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China, once said: “It is the misfortune of the Chinese Government and people to be weighed in a balance, which they have never accepted, and to have their shortcomings, so ascertained, made the basis of reclamations of varying degrees of gravity.” This observation holds as good about Egypt as it does about China. I am aware that in the remarks made in this and the two preceding chapters, the Egyptian has been weighed in a balance which he has never accepted, and in which, moreover, it is somewhat unjust to weigh him; for, from whatever point of view we look at the Egyptian, we should never forget that he is what the accidents of his history, climate, religion, and geographical position have made him. It is useless and, indeed, hurtful to hide his defects, or to disguise from ourselves the fact that the reception of true European civilisation by a population such as that which is described above must be the work of generations. But there is no occasion to point the finger of pharisaical scorn at the Egyptians, whilst any feeling of self-congratulation that we are not as these less fortunate political publicans should surely be checked by the reflection that some, at least, of the defects in the Egyptian character are due to association with European civilisation in a debased form. Rather let us, in Christian charity, make every possible allowance for the moral and intellectual shortcomings of the Egyptians, and do whatever can be done to rectify them.
1 Mr. Alexander Michie, China and Christianity, p. 1, 1892.
THE EUROPEANISED EGYPTIANS
The Europeanised Egyptians are generally Agnostics—Efects of
Europeanising the East-Gallicised Egyptians—Attractions of
A MOMENT's reflection will show how it is that, in the peculiar political phase through which Egypt is now passing, the Europeanised Egyptian occupies a position of somewhat special importance. If the country were still governed on the lines of the old Oriental despotisms, a small number of educated Egyptians might perhaps be employed in subordinate positions, but they would be mere adjuncts; they would not truly represent the spirit of the Government. If, on the other hand, the Government and society of Egypt were farther advanced on the road to civilisation, the Europeanised Egyptian would probably be something different from what he actually is; he would have become in spirit, though not necessarily in sentiment, less Egyptian and more thoroughly European. But inasmuch as Egyptian society is in a state of flux, the natural result has been to produce a class of individuals many of whom are, at the same time, demoslemised Moslems and invertebrate Europeans.
In dealing with the question of introducing European civilisation into Egypt, it should never
be forgotten that Islam cannot be reformed; that is to say, reformed Islam is Islam no longer; it is something else; we cannot as yet tell what it will eventually be. “ Christian nations,” Sir William Muir says, “may advance in civilisation, freedom, and morality, in philosophy, science, and the arts, but Islam stands still
. And thus stationary, so far as the lessons of history avail, it will remain."i But little assistance in the work of reform can, therefore, be expected from the steady orthodox Moslems, who cling with unswerving fidelity to their ancient faith, and whose dislike to European civilisation often increases as that civilisation advances. The Syrians and Armenians are foreigners. The Copts, besides being Christians, are-or, at all events, in 1882, were—but little better educated than the ordinary Moslems. Having regard, therefore, to the disqualifications of his competitors, the Europeanised Égyptian naturally becomes, if not the only possible, at all events the principal agent for administering the country, except in so far as it is administered by Europeans.
Nominally, the Europeanised Egyptian is in the majority of cases a Moslem. In reality, he is generally an Agnostic. The gulf between him and the “ Alim” of the El-Azhar University is as great as between the “Alim” and the European. Indeed, it may be doubted whether the gulf is not in reality greater in the former than in the latter
For a thoughtful European will not only look with interest at the “ Alim” as the representative of an ancient faith, which contains much that is highly deserving of respect; he will, if the “ Alim” is a worthy specimen of his class, sympathise with him because he is religious, albeit his religion is not that of Christ. The Europeanised Egyptian, on the other hand, will often look on the “ Alim”
1 The Caliphate, p. 597.
with all the pride of an intellectual parvenu. From the pedestal of his empirical knowledge, he will regard the “ Alim” as a social derelict, who has to be tolerated, and even occasionally, for political purposes, to be utilised, but who need not be
The truth is that, in passing through the European educational mill, the young Egyptian Moslem loses his Islamism, or, at all events, he loses the best part of it. He cuts himself adrift from the sheet-anchor of his creed. He no longer believes that he is always in the presence of his Creator, to whom he will some day have to render an account of his actions. He may still, however, take advantage of the least worthy portions of his nominal religion, those portions, namely, which, in so far as they tolerate a lax moral code, adapt themselves to his tastes and to his convenience in the affairs of this world. Moreover, in losing his Islamism, the educated Egyptian very rarely makes any approach towards Christianity. There are practically no cases of Christian converts amongst the educated classes. More than this, although the Europeanised Egyptian is no true Moslem, he is often as intolerant, and sometimes even more intolerant of Christianity than the old orthodox Moslem, who has received no European education. He frequently hates Christians with a bitter hatred, and he does so partly because many of the Christians with whom he has been brought in contact deserve to be hated, and partly because the Christian, in his capacity of being a European, is a rival who occupies positions, which the Europeanised Egyptian thinks he should himself
occupy. It is doubtful whether the price which is being paid, or which, at all events, may have to be paid for introducing European civilisation into these backward Eastern societies is always recognised
so fully as it should be. The material benefits derived from Europeanisation are unquestionably great, but as regards the ultimate effect on public and private morality the future is altogether uncertain." European civilisation destroys one religion without substituting another in its place. It remains to be seen whether the code of Christian morality, on which European civilisation is based, can be dissociated from the teaching of the Christian religion. This question can only be answered by generations which are now unborn. For the present, there is little to guide us in any forecast as to what the ultimate result will be.
It may, however, be noted that there is an essential difference between the de-moslemised Moslem and the free-thinker in Europe. The latter is surrounded by an atmosphere of Christianity: he will often, sometimes with a pang of envy, admire trustfulness and faith, in which qualities his reasoning faculties forbid him to share; if he is a politician, he will, or at all events he should recognise the utilitarian side of Christianity; he will, more often than not, reject the idea that there is no alternative presented to him but that of being either an atheist or a full believer in the Christianity of the schools; the fact that he is a free-thinker does not cut him off from association and co-operation with his friends, who may not share his disbelief or his doubts; his reason, his associations, and his hereditary qualities alike impel him to assert, no less strongly than the orthodox Christian, that the code of Christian morality must
· The whole of this question has been admirably treated, from the Hindoo point of view, in the second series of Sir Alfred Lyall's brilliant Asiatic Studies. Every European who occupies a high position in the East should study Sir Alfred Lyall's works. They display a profound knowledge of Eastern habits of thought, and a remarkable grasp of the difficulties underlying the treatment of Eastern problems.