesia, (Assen: Van Gorcum and Comp, 1974), 331

34 ibid, 332

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164

political importance;”35 his repeated attempts to increase the observance o f Christianity

in the colony led to such a backlash that it was said that the initials of Sarekat Islam,

Indonesia’s first nationalist movement, actually referred to “salahnja Id e n b u r g or

Idenburg’s mistake.36 In 1909 Dutch clerical parties which openly announced their intent

to subsidize Christianization in Indonesia obtained a majority in the States General in

the Netherlands, and in the wake of their success subsidies for missionary activity

increased sharply.

In 1901 there had been 50 missions in Java and 150 in the archipelago as a

whole; by 1912 - the year Muhammadiya was founded - these numbers had grown to

130 missions in Java and 279 throughout Indonesia.37 In the three years immediately

prior to Muhammadiya’s founding, government subsidies for missionaries increased by

almost 300% - from 04,000 to f98,0003S - which allowed the number of Christian

schools to increase by 40% between 1909 and 1913.39 Not only were the years

immediately before Muhammadiya’s founding a period of marked missionary expansion

in Java, the residency of Jogjakarta on Java, where Muhammadiya was founded, seems

to have been the focus of particular and prolonged missionary attention since the

beginning of the century.40

35 Fred von der Mehden, Religion and Nationalism in Southeast Asia: Burma, Indonesia, the Philippines,
(Madison: University o f Wisconsin Press, 1963), 179

36 ibid, 180

37 ibid, 179

34 ibid

39 ibid

40 Alfian, Muhammadiyah: The Political Behavior o f a Muslim Modernist Organization Under Dutch
Colonialism, (Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press, 1989), 143

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Unlike the Arya Samaj, whose first school was founded a decade after the

movement began, Muhammadiya was intent on creating an educational network from

the very beginning. The movement’s founding statute listed its goals as the spreading of

Muslim religious teachings and promotion of religious life among its members, goals

which would be achieved in part by “establish(ing) and maintain(ing) good support of

educational institutions, where besides common (secular) subjects the principles of

Muslim religious teachings would also be given.”41

Muhammadiya clearly saw educational provision as one of its central

responsibilities from the day it was founded; I would argue that the reason that that

focus continued was largely because missionaries remained an important provider of

Westem-style education in areas where Muhammadiya was active for a long period after

the latter’s founding. In Chapter Six I will demonstrate that after its first years the

Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt seemed to have lost its early interest in education, and I

will argue that there were two reasons for this. The first was that soon after its founding

the Brotherhood moved from the missionary-saturated Suez Canal zone to Cairo, where

many alternatives to missionary education were available, making Brotherhood

provision of “safe” opportunities for such education less of a priority. In addition, within

ten years of the Brotherhood’s founding, the enormous expansion of secular

opportunities for Westem-style education provided by the Egyptian government

throughout the country meant that the threat of conversion through education had

become less and less o f an issue for all Egyptians, not just Brothers. Neither o f these

41 ibid, 154

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factors - moving out of an area in which missionaries dominated education, or a marked

decrease in the share of educational opportunities provided by missionaries country­

wide - obtained in the case of Muhammadiya, which found itself in exactly the opposite

position from that of the Brotherhood. Far from being able to leave an area full of

missionaries for another area in which they had less of a presence, Muhammadiya was

forced to restrict its activity to the missionary-targeted residency of Jogjakarta for most

of its first ten years, as the Dutch denied the movement the permission that it sought to

operate throughout Java and Madura until 1921.42 Muhammadiya had surreptitiously

begun to spread outside Jogjakarta before 1921, but the fact that it was legally confined

to act within a residency which was a particular target of missionary educational efforts

may well have intensified the movement’s interest in school-building. Also unlike

Egypt, where increasing governmental presence in education and restrictions on

missionary activity combined to significantly reduce the role of missionaries in

education within the Brotherhood’s first decade, missions and their schools continued to

expand in Indonesia throughout the Dutch colonial period. In the 1920’s Gouda

describes Java as having “resembl(ed) a busy beehive of missionary zeal,” 43 with the

result that “fears of Christian expansion, particularly missionary education, were often

expressed during the interwar years, especially following World War I, in such

42 ibid, 1S2. Muhammadiyah had begun to spread surreptitiously outside o f Jogjakarta before 1921, but its
inability to function openly outside that residency ensured that work in Jogjakarta, and work which met that
residency’s particular needs, would be the movement’s primary focus for its first nine years.

43 Gouda, 67

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newspapers as Medan Moeslemin, Oetoesan Hindia, Tjahaja Soematra and even

for a time in the Communist organ Sinar Hindia.”**

While the leadership of Muhammadiya clearly shared these groups’ concerns,

until the death of Muhammadiya founder Ahmad Dahlan in 1923 the movement did not

publicly attack missionary schools. Dahlan’s unwillingness to openly condemn

missionary education as Muslim Brotherhood and Arya Samaj leaders regularly did has

been ascribed to the fact that Dahlan was reputed to be friends with several Christian

clergymen,43 but in light of the restrictions which the Dutch had put on Muhammadiya’s

geographical reach, Dahlan may well have calculated that it was unwise to push his luck

and attack missionary institutions at a time when the Dutch government was solidly pro­

missionary. The effect of missionary schools as a model for Muhammadiya institutions,

however, was clear, as Dahlan “even copied without shame and regret those institutions

which were originated by the Christians. Thus he was to copy their H.I.S. met de Bibel

(HIS with Bible, a missionary version of the government’s HIS advanced elementary

schools with Dutch education) by establishing his own HIS met de Koran, (just as) he

copied their social activities such as their health services - clinics and polyclinics.”46

Muhammadiya school advocates did not hesitate to use the specter of spreading

missionary education and impending Christianization to raise funds for Muhammadiya

counter-institutions. When the missionaries began construction on another H.I.S. met

de Bibel in 1918, Fakhruddin, Muhammadiya’s first vice-chair, castigated rich Muslims

44 von der Mehden, 180

45 ibid, 161

46 ibid, 150

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and Muslim leaders in his periodical Sri Diponegoro for their unwillingness to sacrifice

to match the progress achieved by the missionaries. Muhammadiya, Fakhruddin noted,

had been unable to establish a single H.I.S. met de Koran because it could not afford it,

and he warned that if Muslims failed to act as fast as Christians did in this field there

was a very good chance that their children would convert to Christianity, as the rapid

growth of Christian education would penetrate the entire society.47

While Muhammadiya began its educational work almost immediately after its

founding, it took years of struggle to create a network of Muhammadiya schools parallel

to those run by the government and the missionaries. The trajectory o f Muhammadiya

school development in the town of Kotagede in Central Java demonstrates how

components of this network were built on the local level, as well as their inability to

properly function except as part of a larger Muhammadiya school system.

Muhammadiya founded its first school in Kotagede - a second-class native school - in

the 1910’s. The school was very popular, quickly moving from the private home it had

initially used as a classroom to a permanent building. The further expansion of

Muhammadiya schools in Kotagede, however, was hampered by a lack of teachers. This

forced Muhammadiya leaders to rely for the teaching of secular subjects on graduates of

the government teacher-training schools, and to use - undoubtedly with gritted teeth -

teachers who were products of the traditional Islamic education provided in the

pesantren, which Muhammadiya strongly attacked for its emphasis on rote

47 ibid, 162

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memorization of religious texts,4* for the teaching of religious subjects. With the

founding of the first Muhammadiya teacher-training school in Jogjakarta in 1922, this

problem began to be solved; by the late 1920’s graduates of Muhammadiya’s primary

schools had begun enrolling in the schools and coming back upon graduation to teach in

Kotagede. In the late 1920’s a Muhammadiya HIS school and a girls’ school were

founded in Kotagede, laying the foundations for a Muhammadiya school network in the

town which soon came to overshadow its government counterpart, even attracting

children of court officials who would normally have gone to government schools.49 By

the mid-1930’s, the Muhammadiya educational system throughout Java had developed

to the point that the movement had opened schools parallel to those of the Dutch

government from the elementary through the secondary level,50 a trajectory which

would be crowned by the founding of Muhammadiya universities after independence. In

1932 Muhammadiya operated 207 Westem-style schools in Java and Madura;31 by

1939, this had increased to some 872 Westem-style schools throughout the

archipelago.32

A key reason for the initially slow growth o f the Muhammadiya school network

seems to have been its difficulty in obtaining adequate amounts of government subsidy

for its work. The standards for receiving government educational subsidies in Indonesia

4* Mitsuo Nakamura, The Crescent Arises Over the Banyan Tree: A Study o f the Muhammadiyah Movement
in A Central Javanese Town, (Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press, 1983), 85

49 ibid, 84-85

30 ibid, 53

31 ibid, 189.

32 ibid

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appear to have been far stricter than those in North India, and the difficulty that

Muhammadiya initially had in qualifying for them at all seems to have been due to its

difficulty in meeting government standards on curriculum and qualified teachers.53 By

the early 1920’s at the latest, however, the subsidies were flowing in regularly, and once

they started they continued to grow substantially in absolute terms throughout the period

of Dutch rule. According to Muhammadiya’s 1923 annual report, the movement’s total

revenues from all sources that year were 69,356 guilders, 6,461 o f which came from

government subsidy, with the rest accounted for from school fees, zakat, private

donations, and a subsidy from the sultanate.54By 1929-30, the movement was receiving

a subsidy of 83,251 guilders - more than the entire budget of the movement from all

sources only six years earlier - in addition to 6,290 guilders from the sultan of

Jogjakarta. When compared to Muhammadiya’s 1932 budget of 579,354 guilders, it

seems that subsidies accounted for about 15% of its total income in this period.55Not

surprisingly, it was in precisely this period o f large increases of government subsidies

from 1923 until 1932 that Muhammadiya’s schools first spread throughout the

archipelago.56

Perhaps the strongest proof of how important government subsidies were to

Muhammadiya schools is the lengths to which the movement was willing to go to keep

53 Alfian, 169

54 James Peacock, Purifying the Faith: The Muhammadijah Movement in Indonesian Islam ,
Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, 1978),46

35 Alfian, 197

56 ibid, 180

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them. Almost since its inception, Muhammadiya had been intimately connected with

Indonesia’s first nationalist movement - Sarekat Islam - which reached Jogjakarta in

1913, the year after Muhammadiya had been founded there. Members o f each movement

initially played leading roles in the other, with Muhammadiy': founder Dahlan serving as

the religious adviser of Sarekat’s central board at its first national congress in 1916, and

Fakhruddin, Muhammadiya’s driving force after Dahlan died, serving as Sarekat’s

treasurer from 1920 until 1927.57 In 1920 a meeting of both groups decided that “ they

should cooperate in the following manner: Muhammadiya was to abstain from playing

politics by concentrating on the socio-educational line of Islam,” while Sarekat Islam,

with Muhammadiya’s support, would take on the political role.” In 1924 Sarekat

adopted a policy o f non-cooperation with the Dutch, and in 1926 it began launching

attacks on Muhammadiya, accusing it of stealing its members and attacking its

continued acceptance o f government subsidies in contrast to Sarekat’s non-cooperation

stance. Angry at what it saw as Sarekat jealousy of Muhammadiya’s success, and

unwilling to give up its subsidies, Muhammadiya stood firm, and the two movements

split apart. In retrospect, the political “price” of insisting on retaining the subsidies was

not particularly high, as Sarekat lost members after the split while Muhammadiya

continued to grow. Muhammadiya’s willingness to defend its receipt of subsidies,

however, in a period in which Sarekat’s non-cooperation policy was winning increasing

57 ibid, 201

3‘ ibid, 217

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support and picturing subsidy recipients as traitors, suggests the importance which it

accorded to its continued receipt of government funds for its educational projects.

What Have You Done for Me Lately?, or: How The DAV and Muhammadiya
Schools Strengthened The Movements That Founded Them

The previous section of this chapter demonstrated that DAV and Muhammadiya

schools proliferated tremendously and over a large geographical area during the colonial

period. We also know that the Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya grew enormously in

terms o f numbers of members, branches, and material resources during the same period.

What, if anything, does this tell us about the role that the school networks played in

strengthening the movements that founded them? While education was a central focus of

both groups, it was not the only activity in which they were engaged, and schools were

not the only institutions that these movements sought to build. In addition to the DAV

schools, Aryas devoted themselves to other campaigns consonant with their view of

religious reform and national renewal, including arranging the remarriage of widows

and “converting” Muslims and others “back” to Hinduism; Muhammadiya crusaded

against syncretic religious practices, published newspapers, and ran businesses and

medical clinics. To what extent, if at all, did these movements’ school networks help to

advance the Samaj’s and Muhammadiya’s larger goals?

There are several ways in which school networks could conceivably help to

advance the agendas of the movements that founded them. The most important - by

converting the school’s students to the religious imagining of the nation that these

movements propagated - is also the least tangible. In Chapter Six I will demonstrate the

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173

ways that the schools sought to develop and disseminate a religious imagining of the

nation among their students, but we have no way of knowing how many of them adopted

that imagining as their own. Evidence like that which Francis Robinson has collected

on some of the more prominent graduates of the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College

at Aligarh, the cradle of the Muslim separatist movement in India, detailing their

activity on behalf o f communal causes,59would allow me to do more than speculate that

graduates of DAV or Muhammadiya schools actually went on to play prominent roles in

either of these movements or in religious nationalist activities more generally, but in my

research to this point I have found little evidence of such data. In any case, even

Robinson’s data focuses on only a handful of the most prominent Aligarh graduates,

giving little sense o f the ways that more mainstream students reacted to Aligarh’s

communal - not religious nationalist - approach to imagining the Muslim Indian

community. In the case of the DAV and Muhammadiya schools, we know that they

educated tens of thousands of young people during the colonial period. If even five

percent of the students adopted the religious imaginings propagated by the movements

and acted to make them a reality, then the schools of the Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya

did a great deal to help these movements meet their ultimate goals.

Moving more students towards Arya or Muhammadiya understandings of

religious nationalism, however, is not necessarily the same thing as moving more

students into the movements as members, adding to the movements’ stock of material

59 See, for example, the appendices to Robinson’s Separatism Among Indian Muslims, which contains the
biographies o f some sixty “Young Party” Muslims, including their educational background and their
subsequent occupational and political trajectories.

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174

resources, or otherwise providing concrete assistance to these groups. Some of the

benefits which the schools brought to the movements are readily apparent, including the

creation of a durable organizational structure for the Arya Samaj where there had been

none, and the money which the schools brought into the Samaj, making it not just an

educational but a financial powerhouse as well. Other connections between the growth

of the schools and the growth of the movements are necessarily more speculative in

nature, and in the rest of this chapter I will detail the ways in which the available

evidence suggests that the DAV and Muhammadiya schools can plausibly be argued to

have brought much-needed financial, organizational, and human resources into the

movements which founded them.

Organizational Resources

During his lifetime Arya Samaj founder Dayanand had provided an ideological

basis for his fledgling movement but no organizational one. Hindus sympathetic to

Dayanand’s recipe for reform opened local Samajes, but in the absence of any

overarching organizational hierarchy they operated completely independently of one

another, to the point that upon Dayanand’s death in 1883, “the local Samajes were so

free that they were in danger of becoming absolutely a law unto themselves - no

provincial or national coordinating machinery had yet been set up.”40Attempts to link

the extant Samajes into a single group began almost immediately, as Dayanand’s legal

heir, the Paropkarini Sabha, met and resolved that “the Arya Samajes in India should

60 James Reid Graham, The Arya Samaj As A Reformation in Hinduism with Special Reference to Caste,
Ph.D. dissertation submitted to Yale University, 1942,393

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175

form a representative committee to serve as a channel of communication between the

different Arya Samajes.”61 Letters to this effect sent to all Samajes brought little

response, however; the closest individual Samajes would come to coordinating their

efforts was an informal gathering of members of several different Samajes to celebrate

the anniversary of one Samaj’s founding.61 With each Samaj pursuing its own programs

with its own resources, the project of creating a larger organizational structure seemed

irrelevant. It was only when the effort to embark on a project too big for any single

Samaj to do on its own - the founding of the DAV school - began that Aryas began to

see the lack of coordination as a serious problem.

While many different Samajes had independently pledged support for the idea of

such a school immediately after Dayanand’s death, each Samaj collected its own funds,

and in the absence of an agreement as to where the school would be located no Samaj

was willing to turn its collections over to a larger body. Financially crippled by this

dispersion of its resources, the DAV effort lagged along until an offer by a prominent

Arya to be the principal of the DAV school without pay spurred the Lahore Samaj to

revisit the question o f an organizational superstructure. Noting that “the time has now

arrived for combining these isolated efforts, and for placing the scheme on a permanent

and effective footing,”" the Aryas adopted the British idea of registered societies as their

61 As quoted in The Regenerator o f Arya Varta, February 18, 1884, p.5, quoted in Jones, 121

" ib id , 121

63 ibid, 73

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model. In January 1886 the DAV Trust and Management Society was formed to control

the funds and the property of the schools movement, as well as a Managing Committee

to direct the day-to-day affairs of the school. An elaborate system of representation of

various Samajes on the Managing Committee was worked out, with each Samaj that

donated more than 1,000 rupees receiving a seat on the Committee and donations of

more than S, 000 rupees entitling a Samaj to additional seats.64

It was the type of formal institutionalization of the decision-making process

outlined above, I suggest, which allowed the DAV schools to weather a split within the

Samaj and come out intact, and which presaged the ability of the Samaj as a whole to

endure despite its existence in a very turbulent environment. The first test of this ability

came in the early 1890’s, when advocates o f a more Sanskrit and Vedic-centered DAV

curriculum withdrew from the Managing Committee after repeatedly losing battles over

the content of DAV curriculum, and after failing to convince their colleagues on the

Committee and within the Samaj that true Arya beliefs required the adoption of a strict

vegetarian diet. The split between the “College”Aryas and the “Vegetarian” Aryas

extended throughout the Arya Samaj, with individual Samajes pledging loyalty to one or

the other side and henceforth having little contact with those who disagreed. As a result,

the resignation o f the “Vegetarian” camp from the Committee not only deprived the

Committee of some of its key leaders, it also deprived the schools of the financial

apparatus which had raised money for them, since the Samajes which had controlled the

64 ibid, 74-75

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money-raising schemes allied with the “Vegetarian” side of the debate." The model of

directing DAV education through a Managing Committee made up of representatives of

Samajes on the basis of the size of the donations that they had made, however, enabled

the “College” wing to quickly recover from the split, to reconstitute the Committee with

supporters of its own vision o f DAV education, and to reconstruct an apparatus for

raising money not only for the schools but for those Samajes which had remained allied

with the “College” wing. The concept that it was the Committee who made decisions for

the schools, and only the Committee, had been firmly established, and future internecine

battles over the schools’ direction or funding centered on the rules governing

membership on the Committee as much or more than they did on any substantive issue.

Samuel Huntington argues that “the institutionalization of any particular organization

can be measured by its adaptability, complexity, autonomy, and coherence,”66 with

adaptability being defined as “a function of environmental challenge and age.”671

suggest that it was the Samaj’s early experience with creating a viable and complex

organization - the Managing Committee - which could adapt to fundamental changes in

its environment which allowed not only the DAV schools but the Samaj as a whole to

thrive and endure throughout the turbulent environment o f pre-independence Punjabi

politics.

63 ibid, 173-4

66 Samuel Huntington, Political Order in Changing Societies, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968),
12

67 ibid, 13

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Financial Resources

Raising money to keep the DAV schools afloat and expand the network was a

constant challenge in the early years of the DAV project. While sizable amounts were

sometimes donated at the anniversary celebrations o f various Samajes,“ Aryas

“recognized and alternately praised or denigrated the fact that their members were

mostly clerks, ‘pen pushers,’ who could only contribute small amounts,”" and in the

early years they alternated between bemoaning their inability to get large donations

from what Jones calls the Hindu aristocracy and boasting of their ability to keep the

schools afloat without it.70 As the profile o f the DAV schools was raised and their

prestige increased by their consistent ability to produce students successful in

government exams, Arya public events to raise money for the schools became “a

regular part of Punjabi Hindu life not only provid(ing) funds for Arya schools but a

social forum for the educated elite.”71 Fundraising then expanded outside Punjab, with

Aryas traveling to the North-Western Provinces, Sind, and Rajasthan to gather funds on

the schools’ behalf. 71

" For example, Jones reports that in 1890, Rs. 7,245 - o f a total o f Rs. 12,322 in funded capital accruing to
the schools in that year - came from Samaj anniversary celebrations. Jones, 80

" Tribune, September 15,1888, p 2 , quoted in Jones, 82

70 The Arya Patrika o f July 20,1886, noted that the money raised to date for the schools “has all been
subscribed by common people and gentlemen o f the middle class. No Raja and Maharaja has yet been
appealed to. This is the reason why so much general interest is shown in the progress o f the College
m ovem ent” The Tribune, a non-Arya publication but a supporter o f the schools, noted on September 15,
1888, that “it is a pity that our Rajas, Maharajas and Sirdars and Jagirdars have practically kept themselves
aloof from the Anglo-Vedic College M ovem ent” Both quoted in Jones, 81-82

71 ibid, 79

72 ibid

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Over time, then, the amount of funds raised for the schools became rather

substantial. The Managing Committee - the repository o f all DAV school funds -

initially deposited the funds raised on behalf o f the DAV College in different banks for

short periods at fixed interest. As these funds grew, they were consolidated, so that by

1911 they were deposited almost exclusively in the Punjab National Bank. By 1911 not

only were the sums in the school fund substantial - a total of 299,403 Rs. - but the fund

had enough of a cushion that a large proportion of the money could be recycled back

into the Punjabi community at large in the form o f loans. These loans did not go

exclusively to Hindus; “the Investment Sub-Committee was far more interested in

collateral than community,”73 and Sikh aristocrats accounted for the biggest share o f the

loans.74

More importantly for our purposes, the Investment Sub-Committee also used the

funds raised for the schools to finance the expansion o f local Samajes, loaning it to these

Samajes to buy land and build temples in which Dayanand’s ideas o f reform Hinduism -

including a ban on idol worship - were practiced. In this way, money that was raised for

the schools ended up directly supporting other Samaj ventures which might very well be

unable to raise such funds on their own behalf. Many mainstream Hindus who did not

agree with the Samaj’s entire agenda o f religious reform supported the DAV schools; as

Jones notes, the schools had come to represent the “concrete expression o f the Punjabi

Hindu elite's dream of achieving economic and social status, of educating their sons in a

73 ibid, 232-33

74 ibid

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safe Hindu environment.”15 This means, then, that money raised for the schools - which

did not directly teach many of the most controversial Arya reform practices, preferring

to believe that when students learned their Sanskrit in the schools, they would use it to

discern the legitimation for these practices in the Vedas - may well have financed more

controversial activities, such as widow-remarriage campaigns or “conversions” of

Muslims to Hinduism, that DAV school supporters themselves would not have

knowingly supported. In this way the DAV schools served as something of a cash cow

for the Arya Samaj as a whole, enabling it to raise money from Hindus who were not

prepared to sign on to the Samaj’s entire agenda o f religious reform but supported the

schools as a necessary part of a healthy Hindu community.

Extending the Geographical Reach of the Movement

In Muhammadiya’s first decade, when by Dutch order its activities were

restricted to the residency of Jogjakarta on Java, its message was spread not as much by

planting Muhammadiya schools in uncharted waters as by sending movement preachers

to contact students in government schools. These preachers, known as muballaghiin,

seem to have focused their efforts on terminal-level schools, especially those which

trained teachers and native civil servants, offering classes in the movement’s reformed

version of Islam to students of these schools at the end of their regular school day. As

Alfian notes, this was a cost-effective way for the movement to spread its ideology, as it

required “some funds for travel expenses o f the muballighiin, but the amount would

have been very little in comparison to the fund needed to operate a regular school

75 ibid, 235

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system.”76 In fact, it is possible that the movement’s heavy reliance on the muballighiin

system in the early years was partially dictated by finances, as the strict Dutch

requirements for school subsidies kept Muhammadiya schools from receiving these

subsidies in their first several years of operation.

After the Dutch allowed Muhammadiya to operate outside of Jogjakarta in 1921,

and in the subsequent years as Muhammadiya schools began to obtain increasing levels

o f government subsidy, Muhammadiya spread rapidly throughout Java and Madura.

The trajectory o f the movement’s spread, however, shows just how dependent it was on

the reception o f the local population to the spread of Muhammadiya schools. Between

1924 and 1933 Muhammadiya spread throughout the archipelago;77 in roughly the same

period, Muhammadiya was recording substantial growth in Central Java but hitting a

roadblock in the more rural western and eastern parts of the island as well as in Madura.

This roadblock was Nahdatul Ulema, a Muslim organization committed to traditional

Islam and opposed to Muhammadiya’s message of religious reform. Nahdatul Ulema’s

base of power, in turn, was in the pesantren that they ran - the traditional Islamic

schools discussed in Chapter Four whose curricula focused almost exclusively on

recitation of the Quran.7* Muhammadiya consciously presented its schools as a form of

Muslim education superior to that o f the pesantren; its 1925 congress in Jogjakarta, for

example, featured a play in which an orthodox Muslim who had initially sent his son to

a pesantren discovers that it is in bad shape and transfers his son to the (infinitely

76 Alfian, 166

77 ibid, 180

78 ibid, 188

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superior) Muhammadiya school.79In the areas of Java where Muhammadiya had been

most successful, its schools had not entirely supplanted the pesantren but had

successfully wooed away many o f their students, but “the apparent success of Nahdatul

Ulema to keep the pesantren alive and running was probably the most important

factor of Muhammadiya’s apparent failure to penetrate the rural areas of Java and

Madura.”10 In key swaths of Java and Madura, then, the spread o f the Muhammadiya

movement piggybacked on the spread of its schools, not vice versa - where the

Muhammadiya version o f modem Muslim education was rejected, the movement itself

was as well.

Gaining Activists for the Movement

The question of Muhammadiya’s growth was not solely one of extrinsic growth

- gaining new supporters from outside Islamic modernism - but gaining ones from

within it as well. I noted in the introduction that religious nationalist movements

proliferated in many colonies, but that few survived for long. In Southeast Asia, James

Peacock notes that “during the half-century since the florescence of reformism in

Southeast Asia, the movement has evolved differently in the varied regions. Only in

Indonesia does the Muslim reformation remain a major, organized force. Represented

early in the twentieth century by numerous small movements, the reformation in

Indonesia has coalesced into a few large regional movements and a single, powerful

national one - Muhammadiya. The Muhammadiya schools seem to have played an

79 Peacock, 47

“ Alfian, 188

11 Peacock, 24

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important role in helping the movement attract members o f other Muslim modernist

movements to join it. As Alfian notes about JIB, another Muslim modernist movement,

“many JIB members also found good reason to like Muhammadiya, simply because

many of them were to become teachers o f Muhammadiya schools or doctors of its

clinics or polyclinics.”*1 This incentive seems to have gone beyond the limited sphere of

Islamic modernism to incorporate representatives of other trends as well. As Alfian

speculates, Muhammadiya’s social services, including its schools, “had provided a

number of jobs to a variety of people - secular nationalists, Muslim modernists, the

kiyais and the religious teachers. The meaning of the few jobs that Muhammadiya could

offer was probably increased when the depression of the early 1930’s had also reached

and hurt Java.”*3 People who worked for Muhammadiya did not have to join the

movement, but it seems that many of them did, perhaps initially coming to work for the

movement solely because it provided a good job but becoming more convinced of the

truth of its message through sustained interaction with its members.

Just as Muhammadiya’s schools and other social services served to bring both

other Islamic modernists as well as people not initially sympathetic to the movement

into it, so did the DAV schools. The DAV schools’ ability to produce graduates who

could successfully compete for government jobs and university positions meant that it

recruited students far beyond Arya Samaj families - many Hindus who did not endorse

the more radical tenets of the Samaj on religious reform nonetheless sent their sons to

K Alfian, 239

** Alfian, 240

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DAV schools or to the College. Students of the College, in turn, were repeatedly

recruited into non-educational activities which reflected or directly advanced the

religious reform agenda of the Samaj. The College developed a system of boarding

houses which by 1914 housed 687 students in an environment which mandated the

implementation of at least some parts of the Samaj’s reform agenda; for example, no

boarding house run by the College was allowed to set up different dining rooms or

dining times for members o f different castes,*4 which meant that students of different

castes ate together in defiance o f common Hindu practice at the time. Kenneth Jones

notes that “with practice mobilization of college students proved relatively easy,

creating a pool of talent and energy that could be used to support a variety of causes.”*5

These causes ranged from relatively innocuous charity work, such as participation in

campaigns to provide famine and flood relief, to projects intimately connected with the

Samaj’s message of religious reform, such as converting members of other religions

“back” to Hinduism**. Pandey reports that Lala Hans Raj, the College president, “sent

his workers to Malabar where they challenged the foundations of the local caste

system,” helping members of low castes to assert their right to engage in such activities

54 Pandey, 75

*5 Jones, 239

** The Arya Samaj, along with other Hindu nationalist groups, believes that the original population o f India
(before the Muslim conquests) was entirely Hindu, and argues that any Indian who is now Christian or
Muslim is descended from Indians who were originally Hindu and converted to Christianity or Islam.
Therefore, they see the conversion o f Christian or Muslim Indians to Hinduism as a conversion o f these
Indians ”backn to their original religion - Hinduism

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as using the public roads and to defend them to court*7 The British clearly thought that

students o f the DAV College in particular were major participants in provincial politics

- commenting on the 1907 disturbances in Punjab that resulted in the short-lived

deportation of Lajpat Rai, one o f the Samaj’s most prominent leaders, Home Political

Department Proceedings in 1912 quoted Denzil Ibbetson, the British official designated

to investigate the causes of the unrest, as having “informed the Government that the

Samaj was a centre of seditious talk and the students of the DAV College took part in

the riots.”** Fearing precisely such a perception, shortly after the riots College president

Lala Hans Raj led a delegation to the Lieutenant-Governor to argue that “the Samaj was

an organization which had for its sole object the religious educational achievement of its

members and that at the time of the last disturbance in Lahore the College was closed

and he firmly believed that DAV College boys had no hand in it.”” While the DAV

College’s excellent reputation for providing a quality education attracted many Hindu

students unconvinced by the full Arya reform agenda, then, the evidence strongly

suggests that many of these students had become active in advancing that agenda by the

time they left the College.

17 Pandey, 75

** Home Political (Confidential) Department Proceedings, Part A, April 1912, No.4, quoted in Pandey, 144

” Tribune, May 28,1907, p .l, quoted in Jones, 275

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Chapter Five: Religious Nationalism 101, Section A: How


Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya Schools Spread Religious
Nationalism

“It is quite true that I am one o f those persons who raised the cry of ‘national
education’ in North India and I have since then used it rather effectively for
enlisting sympathy and collecting funds for the various institutions that were
from time to time started to impart education on ‘nationalist’ lines The
Mohamedan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh was a symbol of the new
Muslim nationalism educational in function, but political in scope and
effect. The Arya Samaj, representing the new nationalism of the Hindus,
followed suit, and the Dayananda Anglo-Vedic College.... was the fruit of its
efforts....each professed to provide its own kind of national education....... each
institution created an atmosphere of its own - national to a certain extent, so far
as the cult of love of country was concerned, but otherwise openly sectarian.”

Lala Lajpat Rai, The Problem o f National


Education in India, (London: George Allen
& Unwin Ltd, 1920), 16-17

Lala Lajpat Rai, the most prominent Arya Samaj ist after the death of

Dayananda Saraswati, was also one of the loudest and most well-known cheerleaders

for the DAV school cause. His 1920 analysis of the type of “nationalist” education

offered in the DAV schools came in the form o f a self-critique, offered years after his

brief deportation to Burma after “disturbances” swept Punjab in 1907 had made him a

household name in North India, and after he had distanced himself from the Samaj.

Lajpat Rai participated sporadically in the Congress Party, particularly after curtailing

his involvement in the Samaj, and the view o f DAV and Aligarh education which he

expresses here is informed by an aversion to religiously-based imaginings of the

community shared by Congress. It also communicates very effectively the self-

conscious agenda o f the DAV schools in the pre-independence period: to “impart

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187

education on ‘nationalist’ lines,” subject to their understanding of what constituted the

“nation.”

In the previous chapter I demonstrated that the DAV and Muhammadiya

schools were part and parcel of the state-subsidized system of Westem-style education

in India and Indonesia. Eligibility for state subsidies required these schools to adopt a

curriculum very similar in its basic outlines to that in use in government schools, a

similarity also motivated by the schools’ desire to produce students capable of passing

government exams for entrance into the bureaucracy or the university. Given these

constraints, how did the Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya impart their religious

imaginings o f the nation through their schools? And quotes horn leaders of these

movements aside, what constitutes evidence o f nationalism - religious or otherwise -

in these or any other school curricula?

Some evidence of national feeling transmitted through schools is readily

apparent - the surreptitious singing of the Indonesian “national anthem,” for example,

in a 1930’s secular nationalist school in Sumatra documented by Bowen,1or books

which incited such anger at colonial rule that “by the end of the class students were

aching to go kill a Dutchman.”2 Religious nationalist education, by contrast, was often

less focused on animosity towards the colonizer and more on the internal dimensions of

national identity - spreading the movements’ understanding of the correct practice of

the faith within the community, and ensuring the dominance - moral and material - of

that community within the colony. One way o f accomplishing this was through the

1John R. Bowen, Sumatran Politics and Poetics: Gayo History, 1900-1989, (New Haven: Yale University
Press, 1991), 95

2 ibid, 98

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188

construction and teaching of a history which centered the contributions o f the

community at the heart of national identity, while defining other communities’ histories

and traditions as alien to it. This approach to nationalist education can be seen in the

case of the DAV schools studied by Kumar in the 1980’s, which offered “a specific

view of history in which the conquests of India by the Mughals and the English are

seen as causes of India’s cultural and moral decline. Special respect for warriors like

Rana Pratap and Shivaji, both of whom fought the Mughals, is symbolic of the

ideological themes embedded in this view of history.”3

The content of curricula can be religious nationalist; so can the medium in

which the curricula are taught The decision to anoint one particular language as the

language of the nation in a linguistically heterogeneous colony is a highly charged one,

with the potential to define speakers of other languages as somehow being outside the

nation or to deprive them of the material benefits which come with speaking the official

lingua franca. The elevation of a particular language in a multilingual society to

national status can have inclusive implications, as the choice of Hebrew rather than

Yiddish or any other European language spoken by immigrants to Israel did. It can also

have intentionally divisive implications, as was the case with the campaign to adopt

Hindi in the Devanagari script as the official language of the bureaucracy and

education in North India. To the extent that a school teaches a language particularly

associated with one religious community while situating that instruction in the context

o f the assumption that that language will, or should, be the official language o f the

3 Krishna Kumar, "Hindu Revivalism and Education in North-Central India", in Fundamentalisms and
Society: Reclaiming the Sciences, the Family, and Education, edited by Martin E. Marty and R. Scott
Appleby, (Chicago: University o f Chicago Press, 1993), 551

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189

nation, then I would suggest that religious nationalist education is being practiced. If

a school attended solely by Hindus taught Hindi in Devanagari script solely as a way of

preserving that community’s tradition or inspiring pride in its heritage without

suggesting a larger role for the language and script which transcended the boundaries

o f the community, this would not be a religious nationalist action, because it would

have no implication for relations between Hindus and other communities, nor would it

place members o f those other communities at any disadvantage. But to teach Hindi in

Devanagari script as part o f a larger campaign to make that language and script the

national language, with all o f the attendant disadvantages that that would visit upon the

Muslim population, would be a religious nationalist project.

The question of an intent to place one’s own religious community in a more

privileged position than other religious communities which are defined a priori as

being rivals can also be an integral part of religious nationalist education, even if it

leads to teaching subjects which on their face seem to have no religious or communal

content. In colonial north India, the success of Hindu and Muslim young men in

obtaining coveted bureaucratic posts had early on become a barometer of the relative

strength of their communities as a whole. The concept o f creating educational

institutions restricted to students of a particular community for the express purpose of

increasing that community’s chances to obtain bureaucratic posts had a provenance

almost as old as British rule itself; the first school founded by the East India Company -

the Calcutta Madrasa —was founded in 1781 in order to “qualify the sons of

Mohamedan gentlemen for responsible and lucrative offices in the state, even at that

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190

time largely monopolised by the Hindus.”4 Concern almost a century later over

Muslims’ purported “backwardness” in obtaining their “share” o f bureaucratic posts led

Sayyed Ahmed Khan to found the Mohamedan Anglo-Oriental College, known as

Aligarh, in the United Provinces in 1875, and Aryas in Punjab from the beginning

intended their schools to equip Hindu students in the same way. Since the higher-level

posts in the bureaucracy required fluency in English, the desire to equip DAV students

to compete for those posts led DAV school leaders to insist that the education which

they provided stress knowledge of English, rather than focusing primarily on Sanskrit

and Vedic studies. The level of their commitment to this cause is demonstrated by the

fact that they were willing to cause a split in the DAV Managing Committee -

described in the previous chapter - rather than agree to tilt the school’s curricula more

heavily towards the provision o f purely religious studies which would not equip

students for success in the colonial world. In this context, then, the decision to focus

DAV education more heavily on English than on Sanskrit can be seen as a decision to

engage in religious nationalist education.

Having said this, however, it is important to note that religious nationalist

education also includes at least some emphasis on the teaching o f reformed religion as

the movement understands it. Solely preparing students to compete against members o f

other communities defined as rivals based on their religious affiliation, or solely

prioritizing the historical contributions of one community instead of another, is not

sufficient to create religious nationalist education; what such strategies are creating, if

they are not complemented by religious education, is communal education. If this type

4 A.P. Howell, Education in British India, (Calcutta: Government Printing, 1872), p .l, as quoted in
Mukeiji, 22

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191

of education is supplemented, however, with education in reformed religion, then it can

be considered religious nationalist education. As was discussed at length in Chapter

One, reformed religion for the religious nationalist is not some obscure topic

unconnected with daily life - the lack of its practice is responsible for the calamities

experienced in daily life, and only when reformed religion is truly practiced will the

community prosper.

As will have become clear from my discussion above, my concept of what

constitutes religious nationalist education places a lot of emphasis on motivation -

why something is being taught, not just what is being taught. Motivation, of course, can

be hard to assess, particularly in a historical study in which the participants cannot be

interviewed to assess the reasons for particular curricular decisions. To the extent that

subjects taught in the DAV and Muhammadiya schools can be connected to larger

campaigns waged by these movements, whose rationale we do know, then I would

argue that it is safe to infer that this same rationale informs the decision to teach these

subjects in the schools. For example, if we know that the Arya Samaj was a key

promoter of the adoption of Hindi in the Devanagari script on the grounds that Hindus

needed a common language to be a nation, and on the grounds that Hindi should be the

national language of India, it would seem safe to assume that Hindi is being taught in

the DAV schools for the same reasons, thus clearly categorizing it as religious

nationalist education.

Geography, History, and Language 101: The Religious Nationalist Educational


Project in Indonesia

Indonesian nationalists - religious and secular - worked in an archipelago of

thousands o f islands which had never before been linked under a single political regime

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192

or shared a corporate identity. As in other colonies, developing a sense of national unity

would require downplaying a history in which Indonesians had “actively assisted in the

subjugation of each other,”5 with forces from the areas first conquered by the Dutch,

particularly Java, playing an instrumental role in subduing later conquests, such as

Minangkabau and Aceh in Sumatra. Both religious and secular nationalists fought to

create this sense o f national unity, and the schools that they founded were at the forefront

of this battle. In some cases both types of schools waged the campaign for national unity

in the same way - teaching the geography of the archipelago as a whole rather than

focusing solely on Java, for example, or teaching Bahasa Indonesia - the Indonesian

language - rather than or in addition to the languages o f particular regions. In other cases

the curricula of secular and religious nationalist schools diverged more sharply, with

Muhammadiya schools prioritizing the teaching of Arabic - usually absent from secular

nationalist schools - and situating the teaching of Indonesian history in a very different

context than that o f their more secular counterparts. It is important to realize, however,

that even where the curricula of both schools appeared to be the same, they were

informed by very different understandings of what constituted Indonesia, and what

Indonesia’s place in the larger world was. In seeking a unified nation, secular and

religious nationalists both argued that underneath all of its diversity Indonesians shared a

single cultural base. Within this framework secular nationalists played down differences

in the various cultures o f the archipelago in favor of an insistence that all of these cultures

shared a common cultural base, an approach which required recognizing and validating

the contributions o f animist, Hindu, and other non-Islamic religions and practices to

5 A History o f Modern Indonesia, M.C. Ricklefs, (London: Macmillan, 1981), 139. Ricklefs notes that in
1905 15,866 Europeans served in the colonial army and navy, while 26,276 Indonesians did. Ricklefs, 140

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193

Indonesian culture. For Muhammadiya, Indonesia was a country 90% o f whose

inhabitants claimed to be Muslim; influences deemed non-Islamic had to be filtered out

of that majority’s practices, and only those influences which could be traced back to

Islam should be enshrined at the heart of national culture. By examining various aspects

of Muhammadiya curricula, then, and by comparing them with secular nationalist

approaches to education whenever possible, we can discover the ways in which

Muhammadiya schools attempted to create an “Indonesian national consciousness in

Islamic terms,” terms which rendered Indonesian history understandable only in terms of

larger themes of Islamic history and which placed Indonesia firmly at the center of a

larger Malayo-Muslim world.

The Teaching o f Geography

One area in which both Muhammadiya and secular nationalist schools were

similar to each other - and different from their government counterparts - was in their

teaching o f geography. Government schools on Java spent a significant amount of time

teaching Indonesian students geography because the Cultivation System

(cultuurstelsel), which was based on compulsory cultivation o f export crops to be sold

to the state at fixed prices, required the constant production o f surveyors capable of

carrying out annual redivisions o f desa (village) land there.6 Since the teaching of

geography in government schools was exclusively for the purpose of the production of

such surveyors, government schools on Java, routinely taught only the geography of

Java and not that of the rest o f the archipelago. In good liberal colonialist fashion,

Kroeskamp, the historian of Dutch education in Indonesia, notes that the Javanese

6 Kroeskamp, 34S

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student had rather narrow horizons - his “knowledge and interest usually did not

extend beyond the desa in which (he) lived and (his) immediate surroundings”7 - and

bemoans the fact that while in-depth geographical study of the archipelago would

“have been useful to expand the mind o f the Javanese student,” a lack of teacher-

training, good geography books, and a shortage of maps turned geography in

government schools into “a dull framework o f topographical facts, especially

concerning the island o f Java, sometimes extended in a small way to the other islands.”*

Where Kroeskamp traced Java-centric courses on geography to the unintended

but unfortunate cause of inadequate resources, members of later generations of

Muhammadiya, not surprisingly, saw the hand of Dutch officials determined to keep

Indonesians from knowing about and feeling solidarity with each other. Ahistorically

projecting back in time a concept of “Indonesia” which was only beginning to exist

during his childhood, an elderly member of Muhammadiya recalled his tum-of-the-

century government education, by noting that “children of my generation did not know

what Indonesia was. What is Indonesia? There is no Indonesian people. What exists is

‘Javanese’. In the (government) primary school the geography of Indonesia was not

taught, only the geography of Java.” This informant brings up the Java-centric view

taught in government schools in order to counterpose it with that of Muhammadiya

schools, which, wherever they were located in the archipelago, taught about that

archipelago as a whole. In this Muhammadiya and secular nationalist schools did not

differ, in that they both instructed students that they were part of a larger entity called

7 Kroeskamp, 345

* ibid

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Indonesia, and they were both instrumental in disseminating this understanding of

“Indonesia” as a single entity which should be ruled by “Indonesians.”

The Question o f Language, Part One: Malay/Bahasa Indonesia

The state-building project in Indonesia required the creation of laws through

which the colony would be administered, but that administration presumed the prior

creation of a colonial bureaucracy sustained by Indonesian bureaucrats. At the highest

levels that bureaucracy would function in Dutch, but an appropriate native language had

to be chosen for the conduct of lower level bureaucratic affairs. Nothing approaching a

common mother tongue existed - on Java people spoke Javanese, Sundanese, or

Madurese; the Minangkabau people in Sumatra spoke Minangkabau, and throughout the

archipelago hundreds of languages and dialects coexisted. To the extent that there was

any lingua franca, it was Malay, spoken as a mother tongue by almost no Indonesian

before this century but a base - in varying degrees o f looseness - for several of the

regional Indonesian languages,9 and it was Malay which became the language o f the

bureaucracy.

Malay did not, however, become the main language taught in government

schools. J.C. Baud, the initiator of government education, had stipulated that education

be delivered in the vernacular of a given area, and only if that were impossible would

Malay be used. Since a major purpose of the government school system was to produce

bureaucrats, the practice of discouraging Malay instruction in these schools was highly

impractical. As the government educational system evolved, Malay was taught in schools

charged with preparing prospective bureaucrats, but even in these schools it received less

9 Constituting the Minangkabau: Peasants, Culture, and Modernity in Colonial Indonesia, Joel Kahn,
(Providence: Berg Publishers, 1993), 135

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attention and fewer resources than the teaching of the native languages of a given area.10

In practice this meant that in the early years of the educational system, when Westem-

style education was restricted almost exclusively to children o f the elite heading for

bureaucratic posts, almost all government schools taught Malay. As educational provision

widened, a ranking system was introduced into the schools, with enrollment in Grade I

schools being limited to elite future bureaucrats while students o f more humble origins

and fewer bureaucratic prospects were routed into Grade II schools. Children in Grade I

schools learned Malay; for the most part, children in Grade II schools did not. Recalling

his study in a (presumably Grade II) government school in Java under Dutch rule, an

elderly member of Muhammadiya noted that “the language taught there was only

Javanese. Teachers spoke Javanese in the classroom...counting numbers was also in

Javanese.”11

While colonial officials saw creating a viable colonial bureaucracy as the only

reason for the spread of Malay, Indonesian nationalists - religious and secular - looked

more to the language’s potential to unify people from across the archipelago into a single

nation. Malay became known as Bahasa Indonesia, which has been the official language

of Indonesia since her independence, and Kahn argues that by 1928 all segments of the

nationalist movement which began to emerge in Indonesia in the first decades of the

twentieth century had become committed to the widest possible dissemination of

Indonesian throughout the islands. The 1920’s and 1930’s saw the publishing of the first

10 In 1862, for example, students in the first four grades o f government schools spent 46 hours a week in
courses addressing various aspects o f the Javanese language as compared to 34 hours on reading, dictation,
and letterwriting in Malay. Kroeskamp, 340

11 Mitsuo Nakamura, The Crescent Arises Over the Banyan Tree: A Study o f the Muhammadiyah Movement
in A Central Javanese Town, (Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press, 1983) 87-88

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197

novels in Indonesian, as well as the production of Indonesian-language textbooks12 used

in nationalist schools. Some of these schools, such as the short-lived secular nationalist

Our Teaching House school in the highlands o f northern Sumatra studied by Bowen,

made a point o f loaning students newly-published Indonesian novels, not yet widely

available during the school’s three-year existence in the late 1930’s.13

Muhammadiya supported the spread of Indonesian as strongly if not more so than

its secular nationalist counterparts. Indonesian was taught in Muhammadiya schools,

even those in areas where the majority o f the population were traders and craftspeople

and the students were not expected to pursue the bureaucratic employment which would

have provided an economic incentive for the study of Malay. In the Javanese village of

Kotagede bilingual or multilingual graduates of Muhammadiya schools in this period

spoke Javanese at home and Indonesian in Muhammadiya,14 and Indonesian was used in

Muhammadiya’s national meetings and publications.

So far, the story of Muhammadiya’s attachment to Indonesian appears

indistinguishable from that of the secular nationalists. But Muhammadiya’s

commitment to Malay/Indonesian predated its elevation to the status of a national

cause by the secular nationalist movement, and the reasons for its prioritization of

Malay were different in many respects from those which informed secular nationalist

attachment to it. Knowledge of Malay had long been the key to advanced learning in

Islam; after learning basic Arabic and Javanese in the traditional Islamic schools

12 Bowen, Sumatran Politics, 95

13 ibid

14 Nakamura, 87

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known as pesantren, students wishing to continue their study of the faith could only do

so in Malay.15 When advances in steamship transportation made it possible for large

numbers o f Indonesian Muslims to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in the late nineteenth

century, Malayo-Indonesians quickly came to be the largest foreign group in Mecca.16

In Mecca, as Dutch Orientalist Snouck Hurgronje noted in the 1890’s, Malay was used

to communicate between Muslims o f “Malay race in the fullest meaning o f the

term.............from Siam and Malacca to New Guinea;”17it also provided entrde into an

Islamic modernist trend emerging in the larger Malayo-Muslim world and centered in

Singapore, where Islamic modernists founded schools, journals, and groups which later

spread into Malaysia and Indonesia.16 Muhammadiya founder Ahmad Dahlan had

spent several years in this Malayo-Muslim milieu in Mecca, learning Malay there and

ensuring its use in Muhammadiya during his tenure - a tenure which, in its stretch from

1912 until his death in 1923, predated the widespread adoption of Malay by the secular

nationalist movement. Other members of Muhammadiya who had spent time in Mecca

played a key role in the spread of Muhammadiya throughout the archipelago,19 and

Muhammadiya activists consciously tried to associate their movement not just with the

Malay language but also with symbols of Malay as opposed to strictly Javanese culture,

which tended to be more infused with non-Islamic symbols and practices. This seems

15 Snouck Hurgronge, The Achehnese, (Leyden: E.J. Brill, 1906), 5

16 James Peacock, Purifying the Faith: The Muhammadijah Movement in Indonesian Islam, (Menlo Park:
The Benjamin/Cummings Publishing Company, 1978) 23-24

17 Snouck Hurgronje 1931: 215,229 ff, quoted in Nakamura, 86

16 Peacock, Purifying the Faith, 23-4

19 For example, a Muhammadiya pilgrim introduced the movement to West Sumatra in 1925 upon his
return from Mecca

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to have particularly been the case for younger members o f Muhammadiya; at the

movement’s 1925 congress, Fakhruddin, the movement’s first vice-chair, wore Western

clothes with a Javanese headdress, but younger Muhammadiya members usually

donned the Malay cap rather than Javanese headdress, which Indonesia scholar James

Peacock interprets as “Javanese syncretic culture (being) replaced by a Malayo-

Indian santri culture.”20

While the spread of Indonesian throughout the archipelago was a goal for both

Muhammadiya and secular nationalist movements, then, the reasons o f each for doing

so differed substantially. Both sets of movements saw Indonesian as a tool for unifying

an extremely diverse population around the dissemination of a common language, but

for Muhammadiya the importance of spreading Malay/Indonesian went far beyond the

language’s usefulness in uniting people within the archipelago. Knowledge of Malay

would firmly anchor Indonesian Muslims within a larger Malayo-Muslim world which,

to Muhammadiya members’ minds, sustained a culture that was more authentically

Muslim and less permeated with non-Islamic practices than that found around them on

Java, and parts o f which were specifically involved in the transmission of Islamic

modernist concepts. Interestingly, missionaries in Indonesia sensed exactly the same

potential for the spread o f Islam in the archipelago through the spread o f Malay as

Muhammadiya did; believing that Malay was o f Islamic origin,21 they promoted

20 Peacock, 47

21 Steenbrink, 98

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regional dialects instead of Malay and with very few exceptions did not teach the latter

in their schools.22

The Teaching o f History

Muhammadiya sought to situate Indonesian Muslims not only within the larger

Malayo-Muslim world, but also within the universe of Islam as a whole. In

government schools, the history of Indonesia and her islands was noticeable by its

absence; government educational reports from the late nineteenth century “did not

contain a single reference to the teaching o f history,”23 although “interesting historical

events” were occasionally mentioned during geography lessons,24 and anecdotal

evidence from the early twentieth century do not suggest that history was subsequently

added to the government school curriculum. Muhammadiya schools, by way of

contrast, taught the history of Indonesia as a part of a larger history of Islam. In classic

reformist style, “the glory and perfection of Islam’s early period were emphasized and

contrasted to the regressions in the subsequent periods of Muslim world history,

including that of Indonesia. The upshot of casting Islamic history in that perspective

was to hold Muslims themselves responsible for the regression and degenerations,

urging Muslims to strive to restore the greatness of Islam in the modem world.”23

In Muhammadiya schools, Indonesia’s history could only be understood as part

of a trajectory of development of the Islamic world as a whole, and only those parts of

Indonesia’s history which had witnessed the triumph of Islam within the archipelago

22 Missionaries in the Minahassa taught Malay in their schools. Kroeskamp, 301

23 Kroeskamp, 398

" ib id

23 Nakamura, 89

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should be looked to as a model for the future. This latter stress was particularly

important on Java, whose history of Hinduized empires, lasting from the founding of

the central Javanese kingdom, Mataram, in the eighth century until the demise of the

east Java kingdom of Majpahit in the seventeenth century, had allowed a climate in

which, in Muhammadiya’s view, correct Islamic practice had been corrupted by Hindu

traditions. With the rise of a newly Islamized Mataram in the seventeenth century, the

kingdom of Majpahit had fallen and its remaining royalty fled to Bali, and in 1925

Muhammadiya aroused sustained protest over the publication by a Dutch company of a

Javanese folk history entitled Serat Dermagandul, which blamed Islam for the

downfall of the Majpahit empire and argued that Islam had rendered the Javanese half­

hearted. The only cure for the Javanese, the folk history suggested, was the revival of

the old Hindu Javanism.26 Members of Muhammadiya would not brook this

interpretation of Javanese history, and more particularly this recipe for Javanese

renewal, and protested strongly against the publication of a book which would make

such claims.

Whose Traditions? - The Question ofAdat, and the Role o f Arabic

Just as Java’s Hindu empires had been a symbol of (Muslim) Indonesia’s

downfall in Muhammadiya historiography, so were the incorporation o f animist and

Hindu practices into the everyday lives o f Muslims a concrete manifestation of the

latter’s demise which had to be eliminated. Muhammadiya’s understanding of what

constituted correct everyday practice in the religious and social world set it on a collision

26 Alfian, 206

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course with the Dutch, who from the early part of the twentieth century had been

involved in a systematic attempt to gather information about, and base customary law on,

the practices of the various peoples in the colony. Just as the British had embarked on

their efforts to systematically study Indian languages and customs almost immediately

after their assumption of political control in 1772, when the Dutch completed their

conquest of Indonesia by bringing the Outer Islands under their control in the first decade

of the twentieth century, they began what was perhaps their most sustained attempt to

understand Indonesian “tradition” —the process of cataloguing adat. The Encyclopedia

o f the Dutch East Indies, published between 1917-1935, defined adat as “the customs and

practices that guide every aspect of indigenous life: social relations, agriculture, treatment

of the sick, judicial arrangements, ancestor worship, burial of the dead, games and

popular entertainment, etc,”27 and Dutch civil servants were sent out to study and detail

these practices throughout the archipelago. Just as British officials in the late eighteenth

century consulted Hindu pundits and Muslim ulema in an attempt to unearth a base of

shared customs which could serve as the foundation of British law for the two

communities, so a major motivation for the Dutch cataloguing o f adat was to find a basis

for Dutch law. As Comelis van Vollenhoven, Holland’s foremost scholar o f adat argued,

“the colonial administration should engage in ‘expert examination’ and incorporate

indigenous social prescriptions and customary law in its administrative procedures

whenever appropriate.”28Van Vollenhoven sought to mine the adat of various regions in

27 Gouda, 54

“ ibid, 57-8

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order to unearth common values and mores which could serve as the basis of a single

customary law to be applied throughout the colony.

The maintenance of adat in and of itself posed no particular ideological or

political problem for Indonesia’s secular nationalists. To the extent that, as Gouda notes,

“the emphasis on the internal differences and fragmentation o f ethnic cultures indirectly

yielded a ‘divide and rule’ colonial policy” which “tr(ied) to reinforce the political

sovereignty and local pride of the various regions of the archipelago.............(in order) to

quell the burgeoning sense of supra-ethnic national identity among all Indonesians,” 29

secular nationalists opposed not adat itself but the Dutch fetishization of the differences

within it. The secular nationalist response to the potentially divisive implications of the

Dutch adat discourse was that despite their attachment to practices which varied on the

regional level, Indonesians possessed a common pool o f values and traditions. Secular

nationalists would have found no political advantage in attacking local traditions or

attempting to winnow them in an attempt to come up with a more truly uniform culture;

this would have would have earned them unnecessary enemies, and so they adopted the

much more palatable strategy o f praising the diversity-within-unity that Indonesians were

alleged to share.

Members of Muhammadiya saw the adat question quite differently. In their

minds, adat represented a perversion of true Islam which had to be erased and replaced

with correct Islamic practice. Muhammadiya’s assessment of the wide gap separating

Islam and adat was almost identical to that o f C. Snouck Hurgronje, the Orientalist

“expert” on Islam who almost singlehandedly formulated Dutch policy on the subject.

*lbid

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Hurgronje argued that while a large majority o f Indonesians were Muslims, “the great

majority pursue their lives in their half-pagan and wholly superstitious thoughts and

practices, only imperfectly clad in a few phrases and other outward and visible signs of

Mohammedanism.”30 It was adat and domestic law, Hurgronje asserted, that dictated

Indonesians’ behavior, not Islam, and in Java this adat was based largely on a view of

the world as filled with gods and goddesses who must be placated by particular actions,

such as building one’s house facing a certain direction in order to respect a particular

goddess31 or celebrating communal feasts (slametan) which keep people safe

(“slam ef ’) when practiced at particular points in the life-cycle such as the day that a

child first sets her feet on the ground.32 Winnowing this adat and removing the parts

which it viewed as incompatible with Islam was essential to Muhammadiya’s project of

religious reform, and “correct” Islamic practice shorn of these “un-Islamic” accretions

was taught in Muhammadiya schools.

An important part of discerning what truly constituted an “authentic” Muslim

Indonesian culture was learning to read - not just memorize and recite - the Quran, and

to this end Arabic was a key subject in Muhammadiya schools. In the traditional

Islamic schools known as pesantren, children learned the Arabic alphabet, memorized

30 Alfian, 19

31 Haji Masjhudi, a prominent Muhammadiya leader in the Javanese village o f Kotagede interviewed by
Nakamura, noted that the construction o f his house was “irregular” in that it had ignored the local belief
that houses must face southward as a manifestation o f respect for the Goddess o f the Southern Ocean.
Nakamura, 73

32 James Peacock, Muslim Puritans: Reformist Psychology in Southeast Asian Islam , (Berkeley: University
o f California Press, 1978), 44-46. Slametans are also held to celebrate days in the Islamic calendar, such as
the birth o f the Prophet, but the “animistic” form o f these celebrations alienates modernist Muslims, who
usually do not practice them. While much o f Muhammadiya’s aversion to Javanese adat is based upon its
belief in spirits, it is interesting to note that in Peacock’s 1970 survey o f Muhammadiya members he found
that 80% o f Muhammadiya students interviewed believed in jin n . Peacock, 42

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Quranic verses in Arabic, and had particular verses explained to them in Javanese,

explanations which they had to accept on faith since the level of Arabic that they had

achieved did not enable them to interpret the texts for themselves. Because products of

the pesantren could not analyze the Quran for themselves, they depended on the

explanations of their teachers as their outline for correct practice of the faith, and it was

this reliance, Islamic modernists charged, that allowed the continuation of un-Islamic

practices under the guise that they were Islamic. Only if students achieved a level of

Arabic instruction that enabled them to read and interpret the Quran for themselves

would they come to realize the correctness of the version of reformed Islam that

Muhammadiya and other modernists were preaching. In Muhammadiya schools, then,

Arabic was taught for the purpose of enabling students to read the texts for themselves,

with students being encouraged to question others’ interpretations of them.33

Of course, the teaching of Arabic had another benefit beyond simply allowing

Muslims direct access to the Quran - it also made it possible for students to read books

produced in the Arabic-speaking Muslim world. In Takengen in the highlands of

Sumatra, students in the older, more traditional Muslim schools had learned to recite

Arabic passages but had studied about Islam in Malay; students in the new Muslim

schools, modernist or not, which opened in the highlands in the 1930’s studied Arabic

grammar and then Islamic topics in Arabic. This wider knowledge of Arabic, in turn,

allowed students o f these Takengen schools to use Arabic books which were first

ordered from West Sumatra and then from Cairo, opening up new possibilities for the

33 Nakamura, 88

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transmission of knowledge about and ideas from the Muslim Middle East into the

Indonesian Muslim milieu.34

In very substantive ways, the imagining of the Indonesian community which

Muhammadiya sought to disseminate in its schools differed from the imagining that

secular nationalists advocated. While the secular nationalist project was an inclusive

one which respected various Indonesian traditions and practices as a way of bringing

everyone on board, for Muhammadiya the force that united all Indonesians was not

some putative shared past or history - it was the universalizing force of correctly-

practiced Islam, and the process of reviving that version of Islam would require

winnowing other practices out of the Indonesian national culture. Perhaps the most

vivid sense o f the diversion of these two national imaginings is prefigured in the

account of one of Bowen’s informants, Tengku Asaluddin, in Takengen. Asaluddin had

entered Muhammadiya in the 1930’s, and as a sixteen-year-old he left his home town

of Isak in 1933 to pursue religious studies in Takengen, where he studied Arabic at the

Muhammadiya school. The following is Asaluddin’s account, with Bowen’s asides in

parentheses.

“In Takengen I joined the youth group o f Muhammadiya, the Hizbul Wathan. We
joined together to defend our land. We learned “Indonesia Raya” (Greater Indonesia,
the nationalist anthem, banned at that time by the Dutch), but we sang it with different
words as theHizbul Wathan anthem. It went (he sings to the tune of “Indonesia Raya”):

“Islam is based on the Quran


Religion is the command of God
Brought by the Prophet Mohammed
May God bless him and grant him peace
Come, let us all
Obediently carry it out.”35

34 Bowen, Sumatran Politics, 98

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“Indonesia Raya”’s three stanzas, by contrast, contain no reference to Islam; the first

stanza, which is very similar in tone and reference to the other two, is quoted below.

“Indonesia, our native country


Consecrated with our spilt blood
Where we all arise to stand guard
Over this our Motherland
Indonesia our nationality
Our people and our country
Come then, let us all demand
Indonesia united
Long live our land,
Long live our state
Our nation, our people, and all
Arouse then its spirit
Organise its own bodies
To obtain Indonesia the Great.”
Chorus:

“Indonesia the Great, independent and free,


My beloved land and country
Indonesia the Great, independent and free,
Long live Indonesia the Great.” 36

The beauty of Asaluddin’s story is compounded by his aside that although “Indonesia

Raya” was banned by the Dutch, when Asaluddin and his colleagues sang the Hizbul

Wathan version, the Dutch district officer would sit listening and nodding to the

rhythm, not comprehending the meaning.37

Just as Muhammadiya sought to stress only what it deemed to be the Muslim

aspects of Indonesia’s languages, culture, and history and denied the validity o f other

influences in shaping the national culture, so did the Arya Samaj seek to prioritize

35 Bowen, Muslims Through Discourse, 58

36 As translated in National Anthems o f the World, Seventh Edition, ed. W.L. Reed and M.J. Bristow,
(London: Blandford Press, 1987), 236

37 Bowen, Muslims Through Discourse, 58

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languages, cultures, and parts of north Indian history associated with Hindu triumph in

their imagining of the Indian nation. For the Arya Samaj, teaching reformed Hindu

practice, creating and ensuring a privileged position for Hindus in north Indian society,

and unifying Hindus into a single nation was done in large part through the choice of

languages which were taught in the DAV schools.

The Languages of the Arya Samaj’s National Renewal Part One: Sanskrit vs.
English

If the Arya Samaj’s primary purpose was to fashion a recipe for the renewal of

the Hindu community, Samaj founder Dayananda Saraswati would have said that that

recipe was written in Sanskrit. “The causes o f foreign rule in India,” Dayananda wrote,

were “mutual feud, child-marriage, marriage in which the contracting parties have no

will in the selection of their life-partners, indulgence in carnal gratification,

untruthfulness the neglect of the study of the Vedas, and other malpractices. It is

only when brothers fight among themselves that an outsider poses as an arbiter.”38

Listing “neglect of the study o f the Vedas” as one o f many causes of foreign rule does

not adequately reflect the centrality of these texts to Dayananda’s vision of Hindu

renewal, for he consistently argued that child-marriage, lack of agency in choosing

marriage partners, and the other “malpractices” enumerated above were all the result

of diversion from the correct practice of Hinduism as outlined in the Vedas. The only

way to restore Hindus to their former glory was to resuscitate Vedic teachings, and

since the Brahmins had systematically perverted these teachings for their own benefit,

the only way for Hindus to ascertain what constituted correct practice was to read the

38 Charles H. Heimsath, Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform , (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1964), 128

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Vedas themselves. Since this required knowing Sanskrit, knowing Sanskrit was, in a

very real sense, the key to national renewal for Dayananda.

Sanskrit, used not as a medium of communication but as a needle with which to

prick the balloon of Brahmin superiority, was also central to the Samaj’s public identity

in its early years. One early way o f publicizing the movement took the form of Aryas

descending upon a given area and engaging pandits in debates, or shastrarth, about

various aspects of Hindu practice. These debates commonly included the Aryas

challenging any pandit present to enter into a discussion in Sanskrit; upon finding that

no pandit could do so, “the Arya Samaj party would return from the ‘field’ and pass

through the streets with bands playing triumphantly, the processions stopping here and

there for short speeches to proclaim the defeat of the orthodox party.”39 Besting

Brahmin pandits in Sanskrit was akin to demonstrating that the emperor had no clothes;

more importantly, it represented an attempt to stake the Aryas’ claim that they, not the

Brahmins, were the most qualified interlocutors of Hindu tradition. After all, if the

Brahmins did not know the language in which those traditions had been recorded, how

could their claims that Arya reform proposals represented a perversion of those

traditions be true? These carefully engineered pieces of political theater, however,

masked the fact that very few Aryas could speak Sanskrit; one of the few who knew it

fluently - Guru Datta - often wrote and memorized Sanskrit speeches on a given topic

and then challenges pundits to a Sanskrit debate on the topic on which he was already

prepared.40 Aryas, then, were far from the desired state of being able to access the

39 Kenneth Jones, Arya Dharm: Hindu Consciousness in Nineteenth-Centtuy Punjab, (Berkeley: University
o f California Press, 1976), 70

40 ibid

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Vedas for themselves, but presumably the foundation of an Arya educational system

would change all that.

While Sanskrit was central to the Samaj's plan for the revival o f the Hindu

community, so was English. Dayanand himself had been unconcerned with the issue of

foreign languages. While his message o f religious reform was radical, Dayanand's

persona was that of a Hindu guru par excellence; before founding the Samaj he had

studied for years with his own guru and then traveled throughout North India speaking

on reform while clad in a loincloth.41 He had never had occasion to learn English, and

saw no need to do so; alter all, why was Western learning necessary when all of the

triumphs o f Western science and civilization had been prefigured in the Vedas? The

leaders of the Samaj alter Dayananda’s death may have shared his reverence for the

Vedas, but they were almost uniformly products of Western schooling who did not

share his indifference to Western learning through the medium of English.

Incorporating that learning, they believed, was essential to building a modem nation.

But learning English was also essential for a more immediate and tangible reason - it

allowed Hindus to gain jobs in the bureaucracy, and get more of them than Muslims

did.

One o f the central manifestations of Hindu-Muslim competition in colonial

North India was the race between the two communities for bureaucratic jobs. A

memorial sent to the viceroy by Muslim activists in 1906 summarized the concern:

“the political importance of a community to a considerable extent gains strength or

41 Many accounts o f Dayanand’s preparation to form the Samaj note that, while in Calcutta, Brahmo Samaj
founder Keshub Chandra Sen suggested to Dayanand that his message would be better received if he would

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suffers detriment according to the position that the members of that community occupy

in the service of the State. If, as is unfortunately the case with the Mohammedans, they

are not adequately represented in this manner, they lose in the prestige and influence

which are justly their due.”42 North Indian Muslims in general were very sensitive to

the fear of losing “their” share o f bureaucratic posts, their recent history as a ruling

class whose primary occupation was government service being fresh in their minds.

Despite this history, Hindus were making dramatic strides in winning bureaucratic

posts, and nowhere was the ability to keep doing so more essential to the relative

position of the Hindu community than in Punjab, where the DAV schools movement

began. Outnumbered and largely excluded from positions of political power by Sikhs

and Muslims, the one arena which Punjabi Hindus unquestionably dominated was that

of the middle and upper levels of government jobs, with a full 80% of the ‘superior’

government appointments in the province going to Hindus.43

Members of both communities were hyper-sensitive to the relative success of

their co-religionists in the competition for bureaucratic posts, and they were well aware

that English-language education was essential to that success. Punjabi Hindus were

“beating” Muslims in the competition because a much higher percentage of their

children were enrolled in English-language Westem-style schools than were Muslims,

who tended to attend vemacular-language schools.44 In 1871 there were 2,200 Muslim

make two changes: speak in Hindi instead o f in Sanskrit, and w ear something more concealing than a
loincloth.

42 quoted in Francis Robinson, Separatism Among Indian Muslims: The Politics o f the United Provinces
Muslims 1860-1923, (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993), 145

43 Jones, 59-60

44 ibid, 60

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children in Punjab middle schools and 5,433 Hindus, and the gap increased even more

sharply at the higher levels of education, with 1,658 Muslims in higher schools

compared to 4,468 Hindus.43 It was precisely this perceived backwardness o f Muslims

in obtaining Westem-style, English-language education, not only in Punjab but

throughout North India, which prompted Sayyed Ahmed Khan to found the

Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College, commonly known as Aligarh, in the United

Provinces in 1875. Over time Sayyed Ahmed became progressively more convinced of

the importance o f English education, abandoning his earlier support of vernacular

education in Urdu to testify in front of the Hunter Commission on education in 1882

that English should be the language of education46 and moving to incorporate much

more English education in Aligarh’s curriculum. Arya activists explicitly cited Aligarh

as a model in their attempts to raise money to found the DAV schools,47 and in

founding the DAV schools they were building upon a concept of founding educational

institutions to better equip certain communities for the race for bureaucratic posts that

had a very long pedigree.

Both Sanskrit and English, then, were integral in different ways to the Samaj’s

conception o f national renewal. Lack of access to the Vedas through the medium of

Sanskrit had allowed the proliferation of incorrect practices of Hinduism; these

diversions from true Hinduism had weakened the community to the point that first

43 ibid

46 David Lelyveld, Aligarh's First Generation: Muslim Solidarity in British India , (Delhi: Oxford
University Press, 1996), 207

47 The November 5, 1883 issue o f the Regenerator o f Arya Varta noted that in the effort to found the DAV
College, “all difficulties will give way if w e have recourse to labor and perseverance. Look at Maulvi

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Muslim and then British invaders had been able to subjugate the Hindu majority to

their dictates. Reversing this trend and regaining Hindu power, then, would require

increasing numbers of Hindus to leam Sanskrit and to reform their behavior in

accordance with what they read in that language in the Vedas. In the shorter term,

however, maintaining the Hindus in a position of strength vis-a-vis Muslim competitors

required mastery of English. From the inception o f the plan to build Arya Samaj

schools, then, the teaching of both languages was assumed to be central to the schools’

mission. Even the name chosen for the schools - Dayanand Anglo-Vedic schools -

embodied this dual commitment. As Lala Ganeshi Lall outlined the shape of DAV

education in Arya Magazine in 1882, “When people will find no difference between

the Anglo-Vedic, Government, and mission schools as regards English education, and

see in the former additional advantages of Vedic instruction, the Vedic schools will be

crowded with boys.” “The English language will also be a medium o f comparison of

the Aryas to the Modem Science and enable the boys to be acquainted with the

manners and ideas of the greatest nations of the modem world.”4*

Although all concerned agreed that the DAV schools should balance Western

and Vedic learning, within five years the Samaj had been brought to the brink of

schism by divisions over the relative weight which should be assigned to each. The

issue was not only one o f languages - English vs. Sanskrit - but also one of the types

o f knowledge that each language provided access to, and the importance of each. In

1889, advocates of the more religious approach proposed that all students would study

Sayyed Ahmed Khan, the great founder o f Aligarh College who single-handed, with the aid o f
perseverance, brought about such wonderful results.” Quoted in Jones, 68
U Jones, 69

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Sanskrit from the fourth grade of primary school, and they would also extensively

study Dayananda’s writings.49 While this proposal merely emphasized the importance

of Vedic and Sanskrit studies without downplaying that of English and secular studies,

an 1891 proposal of this group went much further, suggesting that the study of science

and English be made optional while a Vedic department would be established. Guru

Datta, hero o f the early Aiya-pandit Sanskrit debates referred to earlier, had already

made clear that to his mind learning English was a useless enterprise.50 For the most

part, though, advocates of the more religious approach did not wish to see Western

learning eliminated entirely from the curriculum, only counterbalanced by a heavy

emphasis on Vedic learning and Sanskrit.

The more secular wing of the DAV movement successfully opposed both

proposals, insisting that the DAV schools prioritize Western learning delivered through

the medium o f English. Educated Hindus - reformers and traditionalists - had long

denounced British attempts to further traditional Hindu learning at the expense of

English-language Western education, seeing in these attempts a conspiracy to keep the

Hindu community backward by preventing it from obtaining modem knowledge. In

1823 Rammohun Roy, the founder o f the Brahmo Samaj, North India’s first Hindu

reform movement, had protested the founding of the Sanskrit College in Calcutta,

characterizing it as a project which would only “load the minds of youth with

grammatical niceties and metaphysical distinctions of little or no practical use to the

49 ibid, 90

50 Jones, 86

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possessors or to society.”31 The 1870 opening by British Orientalist Dr. Leitner of the

Punjab University College with an Oriental College which would focus on the

“indigenous educational elements” of different religious communities in Punjab -

Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs - prompted a similar response, with reformist Hindus -

Brahmos and Aryas - as well as orthodox Hindus “damn(ing) Orientalism as

obscurantism” which would forestall the emergence of a Punjabi Hindu upper class and

demanding English-language education.32 If Aryas were unwilling to countenance

British-sponsored educational institutions focusing on Sanskrit texts because this focus

would prevent Hindu progress, they certainly were not going to duplicate that model in

their own schools.

Over the years, a balance between Sanskrit and English education was achieved

by gradually increasing the amount of time dedicated to, and the opportunities for,

Sanskrit and Vedic studies within a context in which English-language studies

remained supreme. In 1899 Sanskrit study became compulsory for students in the ninth

class, and at some point soon afterwards Sanskrit became a part of the curriculum from

the third class onwards. By 1914 the Vedic Studies Department of the College boasted

37 students, and a Theological Department o f about the same size had been created.33

But English language, science, math, and other “secular” studies still dominated the

curriculum; while young men in the DAV College could opt to specialize in Vedic and

Sanskrit studies, students in DAV schools were required to study subjects such as

31 Roy, quoted in Basu, “Policy and Conflict in India,” 56

32 Jones, 61-62

33 ibid, 226-7

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English, math, geography, physical science, and sanitation.54The only nod to the

demands o f the more religious members o f the Managing Committee was the fact that

these students were also required to take a Sanskrit course each year. The curricula of

the DAV schools, then, did not differ significantly - with the exception of their

Sanskrit courses and the Hindi courses to be discussed below- from those used in

government schools, which was essential because it allowed DAV students to compete

successfully in the exams governing entrance into government universities. By 1888

the DAV school had demonstrated its success in this arena; in that year the government

singled it out as having produced more students who passed the entrance exams of

Calcutta University than any other school in Punjab.55

The relative mix of Sanskrit/Vedic and English/Western learning study adopted

by the Managing Committee of the DAV schools positioned their graduates to maintain

the Hindu lock on high-ranking government positions in Punjab, and thus to keep the

position o f the community there vis-a-vis Muslims afloat. What it did not do was

appease the more Vedic-minded members o f the Managing Committee. Arguing that

the DAV schools had not been founded to “supply clerks, judicial officers, engineers,

or other strata o f the government machinery,”56 but to implant Hindu religious ideals

in the youth, supporters of a curriculum more heavily focused on Sanskrit and Vedic

studies resigned from the Managing Committee to form their own counter network of

schools centered on the Gurukul, which was founded in 1902. In many ways the

Gurukul represented what an educational effort based solely on religious reform - with

54 ibid, 322

55 ibid, 78

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little or no concern for the temporal position o f the community - would have looked

like, so this alternate model of education is worth examining briefly.

In creating the Gurukul, Aryas looked back to the traditional model of students

following a guru, a more holistic conception o f education in which learning was not

only taught in the classroom but modeled on a daily basis by the students’ mentors. The

Gurukul insisted that its students leave home to live at the school so as not to be

corrupted by outside influences, often for ten to fifteen years. While it taught practical

subjects such as science and English, the Gurukul curriculum heavily emphasized

Sanskrit and focused on Vedic and other religious studies; it also imposed a very

ascetic lifestyle, characterized by pre-dawn swims and strict vegetarianism, on its

students. Prakash Tandon, the memoirist of colonial-era Punjab, noted that his mother’s

only brother had enrolled in the Gurukul; Tandon noted that “the education they gave

was amazingly out of time with the changing times, and he always remained very

unworldly.”57

Before leaving the DAV Managing Committee, supporters o f the Gurukul had

attempted to impose a much stricter moral regimen in line with reformed Hindu

practice on the students at the DAV College. In 1889, they had suggested that the DAV

College Boarding House would be “operated according to a rigid set o f rules, with

scheduled activities throughout the day” under heavy supervision.5* The rest of the

Managing Committee refused to accept this idea, and instead of imposing restrictions

which would withdraw DAV students from the larger Hindu community the College, as

56 ibid, 167

57 Prakash Tandon, Punjabi Century, 1857-1947, (Berkeley: University o f California Press, 1961), 36

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was discussed in Chapter Four, encouraged its students to take an active role in that

community through work against caste regulations, intervention in famine relief

campaigns, and related activities to advance religious reform while protecting the

temporal interests o f the Hindu community. It was this combination of efforts which

made the DAV schools a true manifestation of religious nationalist activity as I defined

it in Chapter One.

The Languages of National Renewal Part II: Hindi vs. Urdu

After the East India Company’s assertion of direct control over swaths of North

India in 1772, the Company set its scholars to work studying and systematizing various

North Indian languages. One of these was Hindustani. Once considered by British

traders to be a “ ‘ jargon’ associated with Muslims,”39the inimitable efforts of Scottish

physician John Gilchrist to create a lexicon and grammar for the language pushed

Hindustani into the ranks of the vernacular languages which, in 1837, replaced Persian

as the official languages o f the lower levels of the bureaucracy. In its capacity as a

vernacular language, “Hindustani was equated with Urdu, as opposed to any

geographically defined ‘dialect’ of Hindi, and was given official status through large

parts of North India.”40 In the United Provinces, the vernacular which became the

official language was Urdu; when the British arrived in Punjab in 1849 they brought

Urdu with them, and by 1855 Urdu had become the official language of the lower

38 Jones, 90

39 David Lelyveld, “The Fate o f Hindustani: Colonial knowledge and the Project o f A National Language,”
in Orientalism and the Postcolonial Predicament, (Philadelphia: University o f Pennsylvania Press, 1993),
194. My discussion o f the early “origins” of Hindustani is based primarily on Lelyveld’s article.

40 Lelyveld, 197

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levels of Punjabi administration61 as well as the language of instruction in government

schools.

The key differences between Urdu and Hindi are their written form and the

languages from which they derive their vocabulary. While the same standard spoken

language of North India during the colonial period was variously referred to as Urdu,

Hindi, and Hindustani,62 the Mughals had written Urdu in the Persian script rather than

the indigenous Devanagari, and while both Muslims and Hindus used the Persian

script, Devanagari became identified solely with Hindus. Urdu draws on words from

Persian and Arabic, while Hindi draws more of its vocabulary from Sanskrit. While

Hindu authors had contributed enormously to Urdu literature, the latter half o f the

nineteenth century saw two closely related developments: the rise of Hindu attempts to

define Hindi in Devanagari script as the language of the Hindus and Urdu in Persian

script as the language of the Muslims, and a campaign by Hindus to see Hindi in

Devanagari replace Urdu in Persian script as the official language of administration and

education in North India. Pro-Hindi activists argued that “Hindi was a ‘pure’ language

whereas Urdu was a barbarian mixture,” and that Persian script was “confusing” while

Devanagari was “scientifically accurate.”63 More apropos to the development of

different conceptions o f the nation was the Hindi activists’ claim that Urdu in Persian

script was a “foreign” language; Urdu’s use o f a script associated with the Mughals

and its incorporation of Arabic and Persian words fit nicely with Hindu nationalist

61 Jones, 59

62 Paul Brass, Language, Religion, and Politics in North India, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1974), 129

63 J.T.F. Jordens, Dayananda Saraswati: His Life and Ideas, (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1978), 223

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claims that the Muslim presence in North India was alien, the remnants o f a Muslim

“invasion” o f “Hindu” India.

The campaign to replace Urdu with Hindi in North India drew strong support

not only from reformist Hindus such as members of the Brahmo and Arya Samajes but

also from the same orthodox Hindus who usually fought the Aryas tooth and nail. The

Arya Samaj, however, played an absolutely central role in that campaign in Punjab and

the United Provinces. The speech o f an Arya preacher led to the founding o f what

Kumar calls an “institutional base” for the Hindi campaign in the Nagari Pracharini

Sabha (the Conference for the Propagation o f Nagari Script), which would play a

central role in getting Hindi recognized as a court language in the United Provinces.64

Shortly before founding the Arya Samaj in 1875, Dayanand switched from speaking

Sanskrit in public audiences to Hindi at the suggestion of Brahmo Samaj leader

Keshub Chandra Sen." Dayananda initially did not know Hindi. His speeches were

delivered not in his mother tongue o f Gujarati but in Sanskrit, and he required the

services of an interpreter when conversing with non-Sanskrit speakers.66 Like Zionist

leaders fluent in European languages trying valiantly to deliver speeches in Hebrew,

Dayananda’s early efforts to lecture in Hindi were only partially successful, as

“hundreds o f words and even sentences still came out in Sanskrit.”67 From that point

64 Kumar, 539

65 Jordens, 82

66 ibid, 51

67 ibid, 83

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forward, however, he lectured almost entirely in Hindi, even in Gujarat where he could

have used his native language with greater facility."

Prioritizing Hindi over other vernaculars, and eschewing Urdu in particular,

required major shifts in the daily practice of individual Aryas, in the medium used to

communicate Arya ideas to the Hindu community, and in Arya thinking about their

future educational endeavors. Dayananda repeatedly urged to Aryas to use Hindi, and

“the volumes of incoming letters show how hard they tried: some of the letters written

by Punjabis, Marathas, and Gujaratis are a strange mixture of Hindi and their own

vernacular.”69 In 1883, three years before the founding of the first DAV school in

Lahore, the Arya Samaj published three newspapers there - one in Urdu, two in

English, and none in Hindi;70 Kumar notes that it is ironic that Aryas turned against

Urdu when their early leaders had all used it to great effect in converting Hindus to the

Arya cause.71

While Dayanand lent enormous prestige to the early campaign for the adoption

of Hindi, the DAV College and schools kept the profile o f the Hindi issue high for

decades. Even more importantly, it taught its students Hindi. Lala Hans Raj, the first

principal of the DAV school and the most influential member of the schools movement

in its first decades, argued that the three things necessary for the Hindu community to

progress were that its members share a common origin, a common language, and a

“ ibid, 224

" ib i d

70 ibid, 201

71 Kumar, 540

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common religion.72 Promoting the study of Hindi was a major aim of the college,

because its founders believed that in order to revitalize the Hindu community, Hindus

had to share a common language.73 In deciding to teach Hindi in the College and in the

DAV schools, however, the Samaj was going against the prevailing trend in education

in north India at that time.

The medium of education in government schools in north India in this period

was Urdu at the lower levels and English at the upper; this mirrored the use of

languages in government administration, in which Urdu was spoken at even the lowest

levels and English in the higher levels. In 1872 22,000 students were learning Persian,

Arabic, or Urdu in government schools, while only approximately 5,000 students were

taking Hindi or Sanskrit in Oudh,74and as late as 1901 there were more Hindus in the

Punjab literate in Urdu than there were Muslims.75This would not deter the DAV

schools, however, from emphasizing Hindi and downplaying Urdu in their curriculum.

Over the objection o f some members of the DAV Managing Committee, Urdu was

made an optional language in the DAV schools, while Hindi was taught as a language.

The inclusion of Hindi in the DAV curriculum - and also in that o f the Gurukul

- contrary to the established practice in government schools in this period was intrinsic

to the Samaj’s efforts to educate a new generation of Hindus cognizant of their status as

members of a Hindu nation separate and distinct from that of the Muslims. In 1897

72 Lala Hans Raj, Mahatma Hansraj Granthavali, Volume 4, quoted in Kumar, “Hindu Revivalism in North-
Central India,” 540

73 Kumar, 540

74 Brass, 157-158. In the vernacular elementary schools in the combined North-Western provinces and
Oudh in 18%, there were 50,316 boys studying Urdu and 100,404 studying Hindi.

75 ibid, 303

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Muslim public opinion was agitated by the suggestion of DAV College principal Lala

Hansraj that “Hindus should write the addresses of all letters in the Devanagari

character and thus compel the government to employ Hindu peons. It is apparent that

these men are bent on depriving the Muhammadans of all means of livelihood.”76

The Arya Samaj’s Hindi campaign was a clear manifestation of the difference

between religious and secular nationalism in north India. The Congress Party was very

heavily committed to the promotion of Hindustani, not Hindi. As the Constituent

Assembly convened at independence to draw up an Indian constitution, a main question

at issue was when English would be replaced by an Indian language, would that Indian

language be Hindi or Hindustani? Congress leaders, especially Gandhi and Nehru,

spent much effort to trying to get it to be Hindustani; four days before partition, Gandhi

cautioned that “during the crisis the Congress must stand firm like a rock. It dare not

give way on the question of the lingua franca for India. It cannot be Persianized Urdu

or Sanskritized Hindi. It must be a beautiful blend of the two simple forms written in

either script.”77 By this time, however, even many of the secular nationalist cadres, as

represented by Congress party activists, had joined the religious nationalist bandwagon

on the Hindi issue - a vote within the party on the issue in 1949 found supporters of

Hindi winning over supporters of Hindustani by one vote - 78 votes to 77.71 As a result,

Article 351 of the Indian Constitution tried to find a way out, stressing that while it was

the duty of the country to promote the spread o f Hindi, this would be done by

76 Tribune, April 24, 1897, quoted in Jones, 199

77 Harijan, August 10, 1946, quoted in Kumar, 549

71 Kumar, 549

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“secur(ing) its enrichment by assimilating the forms, style and expressions used

in Hindustani and in the other languages of India, and by drawing, wherever necessary

or desirable, for its vocabulary primarily on Sanskrit and secondarily on other

languages.”79In the first years after independence the concept of a Hindustani language

all but disappeared, a tangible symbol o f a unified Hindu-Muslim culture abandoned.

79 Quoted in Kumar, 549

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Chapter Six: Religious Nationalism 101, Section B: The


Muslim Brotherhood

The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in the Suez Canal city of Ismailiyya in

1928, and by the time of the Free Officer coup in 1952 its reach extended from Egypt’s

largest cities to her smallest villages. The Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo presided

over some 600,000 members gathered in an estimated 2,000 branches, many of which

were integral providers of social services to their local communities. Key among these

social services were schools; when the movement founded its first primary schools in

1932, it appeared poised to follow in the footsteps of the Arya Samaj and

Muhammadiyah and build an educational powerhouse that could bring resources into the

movement while disseminating its ideas among Egyptian youth. However, by 1952 the

bulk of the Brotherhood’s education activity was concentrated on night and weekend

classes for illiterate adult workers, supplemented by tutoring sessions for boys and young

men in some of the larger branches. The pattern followed by the Samaj and

Muhammadiyah, a pattern of developing a network of primary and secondary schools in

which boys could progress from learning the alphabet to entering college completely

within the confines o f the movement’s educational institutions, was not adopted by the

Brotherhood in the colonial period.

This chapter will first outline the educational activities of the Brotherhood, and

will argue that the reason that its leaders chose not to provide primary and secondary

schooling on a large scale was that, after the movement’s formative years in the Canal

zone, there was no competitive incentive to do so. The heavy concentration of

missionaries in the Canal zone, combined with the high profile accorded to the schools

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and other social services which they administered there and elsewhere in the early

1930’s, served as the catalyst for the Brotherhood’s initial push to found its own primary

schools. By the late 1930’s, however, the abolition of the Capitulations which protected

the activity of foreigners in Egypt, the imposition of increasingly strict controls on that

activity by the Egyptian government, and most particularly the enormous growth of the

state educational system after partial independence in 1922 meant that the amount of

education being provided by missionaries fell off sharply by the late 1930’s. Since other

Egyptian movements and groups competitive with the Brotherhood were not creating

their own networks of primary schools, then, by the late 1930’s there was no competitive

incentive to spur the Brotherhood on in its quest for educational primacy.

While the Brotherhood did not take advantage of state subsidies to build its own

network o f primary and secondary schools as the Arya Samaj and Muhammadiya did, the

emergence o f a state educational system in Egypt still played an essential role in helping

to spread the Brotherhood’s ideas, and the Brotherhood itself, throughout Egyptian

society. It did so, I will argue, in three ways. The first way is by bringing an increasing

percentage of young men into the confines of the state school system, creating a captive

audience which teachers and activists who targeted them were uniquely poised to exploit.

An inordinately large number of Brothers were teachers - in the state school system -

and many o f them showed little hesitation in bringing their religious convictions into

their classrooms. In attempting to build and expand their branches, particularly outside of

Egypt’s big urban areas, Brothers of all occupations made special efforts to recruit

teachers in the local public schools, and subsequently to use those teachers to spread

Brotherhood ideas among as well as to directly recruit their students. The second way in

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which the creation of a national school system helped the Brotherhood to expand was

through the practice of transferring Brothers who were teachers from one state school to

another. While these transfers were sometimes done simply so that the state could better

allocate its educational resources, in many cases transfers of Brotherhood teachers were

clearly punitive in nature, usually uprooting an active Brother from a school in a well-

populated area and sending him to a much smaller one where it was hoped that he would

be unwilling or unable to continue working for the movement. When these transfers were

punitive, I will argue, they spectacularly backfired, working in many cases not to quiet

energetic Brothers but simply to spread their energy and expertise to new areas. And

while Brothers in the overwhelming majority of cases did not seek these transfers, and

often bitterly opposed them, they were quick to realize the potential they held for helping

to spread the movement and to exploit it to the fullest.

The first two ways in which I argue that the Brotherhood benefitted from the

creation of a state school system in Egypt focus on the Brotherhood’s ability to operate

within state primary and secondary schools. The third way in which the movement

benefitted was by taking advantage of the state’s willingness to subsidize private groups

running educational programs for un- or under-educated adults, particularly programs to

abolish illiteracy among adult men. While much of the post-1922 government push to

provide a Westem-style education centered on children, government officials were

deeply concerned about the large numbers of illiterate adults too old to enroll in the new

school system. With its resources stretched to the limit by its ambitious program of

building primary and secondary schools, the state was unable to create large numbers of

adult illiteracy programs itself, but it was more than willing to subsidize private groups

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who would do so in accordance with government regulations. The Brotherhood, in turn,

had already started such programs at many o f its branches throughout the country as a

means of simultaneously spreading education and Brotherhood ideas. These programs

cost the branches little, since they did not require acquiring buildings which could be put

to full-time use as schools, and since the teachers in these adult illiteracy programs were

invariably Brotherhood volunteers. Any government subsidy of these programs, then,

was money that was funneled into the movement itself, subsidizing the non-educational

activities of Brotherhood branches throughout the country even in periods when the

police were rounding up members of those same branches.

The Beginnings O f A School Network, and The End

In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, it would have been difficult to find any area in

Egypt more thoroughly permeated by Western influence than the Suez Canal zone, the

birthplace of the Brotherhood. Descriptions of this area by Brothers exude an almost

physical sense of a Muslim minority confronted by manifestations of foreign domination

at every turn. Describing the Ismailiyya that he saw upon his arrival in 1927, Hassan al-

Banna sketched out the geography of a city spatially dominated by the British. The

town’s borders, he wrote, were marked off by the British army camp and the offices o f

the Suez Canal Company. The Company, Banna noted, had assumed all of the attributes

and responsibilities usually reserved for governments, to the point that “even the roads

and entrances which connect Ismailiyya to the rest of Egypt (are) all in the hands o f the

Company, and there is no entry or exit without its permission.”1In Ismailiyya itself, even

the street signs in the Arab section of town were all in English, including those

' Hassan al-Banna, Memoirs o f the Message and the Messenger (in Arabic), (Cairo: Dar al-Towzi’ah wa al-
Nashr al-lslamiyya), 82

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identifying the street in which the mosque was located.2The paucity o f mosques when

compared to Western churches in the Canal towns was a particularly sore point; in 1934

Brothers in the neighboring Canal town of Port Fouad petitioned the Governor of the

Canal zone asking him to intercede with the King to build a mosque in the town, which

according to the Brothers had no public place for Muslims to pray other than a modest

prayer area erected by the Brothers themselves, in sharp contrast to the town’s

“imposing” church / Little wonder, then, that, in Brotherhood hagiography the story of

the movement’s origins has six employees o f the Suez Canal Company seeking Banna

out and complaining of “a life of humiliation and shackles,” saying that “the time is

coming in which the Arabs and the Muslims will have no hope of achieving status or

dignity, and (no hope of) surpassing the position o f hirelings dependent on the

foreigners.”4

While Muslims in the Canal zone and elsewhere were acutely aware of the

economic component of Western colonial domination, many felt that nothing posed such

a threat to their long-term well-being as the attempts of missionaries to convert them to

Christianity.5 And while missionary attempts at converting adults were roundly

2 Banna, Memoirs, 82

3 The Muslim Brotherhood, October 13, 1934


4
Banna, Memoirs, 83

5 While missionaries clearly viewed Egypt’s Muslims as their ultimate aim, in many cases they were more
actively involved in trying to convert Coptic Christians. In the words o f B.L. Carter, “many missionaries
believed that unless they could persuade enough Egyptian Christians to do the work o f the Lord, their
overriding goal o f converting Muslims was doomed to failure,” and it was certainly the case that most
Egyptian converts to Catholicism or Protestantism w ere Copts. B.L. Carter, “On Spreading the Gospel to
Egyptians Sitting in Darkness: The Political Problem o f Missionaries in Egypt in the 1930s,” Middle
Eastern Studies, October 1984, pp. 18-19. The Brotherhood realized that Egyptian Christians were also
under attack from the missionaries and occasionally called for cooperation between the two against the
foreign menace. See, for example, The Muslim Brotherhood, July 27, 1933.

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230

condemned, it was their efforts to infiltrate the Muslim community through its weakest

and most defenseless link - children - in the very institution that was supposed to help

them attain a better life - schools - that incited the strongest response among the

Brothers. This response initially took the form of scattered “rescue” efforts to save

individual Muslims who had fallen into the missionaries’ “clutches.” The July 13, 1933,

issue of The Muslim Brotherhood reported the case of a Muslim girl in the province of

Buheira whose father sent her to live in a Christian missionary school after her mother’s

sudden death left him unable to care for her, noting that upon learning o f her plight local

Brothers had “rescued” her from the school and temporarily housed her with the branch’s

vice-president until more suitable accommodations could be found.6

As the “rescue” efforts continued, however, leading Brothers were coming to the

conclusion that their attempts to combat missionary influence on the level o f particular

individuals were insufficient in the face of the missionary threat and could never achieve

more than winning individual battles while losing the war. The only way to truly succeed

against the missionaries, they concluded, was to beat them at their own game - that of

building institutions to provide social services to needy Muslims on a large scale. The

July 27, 1933, issue o f The Muslim Brotherhood chronicled Brotherhood leader Abd el

Latiif el Shaashai’s trip across the country seeking to raise consciousness about the

dangers of missionary activity. At one point during the trip Shaashai disembarked in a

town which hosted a missionary hospital, and when he asked a local police officer if the

hospital had many patients, he was told that “since the public (government) hospital

opened, nobody goes to (the missionary hospital) anymore.” This and other encounters,

6
The Muslim Brotherhood, July 13, 1933

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231

Shaashai wrote, made him realize that “the best way to fight missionary influence is to

create institutions like (those of) the missionaries through which people will lose their

need (for them.)”7

While in Shaashai’s narrative it is the missionary hospital that alerts him to the

need for Brotherhood replacement institutions, the movement’s initiative to supplant

missionary institutions with their own was carried out primarily through schools. The

first concrete manifestation of this initiative came in 1933 with the founding of a primary

school for boys and one for girls in Ismailiyya. The movement was explicit about the fact

that these schools were meant as alternatives to missionary education, noting in its

newspaper that the schools had been created for the boys and girls whom the Brothers

“rescued” from the missionaries.* This opening salvo in the battle of educational

institutions was followed by the founding of another Brotherhood primary school in Abi

Suweir in the province of Sharqiyya. Once again, the process began with the Brotherhood

identifying the missionary threat - missionary plans to open a school - and then moving

to pre-empt it. In July, 1933, The Muslim Brotherhood noted that missionaries were

trying to open a school in Abi Suweir and announced the Brotherhood’s plan to forestall

this by founding their own school;9by May, 1934, the same newspaper was carrying the

comments of the headmaster of the new Brotherhood school there.10 Mention of

missionary institutions in The Muslim Brotherhood in this period was commonly paired

7
The Muslim Brotherhood , July 27, 1933
t
See, for example, The Muslim Brotherhood issues o f July 13 and 20,1933, and The Brotherhood Weekly,
October 18, 1934
9
The Muslim Brotherhood, July 20, 1933
10
The Muslim Brotherhood, May 4, 1934

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232

with a declaration o f the Brotherhood’s intent to create a competitor institution - the July

20,1933, issue noted that after finding that missionaries in Mahmoudiya al-Buheira were

gaining access to girls under the pretext of teaching them sewing and embroidery, local

Brothers began thinking about creating a weaving and carpetmaking factory for girls

rescued from the missionaries, and reported that the role o f Brothers in Suez in rescuing a

brother and sister from the missionaries had led the branch there to consider attracting

children away from missionary schools there by creating one of their own."

Despite the Brotherhood’s early enthusiasm for school building, the movement

did not go beyond these early institutions to found a network of schools analogous to

those created by the Samaj and Muhammadiya. Richard Mitchell, one o f the pre-eminent

chroniclers of the Brotherhood in this period, notes that until World War II the group’s

school-building efforts “remained largely informal and haphazardly organized.”12 The

post-war period brought renewed interest in educational projects: in June, 1946, the

Brotherhood’s education committee announced that it would found four elementary

schools, one for boys and one for girls in both Cairo and Alexandria. " This was followed

in July by the creation of a corporation to fund further Brotherhood school building. The

July 16, 1946 issue o f The Muslim Brotherhood reported that half of the LE 8,000 worth

of shares put out in the initial offering had already been purchased, and that the

" The Muslim Brotherhood, July 20, 1933. The reference to possibly establishing a factory for sijaad wa
nasiij for girls rescued from the missionaries in Mahmoudiya is somewhat puzzling, since The Muslim
Brotherhood mentioned in its June 16, 1933, issue that the Brotherhood branch there had just celebrated its
opening o f such a factory. Perhaps the aforementioned factory only employed men, while the success o f
missionaries in obtaining access to girls by teaching them marketable skills had led the Brotherhood to
think o f expanding its commercial operation in Mahmoudiya to incorporate these girls as well.

12 Mitchell, 287

13 The Muslim Brotherhood, June 10, 1946

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233

corporation planned to start by building a preschool, a primary school for girls, and a

school to teach girls sewing arts.14A similar project was started in Alexandria in 1948,

establishing a kindergarten, a primary, and a secondary school by the end of that year.'*

With the exception o f these schools, however, and an undetermined (but small) number

of schools run by the Brotherhood branch in Port Said,'6there is very little evidence that

this second Brotherhood initiative ever got off the ground.

Why did the Brothers stop what appeared to be an all-out attack on missionary

educational institutions through founding their own schools? Because while the Brothers

began their educational initiative in 1933, by 1937 missionary work in all fields had

declined substantially. The first reason for this decline was increased government

restrictions on missionary entry into and activity in Egypt. While missionary institutions

were coming under increasing scrutiny in the Canal zone in the Brotherhood’s formative

years, they were the subject of sustained negative publicity in Cairo as well. In 1932 and

1933, several incidents in which Muslims were claimed to have converted under duress,

including the alleged kidnapping of a Muslim student at the American University in

Cairo by “evangelistic faculty members” and claims that a Muslim girl living in a

missionary orphanage had been beaten to force her to convert, were given sustained

coverage by the Cairo newspapers and led to substantial public outcry.17By 1936 the

government had cracked down on the entry o f missionaries into the country, controlling

The Muslim Brotherhood, July 16, 1946

13 Mitchell, 288

16 Jeep case, 1944, fiche #11919

17 Carter, 22-24

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the influx by only granting visas to new missionaries if they were replacing departing

ones." In 1937, the abolition of the Capitulations, an Ottoman agreement exempting

foreigners and Ottoman subjects under their protection from the application of local

criminal law, significantly weakened the position of those missionaries remaining in

Egypt.'9

The second, and longer-term, reason that missionary educational efforts posed

less and less of a threat as time went on was that their educational institutions were

simply eclipsed by those of the state. As national newspapers called in the 1930’s for the

creation of more schools and orphanages in order to keep Muslim children away from

missionary institutions, the government authorized additional spending on replacement

institutions; the case o f the girl who converted in the missionary orphanage prompted the

Minister of the Interior to allocate LE 70,000 for providing housing and schooling for the

poor.20 In the end, however, it was the Egyptian government’s phenomenal efforts after it

achieved partial independence in 1922 to extend the reach and capacity of the state-run

school system - described at some length in Chapter 4 - that rendered missionary schools

almost obsolete. In the thirty years between 1922 and the Free Officers’ coup in 1952,

government spending on education increased dramatically in both absolute and relative

terms - in 1923-4 the state education budget was LE 1,546,951 LE or 4.9% of the overall

state budget; in 1933-34 it LE 3,467,723 LE or 11.3% of the budget, and from this point

" ibid, 30

19 ibid

20 ibid, 24-25

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235

until 1952 it was never less than 10% of the overall budget.21 These expenditures made

substantial increases in the numbers of students receiving a state education possible: in

1925-6 210,123 students were studying in state primary schools, a number which had

increased to 706,228 in 1935-6 and again to 1,039,177 in 1945-6.22 The result was that

during this thirty year period the percentage of Egyptian students enrolled in missionary

schools as compared to that enrolled in state schools dropped off precipitously. In 1925/6

there were 210,123 students were enrolled in state primary schools and 16,979 in state

secondary schools; by comparison, there were 68,823 students in foreign schools, the
23
overwhelming majority of which are missionary schools. In 1944-46, by contrast, 93%

of secondary students were in state schools, with religious schools only educating the
. . 24
remaining seven percent.

In light of the decreasing importance of missionary education during the 1930’s

and 1940’s, it becomes understandable why the Brotherhood did not feel compelled to

sustain its drive to replace missionary institutions with its own. Clearly some Brothers,

though, sought to restart the momentum for a Brotherhood educational system after

World War II - why didn’t this get off the ground? I would suggest that in the absence of

any competitive incentive, it was hard for Brothers to justify the enormous amount of

work and resources that would be required to found and maintain a school network. By

21 Mitwalli, 122-123
22
Gershoni and Jankowski, 12
23
Cochran, Judith, Education in Egypt, (London: Croom Helm Publishers, 1986), 28

Reid, Donald Malcolm, Cairo University and the Making o f M odem Egypt, (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1990), 141

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the end of World War II, missionary education hardly posed a threat - it was educating

only 7% of Egyptian students, many of whom were probably Christian in any case. In

Java and North India I argued that not only missionary schools, but also those of other

local religious or social reform groups, such as the Budi Utomo schools in Java and

Aligarh in north India, played an important role in convincing Muhammadiya and the

Arya Samaj to begin their own school networks. No such domestic competitive incentive

existed for the Brotherhood, as the social and religious reform groups active in the

Brothers’ milieu, such as Gamaiyya al-Sharaiyya and the Supporters of the Sunna, did

not sponsor networks of schools either. Thus, I would argue, there was no incentive for

the Brotherhood to pour a substantial amount o f time and resources into the development

of their own network o f primary and secondary schools parallel to those of, and receiving

subsidies from, the government. This was particularly the case when the movement was

able, instead, to penetrate the state school system to spread its ideas about religious

nationalism and reform from within government schools, to use those schools as bases of

recruitment for the movement, and to obtain government subsidies to finance its own

educational programs on the side, as will be detailed in the next sections o f this chapter.

The Roles That the State Educational System Played in Expanding the Muslim
Brotherhood

The fact that the Brotherhood did not seek government subsidies to build its

own network of primary and secondary schools analogous to those created by the Arya

Samaj and Muhammadiyah does not mean that the emergence of a state educational

system in Egypt played no role in helping the Brotherhood spread its ideas and its

organization. The first way that it did so was by using state schools as platforms from

which Brothers could spread the ideas of the movement, and in which Brothers could

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237

recruit new members for it. In schools which employed Brothers as teachers or

administrators, this was done by those Brothers using their classrooms to advocate

Brotherhood conceptions of the proper role of religion in determining the behavior of

society and the boundaries o f the nation. Schools which had no Brothers on the faculty

were often targeted by Brothers in the town or village where the school was located, with

the movement making every effort to recruit teachers in order to gain access to their

classrooms. These efforts were often highly successful, bringing large numbers of

students into the movement.

The Brotherhood was well-positioned to use schools as a platform from which to

disseminate its views because a disproportionately large number of its members,

particularly in branches in the countryside, were teachers. In Beilina, a town of 215,363


25 26
residents in 1947 , only .3% of the population at large were teachers while 10% of the
27
members of the Brotherhood branch were. In Mansoura, a regional center of 259,725
28 29
people in 1947, 9% of the members of the Brotherhood branch were teachers, while

somewhere between 1 and 2.6% of the population of Mansoura were.30

23
1947 census, Girga Govemorate, p. 1
26
1947 census, Girga Govemorate, p. 1 and p. 116
27
Jeep case, undated, fiche #12074-12075
28
1947 census, Daqhaliyya Govemorate, p.3

29 Jeep case, 1945, fiche #11495-11502



1947 census, Daqhaliyya Govemorate, p.3 and p. 167. The confusion arises here because the census
splits the occupational data up into Bandar Mansoura - the more urban part o f the district - and Markaz
Mansoura - the more rural surrounding area.

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238

Brothers who were also teachers in state schools frequently seem to have spread

movement ideology through their classrooms. Many Brothers taught in girls’ schools, and

girls figured prominently in the Brotherhood’s understanding of how a truly Islamic

society would be brought about, since as future mothers they would influence their sons

and husbands to live in accordance with Islamic dictates. This view stressed the provision

of education to Muslim girls just as it did to Muslim boys, and Brotherhood teachers in

state girls’ schools spared no effort to inculcate girls with their views on the role o f Islam

in creating the model society. Brotherhood activist and teacher in a rural girls’ school

Ahmad al-Biss describes in his memoirs his work in encouraging his students to wear the

veil, while the May 31, 1946, issue of The Muslim Brotherhood demonstrated the role

that other Brotherhood teachers were playing in teaching girls about the role that Islam

should play not only at home but in the nation at large- both in determining its

boundaries and in ensuring its prosperity. The paper carried a story about a play

presented as part of an end-of-the-year celebration at a new girls’ elementary school in

the village o f Samnoud. The subject of the play was the unity of the Nile Valley, echoing

the conviction that the Sudan was an inseparable part of Egypt that was shared by all

Egyptian nationalists of the time. Several scenes in the play, however, demonstrated the

degree to which this shared view about the boundaries of the Egyptian nation had been

infused by a more exclusively Brotherhood understanding of the main actors in and

content of proper nationalism. At one point in the play the girls assumed the role o f the

first Muslim women ecstatically receiving the Prophet, and the Brotherhood

correspondent noted that the “enthusiasm of the headmasters intensified when the

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239

Brotherhood flag with its picture of the Quran appeared on the stage,” accompanied by

the girls singing:

“By the Quran the East was illuminated


It is the lighthouse which guides us to the truth
We will always be supporters
of Islam and of the fatherland”

Educating girls about the role that Islam should play in the home and in the nation

had long-term significance for the Brothers because girls’ future role as mothers made

them key agents o f social change - the Brotherhood’s first girls’ school was even called

the School o f the Mothers o f the Believers. Gaining access to and influence over male

students, however, was important for a more immediate reason - the need to recruit large

numbers of activists if the Brotherhood was to become an influential, nationwide

movement. As the Egyptian government poured resources into the state school system,

more and more boys and young men left their work in the fields or the factories to go to

school. In 1925-6 only 15 of every 1,000 Egyptians was enrolled in school; by 1940-1 the

ratio was 69/1,000, and in the ten years between 1925-6 and 1935-36 enrollment in state
32
secondary schools increased by a factor of three. The expansion of the school system,

then, meant that ever larger numbers of boys were pulled out of their disparate

backgrounds and concentrated into educational institutions, severely reducing the costs of

trying to mobilize them and creating a ready-made captive audience for activists with

access to the schools.

3!
The Muslim Brotherhood, May 31,1946
32
Gershom and Jankowski, 12

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240

Student members were important to the Brotherhood for the same reason that they

are important to all social movements - they combined a seemingly inexhaustible supply

of energy with a relatively free schedule and a heady disregard for the dangers of joining

a movement which frequently clashed with the government. In many ways students were

the foot soldiers of the movement, expected to dedicate enormous amounts of time to its

efforts and filling its ranks with new members in the wake of periodic government

crackdowns which scared older members away. Little wonder, then, that Brotherhood

historian Mahmoud Abd al-Halim notes that Banna considered convincing one university

student o f the truth of the Brotherhood’s message more beneficial to the cause than

getting an entire village to subscribe to its principles,33 and suggests that the main reason

that Banna moved the Brotherhood to Cairo in 1932 was so that he could be closer to the
34
university. Banna himself dedicated substantial time and energy to the cause of trying

to recruit university students. In one case, upon learning that the university’s law school

had assigned first year students to study one hundred hadith or actions and sayings of the

Prophet, Banna published a detailed explanation of these hadith in the Brotherhood

magazine, which was then distributed among the law school body.35 The Cairo

headquarters’ student division rented apartments for young Brothers coming from the

countryside to study in Cairo’s technical institutes and universities,36 thus decreasing the

Mahmoud Abd al-Halim, quoted in Sayyid Y ousssef s The Muslim Brotherhood, Part 2: Hassan al-
Barma and the Philosophical Foundations (in Arabic), (Cairo: al-Mahrusa Press, 1994), 120
34
Mahmoud Abd al-Halim, quoted in Youssef, 120

35 ibid

36 The Muslim Brotherhood, October 13, 1948

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241

chances that in the bright lights of the big city they would defect from the movement, and

the student section o f headquarters - encompassing high school and college students -

was one of the most active in the movement.

The importance of access to local public schools in building up Brotherhood

branches is even clearer in the rural towns of Egypt, where relatively educated potential

members were much harder to come by than in the big cities. Archival documents allow

us to trace the role that teachers and students in the state schools of some of these rural

towns played in building up Brotherhood branches over a period of several years, as in

the case of the branch in Qena, a rural town with 188,305 inhabitants in 1947.37

Brotherhood efforts to penetrate local schools began in 1939 and initially relied upon the
38
9% of Qena Brothers who were teachers. Brothers who taught in the high schools and

teacher preparation schools of Qena began their efforts by printing the Brotherhood
39
anthem and distributing it to their students. (While spreading Brotherhood principles

among high school students is one good way to create support and new members for the

movement, gaining converts in the teacher preparation schools is the mobilizational

equivalent of a slam-dunk, as mobilized students can carry their commitments with them

into the schools that they teach in.) The payoff for these initial efforts was not immediate

—in October, 1939, the secretary of the branch wrote to Supreme Guide Hassan al-Banna

that “although you know that I wanted very much to form a group o f dedicated Muslim

(Brothers).... it just has not been possible because o f the very entrenched poverty,

37
1947 census, chapter on Govemorate o f Qena, 1
38
Jeep case, undated, Fiche #11697-11703

39 Jeep case, 1939, Fiche #11847

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242

40
ignorance, and tribal allegiances here.” The Qena Brothers persisted in the face of

adversity; perhaps the difficulty of swaying “ignorant” locals into the movement led them

to concentrate their energies even more on those who could provide access to the better

educated segments of the community. The Qena branch’s monthly report for September,

1941, noted that the branch had invited area teachers to come to a Brotherhood program

in which the branch’s president and several of its members explained the group’s

message to the teachers. The program, well attended according to the report, concluded
41
with applications for Brotherhood membership being filled out by all present. The fruits

of a policy focused on attracting student members became clear the next year, when a

wave of government repression of the movement saw Banna and many others arrested.

In a letter to headquarters, a member of the Qena branch wrote that the branch was

extremely active among the local student population, having created a student committee

which met every Monday night and convening lectures on the movement every Thursday

night for students from throughout Qena. This was particularly important, this

correspondent noted, since the number of older Brothers coming to the branch had

decreased considerably since Banna’s arrest, which had “induced severe fear in the spirits
42
of those Brothers whose faith is weak.” But, he noted, God has replaced these weaker

members with student members who attend Brotherhood activities regularly, and the

correspondent rhetorically asks God to send the movement more such trials, as they

Jeep case, 1939, Fiche 11832

41 Jeep case, 1941, Fiche #11756


42
Jeep case, 1941

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243

“clarify who really meant (his) oath of allegiance (to the Brotherhood) and who (had
43
been) liars.”

The outcome of the Qena branch’s efforts to penetrate local schools illustrates

some of the ways in which gaining access to the state education system could help to

strengthen an already established branch. The impact gaining access to local teachers

could have was even more pronounced in cases where a new branch was being started

from scratch. When Brothers found themselves in a new area devoid of Brotherhood

activity, either because of transfers or because they were sent by the movement to found a

branch there, their first step was very frequently to approach local teachers and enlist

their support. A January 1944 letter from a Brother who was also the head clerk o f the

Credit Bank in the rural town of Beilina documented this Brother’s efforts to start a

branch there, and the central role which the local schools played in that effort. Upon

arriving in Beilina the clerk teamed up with a local sheikh, and the two of them

approached teachers at the local primary school. Two of the teachers joined the fledgling

branch’s advisory board, the supervisor of education pledged his support, and another

teacher was enlisted to help set up the branch’s Quran-memorization sessions for local
44
children. Six months later, a representative sent by Cairo headquarters to check on the

progress of the new Beilina branch reported back that the branch had acquired 70

members, a large office in the center of town, and a sizeable budget - an impressive

43
Jeep case, 1941

44 Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #12110

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244

showing given the branch’s youth, and one that might well have been impossible without

the role of the teachers.45

By devoting substantial resources to the cause of education, the Egyptian

government between 1922 and 1952 transformed the Egyptian landscape by gathering

unprecedented numbers o f young men into institutions of learning. Through Brothers

who were teachers, as well as through aggressive efforts to make other teachers into

Brothers, the Brotherhood skillfully exploited the new opportunities for mobilization

inherent in this change. This is one way in which the creation of a state school system

helped to spread Brotherhood ideas and build up the movement; another way is through

the transfer of Brothers who were state employees - primarily teachers - throughout the

country, a process which will be discussed in the next section of this chapter.

Transfers

As I discussed at some length in Chapter Four, the creation o f a centralized

education system meant that teachers were transformed from being individuals who were

quite autonomous but nonetheless inseparably woven into the fabric of their local

community into interchangeable ciphers, subject to the whim of a state which could send

them to practice their craft in an entirely new area against their will and at a moment’s

notice. In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson speculates on the effect that the

circulation of members of the colonial bureaucracy - teachers and others - throughout the

domains of the colony might have on the bureaucrats’ emerging sense of the boundaries

of their nation. As aspiring bureaucrats climbed the ladder of educational achievement

within the colony, they left the primary schools in their villages to eventually congregate

45 Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #12094

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245

with boys of other villages at the more advanced schools situated in regional centers, and

at the highest levels in the capital. While realizing the similarities between themselves

and other students from villages with which they had previously had no contact spurred a

sense of national identity among the students, Anderson argues that sharing the school

benches in and o f itself was not enough to form a lasting sense of shared nationhood. In

Anderson’s argument it is the trajectory o f the bureaucratic, not the educational,

pilgrimage, that dictates the boundaries of the nation imagined by the bureaucrats who

make it. If students who attended the same schools in the capital could not be sent to

bureaucratic posts in the same territory after graduation, then their fledgling sense of

national communion would be replaced by one whose boundaries more accurately

coincided with those o f the territory to which the colonial administration might post

them. Students who met at the top of the Dutch educational pyramid in Indonesia’s

colonial capital o f Batavia could all be sent to posts anywhere in what would

subsequently become Indonesia. Aspiring bureaucrats in the French territory of

Indochina came together from what is now Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos into the same

schools in Hanoi and Saigon, but after graduation the similarity ended with Khmer and

Lao students only being posted back to what would be Cambodia and Laos, while the

Vietnamese could be posted anywhere in Indochina. This difference in bureaucratic

trajectories, Anderson argues, may be one reason why a single Indonesian identity

coalesced out o f the myriad o f hitherto-unconnected-islands under Dutch rule, while the

more geographically contiguous Indochinese world produced separate Vietnamese,

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246

Cambodian, and Laotian nationalisms rather than a sense of a united Indochinese


•j • 46
identity.

I will argue in this section that trajectories of bureaucratic assignments played a

key role in spreading religious nationalism in Egypt, but in a somewhat different way

than Anderson predicted. In assessing the importance of bureaucratic pilgrimages for the

subsequent emergence of nationalism, Anderson focuses on the effect that these

pilgrimages had on the perceptions of the individual bureaucrats who came to make them,

as individuals came to perceive commonalities of heritage and interest which linked them

to people in a much wider universe than they had previously imagined. In addressing how

these bureaucratic pilgrimages affected the spread of Brotherhood versions o f

nationalism, however, I am starting from a logically later point - 1 am assuming that

Brothers who were bureaucrats had already absorbed the Brotherhood’s understanding of

nationalism prior to their first posting in a new part of Egypt, and am arguing that the

central importance of the establishment of the centralized system was that it provided an

institutional mechanism for transferring people with these ideas to new places whose

inhabitants had not been exposed to those ideas before.

In 1922, six years before the Brotherhood was founded, Britain’s grant of partial

independence to Egypt resulted in responsibility for state administration being transferred

from British to Egyptian hands. Freed from British insistence on minimizing the size of

the civil service in order to maximize the percentage o f state revenues which could be

directed towards satisfying Egypt’s debt, the Egyptian bureaucracy grew precipitously. In

1940-41 47,480 bureaucratic posts requiring a minimum of a primary education were

46 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities, 120-132

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47
provided for in the budget, and in the period from 1940-1 to 1953-4 positions for
48
educated employees increased from 47,000 to 170,000. Committed to improving

conditions throughout Egypt, the government sent unprecedented numbers o f civil

servants into the countryside in this period to survey the land, to administer justice, to

collect taxes, and perhaps above all, to teach in the state schools which proliferated in this

period. Many civil servants working in the countryside were locally recruited, but many

others were transferred from urban centers, leading to the type of bureaucratic circulation

envisioned by Anderson.

Members o f the Brotherhood were particularly subject to this process, because

disproportionately large numbers of them were state employees. In 1945 the

Brotherhood branch in Munira ( a district of Cairo) had 60 members, 25-40% of whom

were state employees. The Brotherhood branch in Mansura (govemorate of Daqhaliyya)

in the same period had 165 members, some 40-50% of whom were state employees.

Brotherhood correspondence demonstrates that transfers were not uncommon in the lives

o f Brothers in this period, making repeated reference to the transfers o f Brothers who
49 50 . , 51 , . 52 , ,
were veterinary inspectors , surveyors, clerks in state banks and in courts. I have

47 Berger, 82

48
Gershom and Jankowski, 13

49 Jeep case, 1941, Fiche # 1 1 7 9 1

so
al-Mabahith, December 5, 19S0
si
Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #12094

52 Jeep case, 1947, Fiche #12319

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found more evidence, however, of Brothers who were teachers and school employees

being transferred53 than of Brothers in any other single occupation.

Transfers could be bad news for a branch, depriving it of skilled and committed

leadership that was hard to replace. The transfer o f the head of the Brotherhood branch in

Domyat - a teacher - in 1947 reduced another member of the branch to writing Hassan

al-Banna saying “we were stunned (by his transfer) we cannot fill his place, so
54
please do whatever you can to prevent him from being transferred.” Many of the

transfers seem to have affected Brothers and non-Brothers indiscriminately and to have

been justified by purely administrative concerns. But the difficulty which transfers posed

was often compounded by the fact that in many other cases they were - or more

importantly, were perceived to be - punitive in nature. There were at least three different

times - in 1942,1947, and 1951 - when concentrated government campaigns to quell

Brotherhood activity resulted in transfers, which the government clearly hoped would

accomplish at least one of three goals. The first would be that the transfers would cripple

Brotherhood activity in an important branch by removing one or more of its central

players, which was exactly the outcome feared by the member of the Domyat branch

cited above. The second goal is that transfers would impress upon the transferee the

wisdom of avoiding affiliation with the Brotherhood in his new location. This goal was

also achieved in some cases. A 1947 report from Girga branch noted that while the

Brothers had previously been quite active there, that activity had precipitously declined

since the recent transfer o f the president of that branch. “But (what) really saddens me,”

M For example, see Jeep case, 1941, Fiche #11803; Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #12056; Jeep case, 1947, Fiche
#12466

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the correspondent added, “is that many o f the Brothers who were transferred to Girga

(act) as if they know nothing about the movement as if it were forbidden for them to

as much as enter the branch office.”55 One of these transferees, a former secretary of a

Brotherhood branch in Cairo transferred to work as a clerk in the Girga court, had

apparently relied on the assistance of Girga Brothers to find housing, after which he
56
promptly cut all ties with the group.

The third goal of punitive transfers was to transfer an active Brother to a location

so remote or backward that even if he was so inclined, he would be unable to continue

organizing on the Brotherhood’s behalf there. One outcome which the government seems

not to have anticipated, however, was that the transfer of Brothers from one location to

another, far from crippling the original branch, might well help to create or fortify others.

Transfers, whether punitive or merely administrative, usually transferred state employees

from larger cities to smaller towns or villages. When those smaller towns and villages

had not previously been sites of Brotherhood activity, the transfer of experienced

Brotherhood activists often served as the catalyst to start it. When these towns and

villages had already experienced some Brotherhood activity, the transfer o f Brothers from

the larger branches often helped to revitalize and expand it.

The story of the way in which the Brotherhood built its branch in the rural town of

Deshna in the mid-1940’s clearly illustrates the way that transfers of teachers could

simultaneously transplant the movement to which they belonged to a new environment.

34 Jeep case, 1947, Fiche #12466

55 Jeep case, 1947, Fiche #12319

54 Jeep case, 1947, Fiche #12319

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In October, 1944, a teacher in a school in Deshna wrote to Hassan al-Banna to apprise

him of his efforts to start a Brotherhood branch there. This teacher appears to have been

the victim of not one but several punitive transfers; his letter opens by noting that “this

employee has been amazed that just as he has been on the verge of settling down in an

area and getting to know his Brothers there and work cooperatively with them in

spreading the message, transfers came to send them to different places.”37 (Speaking of

messages, the progression of transfers that this employee experienced - from an unknown

location to the remote location of Nag Hammadi to the arguably even more remote small

village of Deshna - suggests that he didn’t get the government’s message about ceasing

Brotherhood activity.) Soon after his transfer to Deshna, the teacher noted that while the

village had no Brotherhood branch, “pro-Brotherhood feelings abound” and he had

received an enthusiastic reception from employees he had contacted about starting a

branch there. This was in October, 1944; a July, 1945 report on the status of various

branches in the area reported that the Deshna Brotherhood branch had 134 members.3*

Just as the transfer of Brothers to remote areas could spark interest in the

Brotherhood where there had been none, it could also revitalize existing but moribund

Brotherhood branches in the countryside. One key problem that rural Brothers faced was a

dire need for the input of skilled leaders knowledgeable about Islam and savvy in the

ways of organizing a movement. Like many underdeveloped countries, in colonial-era

Egypt the best educated and most skilled natives of the countryside usually fled it, and

while most of the Brotherhood’s national leadership hailed from Egypt’s small towns and

37 Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #12056

3* Jeep case, 1945, Fiche #12046

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251

villages, almost all o f them relocated to Cairo to work there, leaving the countryside

deprived of skilled leadership. National Brotherhood leaders attempted to fill this void

through frequent visits to even the most far-flung towns and villages of Egypt. Banna was
59
out o f Cairo almost every weekend traversing the country, and his arrival in a town or

village was usually cause for major Brotherhood public events ranging from the more

sedate, such as Friday sermons attracting listeners from all the surrounding areas,60 to the

more exuberant, including public marches by Brotherhood scouts during the

aforementioned Buheira visit6' and the shooting off of guns at the branch in Ein Ghasiin
62
in July, 1948, to celebrate Banna’s arrival. Religious holidays saw not only Banna but

all o f the top leadership of the movement visiting the far comers of the country; the 1948

schedule of visits on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday, for example, had 17 Cairo-

based leaders - a veritable who’s who of the movement - visiting over 60 towns and
63
villages over a 15-day period. This pattern of leaders fanning out from Cairo to spread

the message to more remote areas was duplicated on the regional level as well, as

59
The August 3, 1933 issue o f The Muslim Brotherhood noted the schedule o f Hassan al-Banna’s trips for
the month, including visits to Brotherhood branches in Abi Suweir, Sharqiyya, Ismailiyya, Suez, Port Said,
Daqhaliyya, Damanhour, Miit Khudeir, Tanta, and Qalyubiyya, among others. Banna’s stay in these areas
varied from one to eight days in each, a period o f time made possible by the fact that, as a teacher, he was
on summer break.

60
A s just one example, The Muslim Brotherhood claimed that Banna’s sermon on a June Friday in 1946
was attended by thousands; I have no independent proof o f these numbers, but many different sources
suggest that these events were extremely popular. The Muslim Brotherhood, June 10, 1946.

61
The Muslim B rotherhood June 10, 1946
62
The Daily Newspaper (in Arabic), July 23, 1948

61 Jeep case, 1948, Fiche #11107

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members of Brotherhood strongholds in the larger rural towns periodically went to


64
smaller towns and villages to spread the message.

These visits provided a strong impetus to and show of support for local efforts to

mobilize support for the Brotherhood’s message. Significant numbers of new branches

were founded in the wake of these trips,65 but it took a lot more than the enthusiasm

generated by the visit o f prominent Brothers to keep a fledgling branch afloat, or to

sustain an established but troubled one. As a result, members of rural branches repeatedly

requested that Cairo loan them more experienced Brothers for extended periods of time.

As one Girga Brother expressed it in a 1945 letter to Banna, the most serious problem

Brotherhood work faced in rural areas was its dire need for experienced activists.66

Cairo’s response, or lack thereof, to this Brother’s request was also typical - the Brother

noted that he had sent several letters to Banna asking for the activists, as well as

requesting that visitors make the case to Banna in person, but to no avail.67 Government

crackdowns sometimes prevented known Brotherhood leaders from spending time in the

countryside; the Girga Brother mentioned above concluded his request by admitting that

sending Cairo Brothers to Girga was probably not possible due to the government’s

For example, see the list o f visits by the branch in Qena to surrounding towns and villages in June and
July, 1941, contained in Jeep case, 1941, Fiche #11754

65
As just one example, in the early 1940’s the founding members o f a new Brotherhood branch in Esna
forwarded the list o f the branch’s board o f directors to Cairo with a note that the branch had been formed as
the result o f the earlier visit o f two Brothers to the area Jeep case, 1942

66 Jeep case, 1945, fiche #12364

67 Jeep case, 1945, fiche #12364

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68
attack on the movement at that time. There is also evidence that many Cairo Brothers

were not particularly eager to spend time in the more remote locations o f the country. A

July issue of the Brotherhood newspaper The Daily Newspaper carried a rebuke to

Brotherhood activists who were loath to accept assignments, even brief ones, at particular

branches. The article initially frames the problem as a purely administrative matter,

forbidding Cairo activists to accept invitations to speak at branches directly and saying

that these invitations must be forwarded to Cairo headquarters, which would then

delegate an activist to fill the job. The current practice, the article argues, o f individuals

taking it upon themselves to agree to visit particular branches hinders headquarters’

efforts to ensure equal coverage of the country. It soon becomes clear, however, that the

bigger problem is not one of scheduling but of a lack o f willingness on the part of some

activists to go to certain parts of the country. When an activist is asked how he would feel

about visiting a certain branch, the article instructed, the correct reply would be that

“(each of us) is (but) a soldier in the ranks at all times, and nothing prevents him from

working in certain areas except his busyness in others.” The rewards which are bestowed

by God for good deeds, the article warns, are only achieved when one rids oneself of

personal desires and individual choices, and so activists should go wherever they are sent
69
without discrimination or preference - for “all places are places of God.”

Absorption in Brotherhood activities in larger cities and towns, government

restrictions, and unwillingness to spend time in remote locations, then, combined to

deprive rural branches of the Brotherhood of leaders with the experience and charism a

68 Jeep case, 1945, fiche #12364

69
The Daily Newspaper, July 22, 1948

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254

needed to sustain their work. In light of this problem, it becomes clear how the

government practice of transferring Brotherhood activists from more urbanized areas to

more rural ones could actually strengthen the movement. Perhaps the best example of

how this process could function comes from the transfer of the head of the Brotherhood

him self- Supreme Guide Hassan al-Banna - from Cairo to Qena in 1941. As was noted

earlier, one key result of the creation of a centralized school system in Egypt was that

teachers became interchangeable and could be moved from school to school within that

system, and the transfers of Banna - a teacher in the state school system from 1928 until

his resignation in 1946 - played a key role in helping to spread the Brotherhood

throughout Egypt. A product of Dear al-Ulum, an advanced teacher-training school

founded some fifty years before as “the first Egyptian attempt to provide ‘modem’ higher
70
learning, Banna joined the state school system and was sent by it to teach Arabic in a

primary school in Ismailiyya, where he founded the Brotherhood one year after his

arrival. When Banna decided to move the Brotherhood’s headquarters to Cairo in 1932,

he asked for and received a transfer from his school in Ismailiyya to one in Cairo.

Almost a decade later, Banna would experience firsthand the effects o f a wave of

punitive transfers affecting his colleagues throughout the movement. When the outbreak

o f World War II and the Brothers’ call for Egyptian non-belligerency in the war and

stepped-up action against British colonialism in Egypt became too much for the British to

take, the British pressed the Wafdist government to do something about the problem. In

May 1941 Banna was transferred to a state primary school in Qena for four months, while

his deputy Ahmad Sukkari was transferred out of Cairo as well. Mitchell reports that

70 Mitchell, 3

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when several members of parliament challenged the government to explain this action,

Prime Minister Hussein Sirri “justified the transfer on the ground that Banna, a civil

servant of the ministry of education, had been neglecting his work;” the Brotherhood

responded by submitting documents based on ministry of education inspection files

which sought to demonstrate the patent fallacy o f this charge.7' Their appeal went

unheard, and Banna went to teach school in Qena for four months.

The idea of a prolonged Banna stay in Qena, not surprisingly, delighted the

Brothers there. Mohammed Abd al-Zahir, an active member of the Qena branch and

owner of The Muslim Brotherhood Bookstore there, enthused that Banna’s presence

among them would do great things for the cause in Qena and Upper Egypt as a whole and

likened Banna’s transfer to the hijra o f the Prophet Mohammed in 622. Just as repression

at the hands of non-believers in Mecca had forced the Prophet and his followers to flee to

Medina, where the first community living by the principles of Islam was established, so

Egyptian government repression had forced Banna from Cairo to Qena, which Abd al-

Zahir expected would have similarly momentous results in terms o f spreading the
72
Brotherhood’s message.

Abd al-Zahir was not alone in his expectation that transfers intended by the

government to paralyze the Brotherhood would actually strengthen and expand it. In

response to another wave of punitive government transfers in 1950, a Brother penned the

following letter to the Brotherhood paper of the time, al-Mabahith. While the sarcasm is

71 Mitchell, 22

72 Jeep case, 1941, Fiche #11826

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unmistakable, the Brotherhood’s realization of the ways in which state transfers aimed at

weakening the movement could spectacularly backfire is also clear.

El Mabahith, December 5,1950

“Welcome to the Transferred Brothers”.


Honored Sir:
May the peace o f God and his blessings be upon you.
For a long time I have been thinking of sending for some of the missionaries of
the Brotherhood message to come and live - for a short vacation or a longer
period - in these areas that are thirsting for their presence, areas which remain
untouched by (Brotherhood beliefs). And I wish that you could see for yourself
how people here - in the towns and in the villages - crowd around, and how eager
they are, and how willing to travel and to spend their money - (just) so that one of
the Muslim Brothers would come and visit them. They read about the ideas of the
Brotherhood and they devour everything that the Brotherhood issues; they gather
in groups around copies o f al Mabahith. And now God Almighty has willed that
(this issue of) al Mabahith would suddenly descend on us bearing the news of the
transfer of some o f the Brothers to remote areas far away from Cairo. While I was
deeply sorry to hear about this deviant policy because of the family problems that
the transferred Brothers will have to endure, I was also very happy because we
will soon meet with some of our Brothers, and they will fill the huge void (that we
have experienced).”

Channeling State Funds to Brotherhood Educational Institutions

The previous sections o f this chapter have illustrated the ways in which Brothers

teaching in schools founded and run by the state were able to exploit their positions to

spread the Brotherhood message. This final section will demonstrate the ways in which

the Brothers were able to found their own “schools” - not elementary and secondary

schools for children, but programs to eradicate adult illiteracy - as a type of educational

subcontractor for the government, receiving government subsidies and legal protections

for their efforts in this and other social service arenas.

While the Brotherhood did not get heavily involved in the provision of education

to children, it did devote substantial amounts of time to another educational project:

offering night and weekend courses of basic education to illiterate men. In Cairo, the

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Brotherhood branch in Shubra ran an extensive adult literacy program73, while the Qalaat

Qabsh wa Tulun branch in the Cairo neighborhood of Sayyida Zeinab hosted an active

Committee for the Abolition of Illiteracy.74 Outside of the capital Brotherhood branches

in several regional centers in the Egyptian countryside offered a full menu of courses

directed at illiterate or undereducated adults. In 1946 the Girga branch was teaching

reading and writing Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday evenings from 8 to 9 p.m., math

from 8-9 on Sundays, religion from 7-8 on Tuesdays, and “general information” from 8-

9 on Thursdays;73 in the same year the Tanta branch opened a school for abolishing

illiteracy attended by 100 local workers.76 The menu of adult educational offerings on tap

in the Brotherhood branch in Qena varied throughout the 1940’s, beginning with nightly

classes in Islamic history, hadith, jurisprudence, and commentary (on the Quran) in

1941T In 1942 the menu was changed to consist of lessons in religion, dictation, and

arithmetic offered three nights a week to a substantial crowd of illiterate men,7* and by

April 1947 the branch was providing undereducated workers with basic education at

night and reporting a class of thirty students in the first year of this program and twenty
• • 79
in the second year, in addition to a program aimed solely at illiterate men. Some rural

The Muslim Brotherhood, August 3, 1948

74 Jeep case, 1945, Fiche #1 1090

73 Jeep case, 1946, Fiche #12331

76 ___
The Muslim Brotherhood, June 3, 1946

77 Jeep case, 1941, Fiche #11754

71 Jeep case, 1942, Fiche #11768

79 Jeep case, 1947, Fiche #11603

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258

branches - perhaps because of the higher rate o f illiteracy in the countryside - saw

fighting illiteracy as such a priority that it was one of the first activities that they took up

after they were founded; the Bani Quraysh branch in the govemorate o f Sharqiyya had

only been open a month when it started its anti-illiteracy activities.80

The Brothers’ anti-illiteracy activities were fueled by their belief that a strong

nation required an educated citizenry. Anti-illiteracy work was also a good way to

communicate the Brotherhood’s message to a new audience; a report from the Qena

branch to Cairo in December 1942 details the branch’s activity in adult education and

ends with the suggestion that “all branches be advised to adopt this system because the

religious lessons that are delivered are part of the mission of spreading our
81
message.” Adult education work also helped to strengthen the movement in another,

unintended way - by bringing state resources into the movement. After partial

independence was attained in 1922, the Egyptian government was committed to

spreading education, but its ambitions outstripped its resources. As was detailed in

Chapter Four, between 1922 and the Free Officer coup thirty years later, government

spending on education increased enormously in both relative and absolute terms, going

from 1,546,951 LE and 4.9% of the overall state budget in 1923-24 to 28,763,659 LE and
82
12.43% of the budget in 1951 -2. The number o f students educated with this money also

increased tremendously in this period: in 1925-6 there were 210,123 students enrolled in

SO
The Muslim Brotherhood, November 23, 1933

81 Jeep case, 1942, Fiche #11747

82 Mitwalli, 122-123

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83 84
state primary schools; in 1935-6 there were 706,228 students in state primary schools,
8S
and in 1945-6 1,039,177 state primary school students. Particularly after elementary

education was made mandatory in the 1923 Constitution, public demand for education

outpaced the government’s ability to provide it, leading in the case o f elementary schools

to some children going to school during the morning and others in the afternoon because
86
of a shortage o f buildings and qualified teachers to accommodate them.

While the government focused its educational efforts on children, it also launched

new initiatives to fight illiteracy among adults on a nationwide scale. As in the cases of

India and Indonesia, the state was willing to fund private groups to do what it could not,

and over time a symbiotic relationship developed between Brotherhood branches

providing adult education, particularly outside of Egypt’s urban centers, and a state eager

to enlist them as its partner. A 1942 report from the Brotherhood branch in Qena noted

that the branch’s night school had developed substantially, particularly because of the

govemorate’s decision to mandate that all illitcr:*.':e soldiers in the area had to attend its

classes. In response to a request from the education department, the branch had begun to

offer its classes on a daily basis, in return for which the branch asked the ministry for
87
assistance equaling the salary of one teacher. In 1944 the branch’s annual budget shows

83
Cochran, 28
S4
Cochran, 28
15
Gershoni, Israel and Jankowski, James, Redefining the Egyptian Nation, 1930-1945, (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1995), 12

**Mitwalli, 111

17 Jeep case, 1942, Fiche #11747

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it getting a substantial amount of assistance from the Ministry of Social Affairs and a
88
smaller amount from the department of education for the branch’s night school.

The Brotherhood’s involvement in providing adult education, and the

government’s willingness to subsidize these initiatives, played a key role in helping to

formalize the Brotherhood’s role as a sort of junior partner in the provision of social

services, making it eligible for government subsidies and legal protections it would not

otherwise have enjoyed. Ironically enough, this once again came as an unintended result

o f state policy. In 1945 the government sought to delink charitable activity from political

organization by passing Law 49. This law delineated the types of organizations which

could be registered with the state as charitable associations; it also made it incumbent

upon groups providing social welfare services to register as such by forbidding

associations not registered with the state to collect contributions from the public for their

charitable activities. Registered groups, however, would have their activities accredited

by the Ministry of Social Affairs and thus become eligible for Ministry funding. Groups

which engaged in political activity and sponsored social welfare services found

themselves facing a dilemma. One the one hand, if they registered as political and not

charitable associations they would lose the funding which made their charitable work

possible. On the other hand, if they registered as charitable associations and continued to

be active in politics their charitable associations could be dissolved, as the law forbade

such associations to engage in activities not detailed in their founding charter while

making it clear that charitable groups which included political activity in their founding

charter would not be allowed to register as charitable associations to begin with. In

** Jeep case, 1944, fiche #11714

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constructing this law the government hoped to force the Brotherhood in particular to

choose between its more explicitly political activities, such as giving public lectures on

events of the day and organizing demonstrations, and its social welfare activities, thus

making them sacrifice one or the other of their constituencies. The Brotherhood,

however, neatly sidestepped this dilemma by dividing itself into two parts - the Muslim

Brotherhood, a political organization, and The Section for Charity and Social Service of

the Muslim Brotherhood, registered with the Ministry of Social Affairs as a charitable

organization. While the Brotherhood maintained the legal fictions necessary to

demonstrate that these groups were indeed separate - drawing up different budgets for

the two and heading them with different boards of directors - they were in fact two sides

of the same coin.

The Brotherhood’s registration with the government as a charitable association

opened the doors to legal protection of its status and ensured a continual flow of financial

subsidies to fuel its work. When the owner o f the apartment which served as the office of

the Section of Charity branch in Misr al-Qadima, an area of Cairo, tried to reclaim his

apartment so that his son could live there , the Section took the owner to court, charging

that he could not legally expel them because a 1946 law exempted charitable associations

from normal real-estate laws allowing the owner of a property to evict its inhabitants if he

planned to personally occupy said property. The court upheld the Section’s case, ruling

that its registration as a charitable association protected its right to the apartment. The

implications o f the ruling for protecting Brotherhood branches around the country were

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262

not lost on the Brotherhood, which published an article on the court case in its daily paper
89
under the headline “An Important Legal Principle Concerning Brotherhood Branches.”

As important as the legal protections ensured by registration with the state might

have been, these paled in comparison to the financial privileges which this status

accorded to the Brotherhood. In 1946 Minister of Education Muhammad Hasan al-

Ashmawi sought the assistance of the Brotherhood for a new government program to

fight illiteracy. According to the terms of the agreement, the ministry would pay the

Brotherhood a fixed fee for every student it taught, one-third o f which would be paid

after government inspectors verified that the students being taught were between the ages

of 12 and 18, that they regularly attended the classes, and that those classes were

adequately supplied with teachers, and the rest to be paid when the schools provided
90
evidence that they were successful. Registration paved the way for sizeable increases in

the amount of state funds funneled to Brotherhood branches such as the one in Qena. In
91
1944 the branch received 58 LE from the Ministries of Education and of Social Affairs.

In 1946-7 the branch’s total budget was 152 LE, 70 LE of which, or 47% of the budget,
92
was made up of state assistance, while members’ dues and private contributions only
93
accounted for 38%. When the literacy program of Shubra’s Section of Charity was

accredited by the Ministry of Education, it became eligible for monetary bonuses which

89
The Muslim Brotherhood, March 30, 1947

90 Mitchell, 287

91 Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #11714

92 Jeep case, 1946-47, fiche #11607

93 Jeep case, 1946-47, fiche #11607

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the Ministry offered to accredited literacy schools when more than a certain percentage of
94
their students became literate.

I am not suggesting that the Brotherhood founded night schools for adults in order

to channel state money into its coffers - the movement’s conviction that a strong nation

required a well-educated population, shared by all nationalists of the time, as well as its

interest in using that education as a medium to spread Brotherhood ideology and gain

new recruits were reason enough. What is clear, however, is that in many cases the

provision of this education brought desperately needed state resources into many

Brotherhood branches. When a branch received government subsidies for its adult

education programs, this money was almost pure profit, since compared to the costs of

running a full-time primary or secondary school the resources necessary to fund adult

education were negligible. Adult educational programs, which almost inevitably met at

night or on the weekends, could be conducted in the Brotherhood office, unlike primary

or secondary schools, whose conduct would have required building or renting a separate

space for that purpose. Teachers in a primary or secondary school would be employed

full-time and would need to be paid a salary by the Brotherhood; teachers in its adult

educational programs often were teachers in state primary or secondary schools during

the day who volunteered in the Brotherhood’s educational activities in their off hours.

Thus state subsidies of Brotherhood adult education activities were a net money-maker

for the group, and the important role that they could play in keeping entire Brotherhood

branches afloat is made clear by the case of the Qena branch whose work in educating

illiterate soldiers was described above.

94
The Muslim Brotherhood, August 3 ,1 9 4 8 , p.2. The fact that the Shubra school had a 70% success rate
also made it eligible for additional bonuses offered to the most successful o f the Ministry-funded schools.

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Beginning in 1940 and lasting for at least three years, the Qena branch mounted a

sustained campaign to raise money to build a Brotherhood office and meeting place in the

center of the city. Such meeting places were essential to sustained Brotherhood activity in

a given location, giving the movement visibility and a place to conduct a full schedule of

events. Letters from the Qena branch of the Brotherhood detailed its attempts to raise

money to build a Brotherhood office and meeting place in correspondence with Cairo

over a four-year period, detailing the decision o f members of the board of directors to
95 96
donate from their personal incomes, fundraising efforts in the community, and

unsuccessful efforts to enlist state assistance for the completion of the office and building
97
of a mosque. Despite Cairo headquarters’ awareness of Qena’s financial problems,

there is no evidence that it came to their assistance, even when the secretary of the branch

wrote to inform Banna that the Brothers’ application for a permit to rent a piece of land

for the office had been forwarded to local officials in Qena to determine if the branch

there had the money to pay for the construction of the office. Explaining that the branch

had no money and no bank account and that if this was discovered the building permit

would be denied, the secretary asked Banna what they should do, but even this thinly
98
veiled plea for help from Cairo seems to have fallen on deaf ears. This lack of financial

assistance from Cairo to needy branches was not unusual; funding in the movement

flowed upward from local branches, each of which was required to pay monthly dues, not

” Jeep case, 1942, Fiche #11775

96 Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #11714

97 Jeep case, 1944, Fiche #11690

98 Jeep case, 1940, Fiche #11828

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downward. In this context, the money which the branch received through government

subsidies of its adult illiteracy activities - 58 LE from the Ministries o f Education and

Social Affairs in 1944 and 70 LE, accounting for 47% o f the branch’s budget that year, in

1946-7, were essential to the branch’s growth.

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Chapter Seven: The Norm, or Colonies With Noncentralized


Education

The first six chapters of this dissertation have sought to demonstrate the

opportunities which the state’s construction of a Westem-style education system in a

given colony offered religious nationalist movements in that colony. Religious nationalist

movements in such colonies, I argued, sought government subsidies to build their own

schools if they were active in areas in which missionaries played a critical role in the

provision of Westem-style education. Where the missionary educational presence was

more muted, the movements had less reason to build their own educational institutions,

and members of these movements who were teachers and who might well have taught in

schools founded by the movement - had there been any - became teachers in the state

schools instead. Their position within the state educational system, in turn, could be

consciously used by these teachers as a platform from which to express the views of the

movement to a captive audience. It could also, unbeknownst to the school and against the

wishes of the teachers, help to spread the movements by transferring teacher-members to

schools in remote parts of the country which were subsequently exposed to the movement

for the first time. Thus a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for colonial-era religious

nationalist movements to outlast the colonial context in which they were founded and

endure throughout the post-independence period was the building o f a centralized state

education system.

While religious nationalists could exploit the opportunities which state

educational systems provided to help them spread and strengthen their movements, these

educational systems were only constructed in a handful of colonies. In Chapter One I

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267

defined a Westem-style education system in a colonial context as existing if a) the

colonial power established a set of common criteria for the provision o f Westem-style

education (for example, requiring the teaching o f certain subjects, the use of certain

textbooks, the division of students into classes on the basis of their age) and b) it offered

subsidies to schools which taught in accordance with those criteria. State subsidies, I

argued, were central to the ability of movements to build up their own alternative

educational networks because, left to their own resources, members of society could at

best fund a small number of schools themselves, but no single group could fund a large

number of schools infused with that group's ideology and teaching from its curriculum

unless it received state funding to do so. Facing the imposition of a myriad of new taxes,

the collapse of livelihoods based on local handicrafts in the face of the onslaught of

cheaper manufactured goods from the metropole, and in some cases forced labor, many

colonized peoples had little disposable income to donate to the educational projects of

nationalist or other movements in their societies. What is remarkable, in this context of

colonial privation, is that many of the colonized managed to donate as much as they did,

and that in many colonies which did not have centralized education systems these

donations allowed local communities to fund their own schools from scratch. But the

opportunity to develop and mobilize people around an alternative imagining of the nation

was much more pronounced when a single movement had the resources to found one

hundred schools teaching its world-view than it was when one hundred individual groups

or communities, independent of one another, each founded a single school. The former, I

argue, could almost never be achieved without the help of state subsidies; when it was, as

in the case of Algeria, discussed below, it took a very long time for the movement to

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268

muster the resources to found such an alternative network. The later in the colonial period

that an alternative schools network was founded, the more restricted the ability of that

network to disseminate an alternative imagining o f the nation before that nation became

enshrined in a state was. Additionally, the later in the colonial period that an alternative

schools network was founded, the less time both the schools and the movements which

founded them had to become institutionalized, which in turn made it less likely that they

would endure in the post-independence period. Indeed, while religious nationalism as I

define it emerged once again as a strong presence in Algeria in the mid-1980’s, it did not

survive as a movement from the colonial period until the present day; if my argument is

correct, then an important reason for this is the fact that its religious nationalist schools,

due to the impossibility of their obtaining subsidies, were so short-lived.

In my argument then, the construction of state educational systems helped

religious nationalist movements in two ways - it provided subsidies for their schools,

and/or it brought members of their movements into the state schools as teachers. This

argument is built on two assumptions - that the colonial power was willing to provide

members of the colonized society with state subsidies for their own schools, as opposed

to limiting those subsidies only to missionaries or to private educational groups based in

the metropole and active in the colony. The second assumption is that the colonizer was

willing to fill openings in the state bureaucracy with qualified members of the colonized

population, rather than with bureaucrats from the metropole or members o f non-

indigenous minority groups. I will demonstrate in this chapter that in the cases of Belgian

and most British African colonies, the first assumption rarely held, and after the

beginning of this century, neither did the second. In these cases, almost all government

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monies given to subsidize education were given to missionaries, and openings in the

colonial bureaucracy, after the turn of the century, were staffed almost entirely by whites

or by members o f groups who had immigrated to the colonies, such as Asians in the case

of British East Africa. The second part of this chapter will discuss a French colony in

which a religious - although not religious nationalist - movement was able, with state

subsidies, to found a large-scale alternative school network, and briefly examine the cases

of two movements - the Kikuyu schools movement in Kenya’s Kikuyuland and the

Association of Ulema in Algeria - which were able, in varying degrees, to a relatively

large number o f schools without state subsidies. In the case of the former, I will argue

that the Kikuyu schools movement did not succeed in creating an alternative school

network in that it never progressed beyond the point of being a loose alliance of schools

founded by disparate groups of people throughout Kikuyuland and, to the best of my

knowledge, these schools did not share any common curriculum or agenda other than

providing a high-quality literary education that stressed English to their students. In other

words, there was a relatively large number of Kikuyu schools, but they did not constitute

an alternative school system in the way that DAV and Muhammadiya schools did

because of the lesser degree of coordination and common curricula tying them together.

The case of the difficulties which the Association of the Ulema faced in creating their

alternative school system without government subsidy and in a colonial environment

hostile to their work further demonstrate my argument —without these subsidies, the

schools were able to transform themselves from scattered institutions into a coherent

network very late in the colonial period; their resulting lack of institutionalization may

well have accounted for the ease with which they and the religious nationalist movement

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270

that they represented were marginalized for decades by various FLN regimes after

independence. Finally, this chapter will conclude by suggesting some specific cases

which would be ideal for further testing o f the arguments advanced in this dissertation.

Colonies W ithout Centralized Education Systems or Private School Networks

The Congo was one of the most pronounced examples in the colonial world of a

colony in which opportunities for secular education and bureaucratic employment were

systematically denied to members of the colonized population. What little aid Belgians

made available for education in the colony went to Belgian missionaries; the only

alternative to mission schools was the primary and secondary schools founded by the

army, which believed mission schools were not adequate to the task o f molding the

country’s future soldiers.1 Education led to one o f two careers - the priesthood or the

army; graduates o f the army school became officers, and at independence in 1960 some

400 of the approximately 430 Congolese who had graduated from secondary school had

been trained as priests. The only attempt to build a secular system of education outside of

the military schools in the Congo came very late - only five years before independence,

in the form of schools o f public administration to produce future bureaucrats - and it was

closed after only two years as a result of pressure from Church officials fearful of the

effects of the creation of a local elite trained outside the Church school system.2

While the missionaries all but monopolized the provision of education in Congo,

the Belgians all but monopolized posts in the colony’s bureaucracy. Posts requiring a

secondary education or higher were reserved for Belgians until the year before

1 The British and Their Successors: The Government Services in the New States, Richard Symonds,
(Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966), 224

2 ibid, 223

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271

independence, and at independence there were 10,000 Belgian officials in the colony and

only 3 Congolese graduates in the colony’s bureaucratic apparatus.3 With no

opportunities for a secular, civilian education, no career path which a graduate of secular

schools could have followed even if they existed, and no chance of locals becoming state

bureaucrats, the possibilities for any organized movement in Congolese society to use

state resources to its own ends were almost nonexistent. As a result, the possibilities for

members o f any organized movement in society to obtain state funds to start their own

schools, or to obtain bureaucratic jobs and try to funnel state resources from those jobs

into the movements, were almost nonexistent.

While British educational policy in Africa was not as categorical in denying

provided many more opportunities for education than Belgian policy did, but the bulk of

British subsidies also went to missionaries, and after the beginning of this century there

was also little opportunity for educated Africans to obtain posts in the colonial

bureaucracy. In British West Africa, with the exception of Northern Nigeria, only a

handful of schools were run directly by the colonial government, and almost all

educational initiative was left to the missionaries.4 In the interwar period almost all

Westem-style education in Britain’s East and West African colonies was provided by

missionaries; by 1940 what Gifford and Weiskel call a “quid pro quo” had emerged in

which missions would receive grants and be represented in the councils which made

educational policy, in return for which they would submit to Education Department

3 ibid, 223-225

4 Michael Crowder, West Africa Under Colonial Ride, (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1968),
376

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inspection and produce students capable o f obtaining secular degrees and certificates.5 As

was the case in Belgium, the entrenchment o f missionaries at the citadel of colonial

education hampered possibilities for the development o f secular education, as

missionaries occasionally opposed the expansion of secular government services,

including education, into areas in which the missions were already established.6

The British were not prepared to financially support secular Westem-style

education in their African colonies, and after the turn of the century they saw little need

to, as their colonial bureaucracies were not staffed with educated Africans in any case. In

the British East African colonies - Uganda, Tanganyika, and Kenya - the reason for this

was the large concentration of educated Asian populations, which led to a bureaucratic

employment structure in which the British occupied the highest posts, Asians occupied

the middle posts, and only the lowest posts were left to Africans. The Asian communities

in these colonies predated the establishment of British rule; founded by Asians who had

come to the coast to work in the Customs Office of the Sultan of Zanzibar and to finance

Arab slavetraders, their numbers were substantially increased afier the inception of

British rule when the British brought Punjabis over to build the colonies’ railroads.

Perhaps due to the capital which they were able to accumulate through trade, the Asian

communities had established their own schools; this meant, in turn that there was less

incentive for the British to train West Africans to staff the bureaucracy, since Asians

were already educated and could fill bureaucratic openings relatively cheaply. The extent

to which Asians occupied the lion’s share of bureaucratic posts in East African colonies

5 Prosser Gifford and Timothy Weiskel, “African Education in A Colonial Context: French and British
Styles,” in Africa: Imperial Rivalry and Colonial Rule, eds. Prosser Gifford and William Roger Louis,
(New Haven, Yale University Press, 1971), 701-2

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is demonstrated by the fact that at independence in Kenya, government positions other

than teaching which required a secondary education were filled primarily by Asians, who

occupied 2,600 such posts, then by Europeans, with 1,900 such posts, and finally by

Kenyans, who had 900 such posts.7

Rather than being dictated by demography, the rationale for the exclusion of

educated Africans from the bureaucracy in West Africa was much more heavily

influenced by the twin spread of disease and racist ideology. The British presence on the

West African coast had been established much earlier than its presence in East Africa,

and missions provided most o f the Westem-style educational opportunities until very late

in the colonial period. Prior to 1890, however, these schools were run largely by African

Christians rather than foreign missionaries, and Africans filled the majority of the

bureaucratic posts, even at the highest levels. Symonds reports that in 1870 it would not

have been unusual for a traveller to the West Coast to encounter solely African senior

officials while carrying out his business, including officials at the level of Colonial

Secretary and Director of Education.8 This extraordinary level o f bureaucratic

opportunity was due largely to disease - the high death rate of missionaries and British

troops in Sierra Leone in the 1820’s led the Secretary of State for the Colonies to

mandate that the Sierra Leonean bureaucracy be staffed as much as possible with

Africans.

The control of disease toward the end of the century, however, allowed a sharp

shift in this policy. After the means o f transmission of malaria and yellow fever were

6 ibid

7 Symonds, 176

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discovered and spraying began to limit their spread, Europeans flocked to the coast. This

was also a period of the spread of another insidious pest - racist conceptions about the

inherent inferiority o f blacks. Influenced by Darwinism and by Gustave Le Bon’s theory

that mankind's division into four groups - superior, intermediate, inferior, and primitive

- was permanent and that it could not be altered by education, the ability of the British to

finally fill their bureaucracy with whites was now justified in terms of racist theories, and

Africans were rapidly purged from the colonial bureaucracies of British West Africa. In

1883 in the Gold Coast, nine out of 43 higher posts in the bureaucracy had been held by

Africans; in 1908 the Coast’s 274-person strong bureaucracy included only five, very

junior, Africans.9 In Sierra Leone, the story was the same - Africans had held 18 of 40

senior posts in the bureaucracy in 1892, but by 1912 they held only 15 of 92, and five of

the fifteen posts were phased out soon afterwards.10

As Africans were expelled from the management o f the colony’s affairs in West

Africa, they were also expelled from the management of its schools. At the end o f the

nineteenth century the spread of racist ideologies led to African priests and bishops being

demoted as European missionaries refused to work under them. This led in many cases to

Africans breaking away from the European churches and setting up their own African

churches, but I have not seen any evidence which suggests that these churches then ran

their own schools in large numbers. Africans in British colonies did found schools, and a

lot of them, on an individual or a community basis - in southern Nigeria and Uganda,

unsubsidized schools educated, by varying estimates, up to two-thirds of southern

* ibid, 119

9 ibid, 123

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Nigeria’s primary school-age children; in 1938 the ratio of unsubidized to subsidized

primary schools in Uganda was more than five to one.11 Existing outside o f a system

which could produce and provide qualified teachers and subsisting on minimal funds, the

quality of the education which these independent schools provided varied greatly and

rarely went beyond the imparting of basic literacy. More importantly for our purposes,

these schools were not unified by any common curriculum or infused with any common

ideology or world-view, and so they were ill-equipped to help any oppositional

movement that might have existed spread its beliefs on a large scale.

School Systems to Varying Degrees - Tunisia, Kenya, and Algeria

Outside o f Indochina, a unique case which will be discussed later in this chapter,

French colonies’ approach to education differed significantly from that adopted by their

British counterparts. While most British education subsidies in Africa went to

missionaries, after the beginning of this century the French state cut off all subsidies to

mission schools and assumed responsibility for providing education directly to residents

of the colonies. This did not mean, of course, that missionaries ceased to function, only

that the scope o f their educational efforts was necessarily curtailed by the withdrawal of

state subsidies for their efforts.

In French North Africa, the potential for Westem-style education to be provided

in an Islamic context was manifested by two quite different movements - the Young

Tunisians in Tunisia, and the Association o f Ulema in Algeria. While the French

government was providing secular opportunities for Westem-style education in Tunisia

10 ibid

" Gifford and Weiskel, 703

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276

by the 1880’s, those opportunities had begun to be sharply limited by the end of the

century. In response to the opposition of the colons to the education of Tunisian children,

at the end o f the century the French began to prevent Muslim children from enrolling in

their schools, closing ten such schools in 1901 and decreasing the Muslim student

population by over one-third between 1897 and 1903.12 While Tunisian supporters of

Westem-style education were not motivated to found their own schools by missionary

prevalence in the educational arena, then, they may well have been motivated to found

them by the sharp limitations on Tunisian education in French schools that began at the

turn of the century, and the Young Tunisians built their first school in 1906.

Members of the Young Tunisian Movement opposed, just as Muhammadiya later

would in Indonesia, the traditional kuttabs or Quranic schools, on the grounds that they

facilitated rote memorization rather than understanding of the texts and that they did not

equip students for Western learning. After securing funding from Islamic endowments

(waqf generally known as habous in North Africa), leading Young Tunisian Khairallah

ibn Mustafa was able to open the first of a series of what John Damis calls “modem

Quranic schools” in 1906. This school combined, as did Muhammadiya schools, the

study of the Quran rather than simply memorizing it without understanding it; like

Muhammadiya schools, it also included a full quotient of “secular” studies, with

grammar, math, geography, and science. In sharp contrast to Muhammadiya, however,

the Young Tunisians viewed the role of religion in society as a primarily private affair;

“rejecting Islamic reform as being inadequate for the modem world, the movement

favored a policy o f assimilation to France in order to bring Tunisian society up to the

12 “The Free-School Phenomenon: The Cases o f Tunisia and Algeria,” John Damis, International Journal
o f Middle East Studies, Volume S, 1974,437

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277

level of the West.” 13 In fact, the Young Tunisians only supported modem Quranic

schools combining Quran instruction and secular Westem-style education as a temporary

measure for educating children in areas where secular French government schools did not

exist, viewing modem Quranic schools only as a temporary substitute until such secular

schools would be founded. 14Since they did not place religion at the center o f their

formulation of Tunisian national identity, and since they would have strongly opposed

any attempt to have independent Tunisia governed in accordance with reformed Islam,

the Young Tunisians were not religious nationalists. They were, however, with French

financial support, able to start their own alternative school network.

The beyclical decree of November 12,1898, had stipulated that the opening of

any Quranic school - “modem” or traditional - had to be authorized by the French

inspector o f Quranic schools and Arabic instruction. The Young Tunisians’ modem

Quranic schools were thus recognized by the French government, and in 1929 the

government accorded them a subsidy of 180,000 francs, which Damis calculates was the

equivalent of about $15,000 at that time.15 Given that the Young Tunisians only had

seventeen modem Quranic schools in 1929,16 this was an enormous sum of money.

Subsequently, whenever the subsidies increased, the number of modem Quranic schools

run by the Young Tunisians shot up accordingly. Between 1929 and 1936, a period in

which subsidies were not increasing, the movement only opened four new schools. As the

subsidy almost doubled, going from 180,000 francs in 1929 to 378,000 francs in 1936,

13 ibid, 435

14 ibid, 437

15 ibid, 438

16 ibid, 437

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six more schools were opened; by 1938 the subsidy was 1,301,400 francs, and in 1939

the Young Tunisians had 42 modem Quranic schools with 10,116 students.17 In 1938 the

government also more firmly placed these schools within the government school system

by issuing a beyclical decree regulating their curricula, the diplomas which teachers were

required to obtain, and the procedures for operating the schools.18 By 1952 27,497

students were enrolled in modem Quranic schools, which meant that for every three

children in the French government-run schools there was one in the modem Quranic

system.19

In Tunisia, then, we have an alternative school system of precisely the kind

described in India and Indonesia, although the much higher levels of subsidy here made

the modem Quranic schools able to enroll a higher percentage of students than the Arya

Samaj or Muhammadiya could have ever dreamed o f doing. While the Young Tunisian

schools may have enrolled more students than the DAV or Muhammadiya schools did,

their mobilizational potential was somewhat limited by the fact that for the most part the

Young Tunisian schools were only elementary schools, whereas both the DAV and

Muhammadiya networks had schools from the primary through the secondary, and in the

case of the DAV through college, levels. The potential of a large and financially secure

network of schools such as these to develop and disseminate an alternative imagining of

the community on a large scale is clear, but the reason that the modem Quranic schools in

the end did not do so was precisely the reason that they were able to gain the French

subsidies that undergirded their growth in the first place - the French saw them as

17 ibid, 438

'* ibid

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“apolitical.” The Young Tunisians pretty closely approximated France’s idea of the

perfect North African Muslim - devout but only on the private level, and aspiring to all

things French for himself and his country. When religious nationalists opposed to the

French presence attempted to build their own alternative school network in neighboring

Algeria, the conditions were much less conducive.

The closest case of something roughly approximating an alternative school system

unsupported by government subsidies comes from the East African colony of Kenya. As

in its other African colonies, the British left most educational initiative in Kenya to

missionaries. The first secular government school was founded by the British in 1913;

this teacher-training school became the nucleus of a network of village schools.20 Overall,

however, very little education was provided either by missionaries or by the government,

and what little education was provided was often not Westem-style education at all, but

training for manual and agricultural labor. This type of education for “rural development”

was further entrenched by the Phelps-Stokes Report, which stressed the need to “educate

the African for his environment;”21 white settlers in Kenya, as well as British officials,

agreed that whatever education was provided should aim to “condition the native for his

‘role’ in the order of things.” 22 What this meant, in practice, was classes which taught

Kenyans how to farm “better”, rather them providing them with a literary education,

particularly one that would give them facility in English.

19 ibid, 439

20 John Anderson, The Struggle fo r the School: The Interaction o f Missionary, Colonial Government, and
Nationalist Enterprise in the Development o f Formal Education in Kenya, (London: Longman Group Ltd.,
1970),38

21 ibid, 39

22 ibid, 38

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The response of Kenyans in Kikuyuland to the government/missionary approach

to education was to agitate for a more literary, Westem-style education. In the late 1920’s

the Kikuyu, frustrated with the established churches’ refusal to provide such an

education, broke away from the churches to start their own schools. The first such

schools were started by groups of families who pooled their resources, or prosperous

traders who funded them; in 1929 supporters of independent African education began to

organize self-help groups to raise funds on a more systematic basis. This led in 1934 to

the creation of KISA, the Kikuyu Independent Schools’ Association; by 1938 the annual

Education Department Report reported the existence of 41 independent schools, most of

which were probably affiliated with KISA, that were registered with the government. By

1952 the government was reporting the existence o f 220 independent schools, all of

which were closed down by the government in that year as the Emergency spread

throughout the colony. What this means, of course, is that due to the difficulty in raising

money to fund the schools, the great majority of them were founded after 1938, and they

were closed in 1952. They only had fourteen years, then, to try to disseminate any

oppositional ideas that they had - a much shorter time than the DAV or M uhammadiya

schools did.

This would seem, then, to be a Westem-style educational system that arose

without benefit of government subsidy. We have no way o f knowing how many of the

220 were actually affiliated with KISA, and even affiliation with KISA did not mean that

teachers in these schools were centrally recruited, that the schools taught the same or a

very similar curriculum, or that they constituted a system of education in the ways which

have been detailed throughout this dissertation.

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281

While the motivation to establish a network of Westem-style schools espousing a

religious nationalist ideology was very strong in a colony like Algeria, the conditions for

founding such a network could not have been less propitious, for at least two reasons.

The first and perhaps most important reason for this was that unlike Tunisia, Algeria was

a colony, not a protectorate, and it was governed as directly from Paris as if it were

Alsace-Lorraine. This meant that just as in France after 1903 the government controlled

education at all levels, training teachers, offering exams, choosing texts, and refusing to

subsidize private education, so did the French colonial government in Algeria, where an

Office of Public Instruction was created to oversee the hiring of teachers, determine the

curricula, and inspecting schools.23Another reason is that the colon community is Algeria

was much larger and more powerful than it was in Tunisia, numbering over three-quarters

of a million people in 1931 who occupied most of the best land in the colony.24 The

building of these settlements had required the sequestration oflarge swaths of property

whose income had gone to mosques and mosque-related social services through

endowments (wqfq/habous)\ the sequestration of these properties singlehandedly

destroyed the main source of income for Quranic schools, forcing most of them to

close25 By 1850, according to Heggoy, the Algerian system of free education had been

thoroughly destroyed.26

23 “Introduction”, Gail P Kelly and Philip G. Altbach, in Education and Colonialism, Kelly and Altbach,
eds., (New York and London: Longman Press, 1978), 11

24 The exact figure is 880,000. Ibid, 440

23 “Colonial Education in Algeria: Assimilation and Reaction”, A lf Andrew Heggoy, in Education and the
Colonial Experience, Altbach and Kelly

26 Heggoy, 100

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282

While opportunities for Muslim education - religious nationalist or traditional

Quranic - had been cut off at the root by French policies, the French began to create their

own Islamic schools. In 1830 the French had promised non-interference in Islam and

Islamic courts, but the takeover of endowment property had closed the schools which had

formerly produced preachers, judges in Islamic courts, and the teachers who had trained

them. In 1850 the French created three special schools which taught Islamic subjects but

were forced to teach French or be deprived of the income which kept them afloat. In 1895

the French stipulated that only teachers trained in these official schools could teach in

schools preparing students for them, and all new imams would also be produced by these

new French schools and appointed by the French. For children not seeking to be imams

government schooling was, at least in theory, available, but very few Algerian children

could gain admittance to the French schools - as late as 1930, only seven percent of

children of elementary school age in Algeria attended French schools.27

Religious nationalist Algerian Muslims began to form “free schools” in the

1930’s. In sharp contrast to the Young Tunisian project, Algerian religious nationalists

rejected almost everything French. Two-thirds o f the curriculum in these schools was

devoted to Islamic and Arabic subjects; Damis notes that many of the schools “were not

too far advanced over” the traditional Quranic schools which almost exclusively taught

the rote memorization of the Quran.28 It is important to note that given my definition of

Westem-style education, which stipulated that that education be based on subjects whose

truth claims were not based on religion, these religious nationalist Algerian schools were

27 Damis, 442

21 ibid, 446

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283

not providing Westem-style education in the first place. Severely limited by a lack of

funds, most of these schools had only one or two classes and very few qualified teachers.

In an attempt to subvert the schools, the French developed legislation in 1938 which

made it more difficult for such schools to comply with colonial educational law, and

several of them were closed.

After World War II, the Algerian religious nationalist schools finally overcame

some of their earlier difficulties and began to approximate a school system. In 1947 the

Association o f Ulema “established a uniform curriculum, a contract to bind local

founding committees, and an obligatory oath of fidelity for teachers,”29 and later set up a

higher commission which decided on the hours of study and the curricula.70 But as late as

1956 there seem to have been only 48 schools affiliated with the Association - so it was a

school network, but quite a small one compared to those of the DAV schools,

Muhammadiya, or the Young Tunisians. And once again, as in the case o f the KISA

schools, the impossibility of getting sustained funding - combined in the Algerian case

with French attacks on Association schools, meant that the schools got off the ground too

late to have a sustained influence - the schools were only united under a single

organization with a unified curriculum and leadership in 1947, and in 1954 the French

began closing the schools, giving them less than a decade to function, and less than a

decade to disseminate a unified alternative imagining of the Algerian nation.

What can the cases of the Young Tunisians, KISA, and the schools of the

Association o f Ulema tell us about the validity o f my hypothesis that the construction of a

29 ibid, 447

30 ibid

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state Westem-style school system is a necessary but not sufficient condition for religious

nationalist movements to outlast the colonial context in which they were founded? The

Young Tunisians’ modem Quranic schools were not religious nationalist schools, but the

ability of the movement to found its own alternative school system on a large scale was

undoubtedly due in very large part to the very generous French government subsidies

which it received. The struggles that an incipient schools project faced in the absence of

these subsidies is suggested by the case o f Kenya, where no alternative schools system,

but instead a large number of loosely related schools was the most that could be created.

The Association o f Ulema, on the other hand, created a system of schools at least at the

elementary level, but they were not Westem-style schools. Why does this make a

difference to the potential longevity of the movement which sponsored them? I would

suggest that it does because these schools did not qualify their graduates to enter the state

bureaucracy, thus denying the movement the access to state resources, or the ability to

teach within state schools, which bureaucratic employment could bring, and which was

so important, for example, in spreading the message of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

I would suggest, then, that these three cases further confirm my hypothesis than only

when the colonial state erects a Westem-style educational system which provides

subsidies to schools providing a similar education in accordance with government

guidelines can a religious nationalist movement emerge which can outlast colonial rule.

Cases for Future Study: Vietnam and the Philippines

This dissertation has argued that when colonial powers set up a centralized state

education system in a colony, this has great potential to strengthen incipient religious

nationalist movements in the area. One o f the best tests of my hypothesis, then, would be

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285

to see whether it has any relevance in two of the colonies which boasted the most

extensive state educational systems —French Vietnam and the American Philippines. I do

not know if the educational system in either colony made subsidies available to local

citizens running schools in accordance with government regulations - I highly doubt

that this was the case in Vietnam. The Americans in the Philippines educated a higher

percentage of the colonized population than was educated by any other colonial power,

making this an excellent case to examine for connections between long-lived religious

nationalist movements and state education systems.

Similarly, the deep opposition of traditional school teachers in Vietnam to the

French presence, and the fact that these teachers were rooted in a very highly developed

indigenous school system which predated colonial rule in Vietnam led the French to

supplant this indigenous system with their own. This existence first of an extensive

Vietnamese education network and then o f an extensive French one which attempted to

eliminate the first and take its place would make the Vietnamese case one which against

which it would be fruitful to test and refine my hypothesis.

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286

Chapter Eight: Concluding Comments

Standard accounts for the rise of religious nationalist movements are commonly

situated within a discourse of state failure in which it is the state’s withdrawal from areas

which it should control - such as the provision o f social services - that opens the way for

religious nationalists to take the field. According to this discourse, it is precisely in

countries where the state is weak - or more precisely, where the state is retreating from

engagement with and provision for the needs o f society - that we should expect religious

nationalist movements to be the most successful. This dissertation has made the opposite

argument - that it was precisely where the state was historically the strongest and most

involved in social welfare provision - defined in this case as education - that religious

nationalist movements were most likely to grow and endure.

If this argument is valid for the colonial era in which I have situated it, then it may

cast a different light on our understanding of struggles between religious nationalist

movements and states in the contemporary period as well. Commentators on these

struggles in authoritarian regimes such as Egypt are often asked to estimate the chances

of these movements “taking over the state,” and when religious nationalists win power in

democratic elections such as those in Turkey, much nail-biting inevitably ensues among

secularists over what will happen when these Islamists are able to “take control of the

state.” While I am not discounting the magnitude o f the shifts that have taken or would

take place when religious nationalists achieve state power, I am suggesting that in many

ways their more important power is exercised already through their positions in the state

bureaucracy and through state-funded institutions such as schools which they control.

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While the policies passed by elected governments or authoritarian regimes can be

overturned by their predecessors, religious nationalist “work” that is done from within the

state - and particularly from within state apparatuses charged with the cultural production

of the citizen - is often much less apparent, but much harder to undo.

One of the clearest examples of the permanency o f religious nationalist “work”

conducted by bureaucrats within the state’s cultural apparatus is the story o f how Hindi -

Hindi in Devanagari script, not the Hindi-and-Urdu blend called Hindustani - became the

standardized language of post-independence north India. In Chapter Six I detailed the

ways in which the Arya Samaj and other pro-Hindi activists mobilized to make Hindi the

official language o f education and the bureaucracy in north India, based on a conception

of Urdu as a “foreign” language and a belief that the Hindu “nation” needed a common

language to bind its members. At the end of that chapter, I had ended my narrative on the

subject with the story o f how, during the Constituent Assembly debate in 1949 on

language, the Congress party took an internal vote on the Hindi vs. Hindustani issue.

Within the Congress party - a party dedicated to a secular nationalist understanding of

the nation and headed by Nehru, an inveterate supporter of Hindustani - Hindi supporters

won by 78 votes to 77. The result was Article 351 of the Indian Constitution, which

spoke of “the duty of the Union to promote the Hindi language,” but within a

framework of “secur(ing) its enrichment by assimilating without interfering with its

genius, the forms, style and expressions used in Hindustani and in the other languages of

India.”1

1 Krishna Kumar, “ Hindu Revivalism in North-Central India,” 549

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Supporters of Hindi - religious nationalist or communal - working outside the

state in the familiar form of a pressure group seeking to influence political parties - had

succeeded in pushing Hindi to the top of the political agenda of the new government.

They were not able, however, to insure the complete success of their cause. Secular

nationalists within Congress insisted on keeping Hindustani alive, enshrining its role in

the Constitution and, through the offices o f Minister of Education Abul Kalam Azad,

attempting to mobilize state resources behind the campaign to develop and support

Hindustani.2 Hindi supporters attacked these activities in the familiar form of political

activists - challenging Azad’s actions in the Parliament. While this controversy was

going on, however, its outcome was already being decided by Hindu nationalists -

religious and communal - who were working from within the state apparatus and state-

funded institutions. The secular nationalist elite who functioned primarily in English

hired Hindi supporters in the state television and radio organizations. In this way, after

developing a version of Hindi which depended almost entirely on Sanskrit, was written in

Devanagari script, and had been largely purged of Arabic and Persian influences, the

Hindi supporters, “having shaped Hindi in accordance with their ideology were able to

develop a device uniquely suited for working within the secular state’s apparatus.”3

In the mid-1940’s, the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Mansura, in the

governorate of Daqhaliyya, had 165 members, 40-50% of whom were state employees

who worked in such diverse areas as land surveying, the Ministry of Religious

2 ibid

3 ibid, 50

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Endowments, or the government irrigation department.4 Several Brothers held less

innocuous and more politically sensitive jobs, including the secretary o f the military

prosecution office, a prosecuting attorney in the (civilian) state prosecution office, and a

chief official in the tax department Several members of the Assyut branch of the

Brotherhood in the mid-1940’s were judges.5 In 1945 in Munira, a district of Cairo, the

Brotherhood branch had 60 members, 25-40% of whom were state employees, holding

jobs ranging from employment in the ministries of health, social affairs, and agriculture

to the military maintenance department.6 78% of the board of trustees o f the Munira

branch held government jobs;7 50% of the board o f trustees of the Brotherhood branch in

Port Said did. The Arya Samaj was known for the large percentage of its members who

were government bureaucrats; as Kenneth Jones notes, Aryas “recognized and alternately

praised or denigrated the fact that their members were mostly clerks, ‘pen pushers,’ who

could only contribute small amounts,”8 while a 1901 government report referred to the

Samaj as “a notorious party of Hindus headed by a disreputable clique of dismissed

clerks and others of doubtful character”9 (emphasis mine). The British colonial

government’s Home Political Department Proceedings quoted Sir Macworth Young, the

Jeep case

3 ibid

6 ibid

7 ibid

* Kenneth Jones, Arya Dharm, 82

9 ibid, 251

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Lieutenant-Governor o f the Punjab, as saying in 1897 that “although there are many

servants of Government in its ranks, (the Samaj)’s general tendency is disloyal.” 10

To the extent that large percentages of the members of religious nationalist

movements in the colonial era are state bureaucrats, how much purchase do we get in

attempting to understand these movements’ longevity by attempting to draw strict

distinctions between the “state” and “society”? Lest one answer “OK, so they’re

bureaucrats, but how can they use state power to help their movements?” consider an

example from contemporary Egypt. It has long been noted that Islamists have been very

successfully in “colonizing” the social services provision arena through the myriad of

voluntary organizations which they support. Voluntary organization activity in Egypt was

until very recently governed by a Nasser-era law known as Law 32. In allowing the

Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) to oversee and control almost every aspect of

voluntary organizations’ activities, Law 32 also allows organizations which are supported

by members of the Ministry enormous privileges, which often make the difference in

whether or not the organizations can continue their work. As Sami Zubaida has noted,

“Islamic societies apparently enjoy special favors and privileges with ministry officials.

Reportedly, ministry officials are included on the boards of management of many of these

societies and paid a salary. This arrangement is apparently legal under Law 32, and in

some cases required. Islamic associations are reportedly the most likely to obtain

authorization to collect money from the public............. (they) seem to have greater

freedom of operation - not by virtue of empowering legislation but thanks to informal or

10 Home Political Department Proceedings, April 1912, No.4, quoted in Pandey 14S

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291

semi-formal arrangements with ministry officials.”11 In light of this analysis it is hardly

surprising that Islamist and Islamic groups have never joined the consistent opposition of

all other Egyptian opposition movements to Law 32. To the extent that religious

nationalists or their supporters are active within state bureaucracies, then, they are

positioned to offer significant assistance to the cause, often without the population or the

government even being aware that that assistance is being offered. Re-examining the

“state”, then, would seem to be an important part of solving the puzzle of how long-lived

religious nationalist movements got to be that way, and how they may continue to

succeed in the future.

11 Sami Zubaida, “ Islam, the State, and Democracy: Contrasting Conceptions o f Society in Egypt,” Middle
East Report, November-December 1992,7

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292

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