By Christopher Harrison
This booklet is a massive contribution to the social, political and highbrow heritage of the biggest colonial nation in Africa, the French West African Federation. by means of targeting the explicit topic of the improvement of French coverage in the direction of Islam, it sheds mild on quite a lot of concerns, from the grand technique of French imperialism to the psychology of person directors in remoted outposts of the empire. Christopher Harrison argues that during order to make experience of colonial rule, it is extremely vital to appreciate the way the colonial strength considered the folks it ruled. He demonstrates how French knowing of Islam in West Africa advanced from the temporary, and sometimes contradictory, guidelines linked to the interval of army growth, via a interval of extreme suspicion and worry of pan-Islamic hobbies, to a widely-held consensus that Islam in Africa was once relatively special from the Islam of the Arab global.
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Additional resources for France and Islam in West Africa, 1860-1960 (African Studies)
Finally . . all has been brought to a happy conclusion! ' have alienated the chief of the Berabiches; he has been writing insolent letters . . and making a nuisance of himself. We had to change his ideas and so we are going to Araouan. ) of Araouan. 29 Arnaud's letter is interesting on several counts, not the least of which is as an insight into the character of the author who shortly afterwards became the chief adviser to the government of AOF on Islamic affairs. 30 But despite Arnaud's enthusiastic 'Boy's Own' description, the mission did not appear to have had any concrete results.
Born in Algiers in 1873,63 Arnaud studied Arabic before attending the Ecole coloniale from 1895 to 1897. He did not complete his diploma at the school but nonetheless went straight into the Algerian administration in 1898 as an administrateur adjoint of a commune mixte. At the end of the same year he was chosen to accompany Coppolani on his mission to the French Sudan. It is very probable that he had first met Coppolani through his father who had translated many of the documents used by Depont and Coppolani in their study of Islam in Algeria.
Islam or, more precisely, the Islamic threat was to be that raison d'etre as Coppolani put himself forward as a person uniquely qualified to deal with the Muslim populations of north-west Africa. Although it is clear that to a certain extent the book merely confirmed popular prejudices about Islam,34 it was nonetheless in scientific terms a distinct improvement on Rinn's idiosyncratic study. It was also one of the clearest statements of what one can call the 'Algerian school's' understanding of Islam.