"They opened fire with cannons and bombs on the houses and quarters, aiming specially at the mosque, firing at it with those bombs. They also fired at suspected places bordering the mosque, such as the market. And they trod in the mosque with their shoes, carrying swords and rifles. Then they scattered in its courtyard and its main praying area and tied their horses to the prayer niche They ravaged the students' quarters and ponds, smashing the lamps and chandeliers and breaking up the bookcases of the students and the scribes. They plundered whatever they found in the mosque, such as furnishings, vessels, bowls, deposits, and hidden things from closets and cupboards. They treated the books and Qur'anic volumes as trash, throwing them on the ground, stamping on them with their feet and shoes. Furthermore they soiled the mosque, blowing their spit in it, and urinating and defecating in it. They guzzled wine and smashed the bottles in the central court and other parts. And whoever they happened to meet in the mosque they stripped. They chanced upon someone in one of the student residences and slaughtered him." (Abdul Rahman Jabarti, 1798, from Napoleon in Egypt)
A few decades later, in 1845, a French military officer in Algeria boldly proclaimed: "In effect the essential thing is to gather into groups this people which is everywhere and nowhere; the essential thing is to make them something we can seize hold of. When we have them in our hands, we will then be able to do many things which are quite impossible for us today and which will perhaps allow us to capture their minds after we have captured their bodies." In this case, having been thwarted by traditional Islamic resistance in the Algerian hinterland, as elsewhere, the French realized that they needed a strategy, part of which required the rounding up and enumeration of the people they sought to control. Modern schooling served this purpose well. Soon, selected Algerians were being schooled the French way, where they could be easily "seized hold of" and rewarded with positions of nominal authority in the emerging French colonial order.
The thinking in French intellectual circles seems to have been that, eventually, the roots of Islamic culture, the main threat to their designs in the region, would have to be ripped out and replanted, and education was an important site for this operation. As the French author Fenelon noted in his novel Telemaque in 1867, "We, the masters, should seize on our subjects in their early youth. We shall change the tastes and habits of the whole people. We shall build up again from the very foundations and teach the people to live a frugal, innocent, busy life after the pattern of our laws." The novel was more than conjecture or fantasy. To many, it was also a blueprint. Since it was not enough to kill the Islamic scholars and subvert the students away from Islam, the colonizers needed to root out Islam from among ordinary people, who retained a strong faith. The way to do this was through schooling. Accordingly, schools were pressed into service of the colonial state, to "change the tastes and habits of the whole people."
In 1893, only a few generations after Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, the colonization of selected segments of the Muslim populace in North Africa was nearly complete. By then convinced that West was best, the editor of an Egyptian academic journal, lamenting the supposed "backwardness" of his people, wrote, "It is we who have placed ourselves in this position. There is one thing that unites us all in the Orient: our past greatness and our present backwardness." But these were not original thoughts: he wrote those words only after consulting with his masters, a group of French Orientalists who at the time were developing hierarchical theories of human development, putting white Christians on top, as was the fashion in the social Darwinism that had emerged in the 19th century.
In 1910, American president Theodore Roosevelt visited Egypt to deliver an address at the newly opened National University in Cairo. Roosevelt, also an avid reader of Le Bon, insisted that the Egyptian people were "not sufficiently evolved" to deserve any form of self-government, his arrogance blinding him to the century of colonization that produced the modern confusion of Islamic identity in the Arab Muslim world. And, after nearly a century of adjusting Arab Muslim culture toward the West, the Western colonials still viewed Islam as a potential threat to their designs in the region. To the extent that local rulers were dependent on the West, they, too, supported further adjustments. But Islam still remained one of the key stumbling blocks to colonial designs. A systematic attack on Islam had begun nearly a century earlier, soon after Napoleon's invasion, when an Egyptian national, Hasan al-Attar, was sent to study in Napoleon's Institut d'Egypte in Paris. Later a scholar at al-Azhar university, he taught the modernist reformer Tahtawi, who was instrumental in westernizing Egyptian schools and translating the works of French social scientists. Tahtawi's work, in turn, influenced a new generation of modernist-minded Muslims associated with al-Azhar, including Abduh, who became its chief scholar. Soon, another student at the newly adjusted al-Azhar, Mustafa Abd al-Raziq, whose father was associated with Abduh, later studied at the feet of the French sociologist Emile Durkheim in the Sorbonne. Upon returning to Egypt, Abd al-Raziq taught Western philosophy at the Egyptian University, and, in 1945, he became the rector of Al-Azhar.
The university at al-Azhar, like many other centers of Muslim learning, had ceased to be a place of resistance to colonization, emerging instead as a quietist, legitimizing force of the colonial order. Beginning with cannons and proceeding through canons, western colonial powers worked to neutralize places like al-Azhar, a process nearly completed during the 20th century. Once the indigenous centers of resistance to Western imperialism, many schools and educational institutions became part of the colonial order. The case of al-Azhar illustrates a two-pronged Western methodology for its attempt to order the Islamic world in its own image: marginalize or destroy the traditional Islamic foundations, while building a new set of west-directed foundations, including the main pillar of an unquestioned reliance on the western sciences and ways of understanding the world, a key feature of which is a formalized concept of socio-political order.
In order to appreciate the impact of the colonization of Muslim life in Egypt, it may be useful to glance at what Muslim education looked like prior to Napoleon's invasion. Studies of education in the Muslim world by Western scholars are often limited to higher religious education in major metropoles, focusing on the "medieval period," the 13th to 16th centuries CE. In this context, the concept "Islamic education" is misleading, since it refers primarily to the training of scholars ('ulama), without paying attention to such areas as vocational training, medical and architectural studies, the arts, or farming and animal husbandry. Presumably, Muslims did study such things, but modern Western studies of Muslim history do not seem to consider them within the broad rubric of "education." Some scholars, however, are aware of the inherent tensions of such a narrow approach: "Judges and professors were 'ulama but so were members of social, occupational, and cultural groups who might not rely primarily on education or legal activities for a livelihood" (Berkey, 1992). This tension was particularly pronounced in Cairo during the medieval period, although many works fail to address it and focus instead on religious education, rendering other forms of education rather mysterious, amounting to a separation of Islam from society. Nevertheless, such works provide a glimpse of Muslim educational life.
An important factor in traditional Islamic education was its informality: "The variety of men and women – sultans and emirs, scholar and bureaucrats, the wives and daughters of the same – who undertook the construction of schools of higher religious and legal education guaranteed that those schools would not be uniform. On the most obvious level, for example, religious institutions might be established by individuals of widely differing financial means" (Berkey, 1992). Consequently, "the schools that were established varied considerably in physical size, in the preference that they allotted to one particular rite, in their commitment to Sufi devotions as well as rigorous academic work, and above all in the value of their endowments (and the income they generated) and the quality of education they offered." One aspect of the informality of education is apparent in the student-teacher relationship. Before institutionalization, teachers were not salaried, but made or inherited their livelihoods independently of their scholarship. There were also no diplomas or degrees; instead, students received an ijaza, an informal recommendation from the scholar to teach the knowledge he or she has learned. Only in an institutional setting, either when introduced partially under the Mamluks, or en toto during the colonial period, were these informal and personal authorities replaced by a system of formal and hierarchical qualifications.
The Islamic approach to educating religious scholars, though utilizing books, primarily emphasized oral sources and transmissions. Thus, a book is only a valid medium of study in so far as it has been learned by way of a living authority. This involved, among other things, students essentially writing their own books, based on recitations by the teacher and developed through discussions with the teacher. The oral mode of learning and inquiry is embedded in the Arabic language itself, with its tri-consonantal root system brought to life by what is literally called the "movement" (harakat) of vowels. The precise meaning of words in such a language can only be ascertained by listening to them being spoken; written texts, therefore, are secondary. In fact, some medieval Muslim scholars considered it "scandalous" to base one's education solely on books. This is illustrated by the informal study sessions that students engaged in when the teacher left. These study sessions involved reading out loud, for, as one scholar once put it, "what the ear hears becomes firmly established in the heart." This points to another key component of education at the time: the primacy of memorization. After a core of fundamental materials were memorized and could be easily reproduced, students would then be encouraged to develop "the ability to use critically the materials memorized and apply them to particular academic and legal problems." By way of such training, "Muslim scholars produced rigorous critiques of both ancient and contemporary writers, and academic exchange, at least at the higher levels of the study of jurisprudence, often revolved around the organized disputation of controversial questions" (Berkey, 1992).
A controversial by-product of the Mamluk attempt at the institutionalization of religious education was the emergence of professional scholars, and of people in general who began to make their living from teaching religion. However, this did not create as many problems as it did in the West: "Indeed, the Medieval Islamic world generally avoided that radical division of intellectual and commercial labor that has at times impoverished both the academy and the corporation in the West... Islam had never known a sharp social divide between men of religious learning and men of commerce" (Berkey, 1992). However, some problems were created by the professionalization of teaching, and the sultan had to occasionally intervene between teachers vying for the financial rewards of institutionalized education, while some fathers bequeathed their academic positions to their sons. Another unfortunate aspect of the early institutionalization of formal education was that it tended to marginalize women. While the predominantly informal nature of education in Islamic Cairo still had many places where women could study, they could not study or teach in the newly endowed institutions, even though they could endow and administer them. Even so, it is important to remember that "in practice madrasas were by no means monastic in character. Islam, by and large, had always rejected celibacy as a permanent lifestyle" (Berkey, 1992). Nowhere in the Islamic world does one find the celibacy and exclusion of women from academia, which, as one historian has put it, made Western institutions of higher learning a "world without women" (Noble, 1992). As the Islamic sources suggest, it is incumbent upon both men and women to know their religion, even though the modes of learning may differ. Beyond the childhood Qur'anic schools, which accepted young boys and girls, women could pursue their Islamic learning in a variety of informal settings, including their homes. In fact, the homes of many prominent Muslim women became centers of learning for other women.
One public arena in which women were highly visible was in the area of hadith, the recitation of sayings and traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, and the deeds of his companions and family. As Berkey suggests, "no less a scholar than Jalal al-Din Suyuti (d. 1505 CE) relied heavily on women as his sources for hadith." Many women achieved high regard in their knowledge and transmission of hadith, but this "should not obscure from us the fundamental difference between the character of education they received and that accorded to men," a difference which often resulted in "the absence of women from endowed positions in schools of higher learning and from judicial posts." In the institutionalized, formal system of education begun by the Mamluks, this "gender barrier affected the core of the relationship between teacher and student as it was known in medieval Islam." Still, scholars "openly relied on many women for secure and persuasive chains of authority," and "the social horizons of Islamic education were very wide indeed" (Berkey, 1992).
Despite the creeping institutionalization, the Mamluk centers of learning did not cater only to an elite class of intellectuals. Many local people worked as functionaries in the madrasas, as prayer callers, assistants to Friday prayer leaders, readers of poetry in praise of the Prophet, or as language teachers, writing teachers and scribes. These services also entitled them to study with some of the most prominent scholars of the day. Even so, there was some tension, highlighted in a treatise by Ibn al-Hajj (d. 1336), who chastised the learned elite of the day for dressing ostentatiously and alienating ordinary people from higher learning. But, as Berkey (1992) suggests, this proclivity was not as widespread as some Orientalists have presumed. On the contrary, "The contemporary sources leave little trace of any of the structural antagonism that set 'town' against 'gown' in late Medieval Europe." Most schools also kept numerous people on staff who recited Qur'an, and, during certain times of the year, recited hadith from a number of well known compilations: "The prominence of organized groups of Qur'an readers at virtually every school may suggest that one of the principle reasons why the academic and nonacademic spheres mixed so harmoniously was that these were more than mere institutions of education. They were also centers of public worship." So while there was some exclusion of ordinary people, the practice was not widespread. In fact, the recitation of hadith was a widely acceptable community activity involving men and women from all walks of life, and "the transmission of this important field of Muslim learning took place in a very open world, one that drew no distinct boundaries between instruction and devotion, and in which large and disparate groups of Muslims could and did participate" (Berkey, 1992).
In general, therefore, "Muslim society in the later Middle Ages was far less segmented and divided than we might otherwise have thought," and that "education acted as a leveler." Muslims studied the Islamic knowledge and wisdom as spoken words, "because their very pronunciation contained a reservoir of enormous power, capable, as we have seen, of defeating the Mongol armies and warding off the dreaded plague. One studied these texts because they provided a convenient and recognized model on which to pattern one's own life. To transmit them, to Mamluks, women, and common people, as well as to full-time students, was to transmit a body of information valuable to each and every Muslim." It is into this dynamic milieu of knowledge production and transmission that the Western colonial powers stepped with Napoleon's arrival in Egypt in 1798.
During the 17th and 18th centuries in Western Europe, a particular mode of schooling emerged containing within it the mechanisms that on the surface seem to sunder cultural, ecological and spiritual unities. But this sort of fragmentation can also be seen as a way of creating an entirely new and redirected system, just as pervasive as that which it replaces. Along these lines, Foucault places schooling in the same category as prisons and other "total institutions." The notion of a "total institution" brings to mind the work of the psychologist and sociologist Erving Goffman, who wrote about asylums, prisons, boarding schools and army training camps. Goffman defined a total institution as "a place of residence and work where a large number of like-situated individuals, cut off from the wider society for an appreciable period of time, together lead an enclosed, formally administered round of life" (1961, p. xiii). As a total institution, Foucault sees schooling to be a "sort of apparatus of uninterrupted examination that duplicated along its entire length the operation of teaching" (1979, p. 186). Therefore, school buildings are "mechanisms for training" characterized by interlocking procedures which come together as "teaching proper, the acquisition of knowledge by the very practice of the pedagogical activity, and a reciprocal, hierarchical observation. A relation of surveillance, defined and regulated, is inscribed at the heart of the practice of teaching, not as an additional or adjacent part, but as a mechanism that is inherent to it and which increases its efficiency" (p. 176).
An important outcome of total disciplinary institutions is what Foucault calls "normalizing judgment" (1979, pp. 178-81). Today, normalization paves the way for reintegrating people into pseudo-unities, as in consumer culture and identity politics, or, in the case which I will illustrate below, subjecthood within a colonial order. The key issue is that normalization creates something new:
Like surveillance and with it, normalization becomes one of the great instruments of power at the end of the classical age. For the marks that once indicated status, privilege and affiliation were increasingly replaced--or at least supplemented--by a whole range of degrees of normality indicating membership of a homogeneous social body but also playing a part in classification, hierarchization and the distribution of rank. In a sense, the power of normalization imposes homogeneity; but it individualizes by making it possible to measure gaps, to determine levels, to fix specialties and to render the differences useful by fitting them one to another. (Foucault, 1979, p. 184)
Foucault is instructive on how Western schooling circumscribes thinking, while maintaining a sense of individuality, and how this training is infused with the subtle mechanisms of power. In his discussion on the "means of correct training," Foucault describes European culture during the 17th and 18th centuries--the beginning of the modern period of colonization--as possessing "a technique for constituting individuals as correlative elements of power and knowledge." He continues:
The individual is no doubt the fictitious atom on an "ideological" representation of society; but he is also a reality fabricated by this specific technology of power that I have called "discipline". We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms: it "excludes", it "represses", it "censors", it "abstracts", it "masks", it "conceals". In fact, power produces; it produces reality; it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth. The individual and the knowledge that may be gained of him belong to this production. (1979, p. 194)
Education is a normalizing mechanism and the development of colonial education was a tool of European imperialism in its quest to order the world in its own image. This process began at home, but was soon carried forth to the colonies.
Foucault's focus on France and northern Europe "has tended to obscure the colonizing nature of disciplinary power," according to Mitchell (1991, p. 35):
Yet the panopticon, the model institution whose geometric order and generalized surveillance serve as a motif for this kind of power, was a colonial invention. The panoptic principle was devised on Europe's colonial frontier with the Ottoman Empire, and examples of the panopticon were built for the most part not in northern Europe, but in places like colonial India. The same can be said for the monitorial method of schooling, also discussed by Foucault, whose mode of improving and disciplining a population... came to be considered the model political process to accompany the capitalist transformation of Egypt.
Edward Said (1979) understood this when he said of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt, "what would happen as a continuing legacy of the common Occidental mission to the Orient... would be the creation of new projects, new visions, new enterprises combining additional parts of the old Orient with the conquering European spirit" (p. 87). According to Said, Napoleon's invasion of Egypt was motivated by three things: 1) his military successes up to that point "left him no other place to turn for additional glory than the East"; 2) he had a long fascination with Orient, particularly with Alexander's conquest, thus "the idea of reconquering Egypt as a new Alexander proposed itself to him, allied with the additional benefit of acquiring a new Islamic colony at England's expense"; 3) he knew it well, especially textually, and "Egypt was a project that acquired reality in his mind, and later in his preparations for its conquest, through experiences that belong to the realm of ideas and myths culled from texts, not empirical reality" (p. 80).
Despite what appears to be a fascination with Islam, Napoleon gleaned much of his learning from the Islamophobic Orientalist Volney, who warned that anyone attempting to colonize the East would be faced with a three-front war, against the British, against the Ottoman Empire, and against the local Muslim population. In his planning and in consultation with a team of Orientalists, Napoleon "used Egyptian enmity towards the Mamelukes and appeals to the revolutionary idea of equal opportunity for all to wage a uniquely benign and selective war against Islam" (Said, 1979, p. 82). Since his military force was too small to impose itself on all of Egypt, he opted for co-optation, beginning with the religious scholars at al-Azhar, the ancient teaching mosque in Cairo. Though not a complete success, he was able to gain support of several leading scholars to interpret the Qur'an in favor of French colonial intervention. This approach was successful enough for Napoleon to instruct his officers to work through co-opted religious scholars, and compliant local leaders in general, in a French form of the British-perfected method of indirect rule.
All this was necessary because Egypt was central to the European colonizing drive, and the prize was not in geo-politics alone:
Because Egypt was saturated with meaning for the arts, sciences, and government, its role was to be the stage on which actions of a world-historical importance would take place. By taking Egypt, then, a modern power would naturally demonstrate its strength and justify history; Egypt's own destiny was to be annexed, to Europe preferably. (Said, 1979, p. 85)
After opening the Suez Canal to international fanfare later in the 19th century, an observer remarked that it was especially valuable "for bringing more closely together the countries of the West and the East, and thus uniting the civilizations of different epochs" (in Said 1979, p. 89). Thus, to the West, Egypt was frozen in its past, to be resurrected and laid open by the European gaze. This imagined unity of East and West, old and new, would be brought about by the "imposition of the power of modern technology and intellectual will" (Said, 1979, p. 89).
But such an ambitious prospectus required much preparation, much thought. The redoubtable Orient needed "first to be known, then invaded and possessed, then re-created by scholars, soldiers, and judges who disinterred forgotten languages, histories, races, and cultures in order to posit them--beyond the modern Oriental's ken--as the true classical Orient that could be used to judge and rule the modern Orient" (Said, 1979, p. 92). But even with all these elements, French colonization of the Muslim world had elements of colonial adventures in other parts of the world. One main tactic in this standard colonial model was to find an authoritarian and ambitious headman to deal with, and implement colonial rule through him. These factors help us to avoid the misleading but persistent dichotomies of Western academic analysis: East and West, Us and Them, Christendom and Islam, North and South.
Although many discussions of local collaboration with European colonization discuss it in terms of "reform," the term has connotations of improving, making better. To most people who lived through the period, and who are living in systems inherited from the colonial period, there is little to see as improvement. Colonization fragmented local Muslim societies, as it did in other areas, and created in their place something new and often completely inappropriate to local conditions; it brought lands and peoples out of traditional economic and social sways and integrated them directly into the emerging capitalist, technicalist, secularist Western order. For this reason, it is more appropriate to use "disrupt" and "redirect" rather than reform. This is especially useful for a study of schooling, which was a major site of colonization. Modern schooling became a tool of disruption and redirection in the Muslim world, and its use was inextricably bound up with the local ruler's entanglement in the Western system of order, especially in the dimensions of commerce and war.
The European drive for domination over Mediterranean trade initiates a long cooperation between merchants and princes, and a growing interdependence of commerce and war. Even the late Crusades can be seen as an early effort of mass mobilization designed by European barons to take over trade in the Mediterranean. At the time, the entire system was geared up for that, but got side-tracked with inter-state fighting. However, once they had conquered Cyprus, formerly inhabited by Eastern Christians, Jews and Muslims who were either enslaved, driven off, or eliminated, Crusading knights turned the island into a vast sugar plantation. This took place in the 13th and 14th centuries, but provided a model for later colonial plantations in the Caribbean. The growing intersection between princes and merchants was an alliance of convenience to consolidate control over Mediterranean trade. Naval research was supported by Italian merchants, resulting in the militarization of commerce; Italian merchant vessels became the first gunboats. This is the beginning of a centuries long arms race, which would entangle most European states and eventually their colonies. In short, despite military power seeming to be amoral, it has fueled the growth of Western civilization, and the birth of modernity takes place in the intersection of commerce and war (McNeill, 1982).
Beginning in the 15th century, rationalism replaced Christianity as the religion of West. This was aided by the European rediscovery of Greek sources, which Muslims had known about for centuries. But Muslims didn't develop these sources the way Europeans did. While Christianity and Islam were both largely about morality, Christian Europe shifted to pure rationalism in the space of less than a century, abandoning morality in favor of rationality. Any dabblings with rationalism in the Muslim world remained tempered by a strong sense of its relationship to Islamic morality. In the West, science in the service of rationalism became an absolute end in it itself, with an exclusive adherence to the reductionist, experimental method and a growing dependency on advanced technology, hence a dependency on commercial and/or military interests. Rationalism also gets bound up with enumeration, first of money, but then quickly encompassing anything else that can be counted, in a new way of looking at the world that required it to be ordered and quantified (Crosby, 1997).
While this is not the place to trace the origins of this legacy in any great detail, one outcome of the legacy is a highly rationalized war machine. This rationalization was coupled with a strong will to kill, even an ease with killing, for which William McNeill (1982, p. 64, n. 2) offers a possible explanation:
Habits of bloodshed were deep-seated, perennially fed by the fact that Europeans raised both pigs and cattle in considerable numbers but had to slaughter all but a small breeding stock each autumn for lack of sufficient winter fodder. Other agricultural regimes, e.g. among the rice-growing farmers of China and India, did not involve annual slaughter of large animals. By contrast, Europeans living north of the Alps learned to take bloodshed as a normal part of the routine of the year. This may have had a good deal to do with their remarkable readiness to shed human blood and thinking nothing of it.
Europeans continued to develop sophisticated ways to carry out violence, systematically and often with great efficiency. In contrast, according to McNeill (1982, p. 61),
Soon, Europe proceeded to "recklessly... commercialize war more effectively and enthusiastically than any other population on earth" (p. 62). By the time that Napoleon invaded Egypt, the French military had become one of the most powerful and disciplined in Europe. The commercialization and rationalization of war directly corresponds with a strict systematization of schooling, and continued into the 20th century, with the birth of the warfare state, in which educational institutions and commercial interests continue to play a central role (cf., Feldman 1989). For now, however, it is important to consider the impact of its 18th and 19th century variant on the Muslim world, and return to the French invasion of Egypt, focusing on the cooperation of local rulers in building a West-directed order.
Bad Subjects in the Construction of Colonial Order
Colonization comes in many shapes and forms. A colonial order is most pervasive and stubborn when it permeates the intellectual life of a people, and it is most effective when it remains undetected or obfuscated to the colonized peoples. To construct order in this way, the colonizer first needs to create disorder. The resulting colonial (dis)order is self-perpetuating and it is maintained through forms of schooling, which introduce and gradually normalize the colonizer's culture. Modern schooling establishes and institutionalizes a normative system that empowers the colonial order and circumscribes the paths of resistance. Revealing such systems can help to outline the parameters for a possible dialogue on the role of schooling and education in the continuing subjugation of Muslims to the West.
In this context, much can be learned from the struggles of other peoples whose lives embody resistance to the various colonial orders, especially those peoples who are framing their resistance in ways which operate outside the conventional norms and patterns. For instance, the struggles of Native Americans are relevant and instructive. Native American scholars and activists Yvonne Dion-Buffalo and John Mohawk believe that colonized peoples have three choices when confronted with a systematized Western discourse and its accompanying power dynamics:
They can become "good subjects" of the discourse, accepting the rules of law and morals without much question, they can be "bad subjects" arguing that they have been subjected to alien rules but always revolting within the precepts of those rules, or they can be non-subjects, acting and thinking around discourses far removed from and unintelligible to the West. (Dion-Buffalo & Mohawk, 1993)
While good subjects and bad subjects "tend to impose the West's social conditions of domination and hierarchy which they learned from the colonizers upon their own poor and down trodden," non-subjects of the West "will increasingly support alternative and non-Western discourses of reality that legitimate entirely unfamiliar stories and versions about how the world works" (p. 35). This model provides a useful heuristic for understanding cognate issues in the Muslim world, especially for a study of modern schooling as a tool of colonization. But while schooling has often been an integral instrument of colonization, it can also, paradoxically, be turned to as a form of defense or resistance to colonization. The diffuse, fragmenting and atomizing effect of modern schooling in the West and its colonial sphere obscures natural interconnections and interrelationships, so that forms of resistance can work at constructing and strengthening colonization.
Impressed with French and British military and industrial technical supremacy, and convinced of their utility for his own power struggle, Muhammad Ali embarked on a campaign of re-ordering traditional Muslim culture in Egypt. But the ensuing disruptions to local life were met with wide-ranging popular resistance, especially in the villages, and also from mosques and Islamic scholars in both urban and rural areas. Farmers and peasants deserted their lands, and some people slated for military service even mutilated themselves to avoid conscription (Mitchell, 1991, p. 42). When the traditional village mosque schools were forced by the emerging military/commercial state into acting as feeder institutions for military conscription, "many parents preferred to deny their children a traditional education rather than make them eligible for enrollment in the colleges which were rightly regarded as sources of manpower for the hated military" (Szyliowicz, 1973, p. 104). This in turn may have contributed to illiteracy, paving the way for further cultural disruptions later in the 19th century, intended to eliminate illiteracy. Conventional modernist Arab nationalist historians (e.g., Hourani, 1962), who generally celebrate such disruptions of Islamic culture, give the impression that illiteracy was a perennial problem in the Muslim Arab world, overlooking the possibility that it may have been a temporary and recent phenomenon brought about by colonization and forced military conscription.
Along with cannons and muskets, Napoleon brought the first Arabic printing press to Egypt in 1798, after stealing it from the Vatican (Le Gassick, 1979, p. 2). He arrived with an army of linguists, Orientalists, and archaeologists, and one of the first uses of the printing press in Egypt was to mass produce a leaflet dictating the terms of the French occupation. After the French occupation, Muhammad Ali used it to set up his own press, and the first book was an Italian-Arabic dictionary (Mostyn 1988, p. 149), which allowed access to Italian naval schools and consultants. Italian had become a lingua franca in the Levant by that time, though it was soon superseded by French (Hourani 1962, pp. 53-4). Proclaiming himself "Lord of Egypt," Muhammad Ali ambitiously sought the advice of European technocrats and experts in various fields. He also "began sending missions of students to Italy as early as 1809, particularly to Leghorn, Milan, Florence and Rome, in order to study military science, ship-building, printing and engineering" (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, p. 105).
One student, who was sent by Muhammad Ali to Paris to study engineering, brought back a fateful gift from Auguste Comte, a copy of his work on positivism (Hourani, 1962, p. 138). Within a few years, a host of French intellectual works, at first those by Comte and Voltaire and later including social scientists like Le Bon and Durkheim, were being translated into Arabic, not by Europeans, but by members of the emerging and newly bilingual Westernized ruling class and its functionaries. Translations of European works soon began to fill Egyptian libraries, and some of these works would come to have a profound impact on the ordering of social and intellectual life in Egypt. During these formative stages in the early 19th century, the Saint-Simonists, proponents of mega-technic development who occupy "a peculiar place in the history of both capitalist and anti-capitalist development" (Hobsbawm, 1991, p. 293), worked with Muhammad Ali. The Saint-Simonists conceived of the Suez Canal and other megatechnic projects, with full support of Muhammad Ali. Their worldview also helped in laying the foundation for modern schooling in Egypt, which played a role in ordering the emerging modern state, as well as resistance to it. The Saint-Simonists and the French social scientists deserve special attention due to the direct and indirect impact their ideas and activities had on creating a West-directed order in Egypt.
Social Science as Civil Religion
The Saint-Simonists were a "sect... of speculative technological adventurers" acting as "chief propagandists of the kind of industrialization which needed heavy and long-range investment." (Hobsbawm 1991, p. 59). They "never ceased their search for an enlightened despot who might carry out their proposals, and for some time believed they had found him" in Muhammad Ali (Hobsbawm 1991, p. 296). After Muhammad Ali's consolidation of power in Egypt,
Beginning in the 1820s, after he had a firm grip on power and control of substantial military forces, Muhammad Ali attracted the attention of the Saint-Simonists, "believers in the new religion of 'social science' who had traveled to Cairo in the 1830s to begin from within Egypt their project for industrialization of the earth" (Mitchell, 1991, p. 16), and who "greatly assisted in his administrative, educational, and economic projects" (Issawi, 1954, p. 18, n. 1).
Ideologically, the Saint-Simonists were dedicated to the reconciliation of seemingly conflicting schools of thought in 18th century France, those of Maistre and Voltaire. Isaiah Berlin (1992, p. 160) traces the origins of modern Western totalitarian systems to this synthesis:
[P]olar opposites as they are, they both belong to the tough-minded tradition in classical French thought... the quality of mind is often exceedingly similar... Neither... is guilty of any degree of softness, vagueness or self-indulgence of either intellect or feeling, nor do they tolerate it in others. They stand for the dry light against the flickering flame, they are implacably opposed to all that is turbid, misty, gushing, impressionistic... They are ruthlessly deflationary writers, contemptuous, sardonic, genuinely heartless and, at times, genuinely cynical... The tendency to cast a glance upon the social scene so chilly as to cause a sudden shock, to deflate and dehydrate, to use ruthless political and historical analysis as a deliberate technique of shock treatment, has entered into modern political systems.
Voltaire was hostile to all religious thought and any display of sentiment, while Maistre, a historicist and pragmatist, had a low estimate of human nature and the capacity of humans to be good. Like Hobbes, Maistre believed that a strong centralized government was needed to repress weak natured humans, and allow an enlightened elite to rule; he had no faith in humanitarian efforts. Looking at the Saint-Simonist fusion of these two schools of thought, Isaiah Berlin (1992, p. 160) suggests that "we begin to approach the strong strain of nihilism in all modern totalitarianism." He continues:
Voltaire can be made to strip away all liberal delusions, and Maistre to provide the nostrum by which the bleak, bare world which results is to be administered... The Saint-Simonians were not perhaps being so paradoxical after all; and their founder's admiration for Maistre, which seemed so odd to the liberals and socialists whom Saint-Simon inspired, is founded on a genuine affinity. The content of Orwell's celebrated nightmare (as well as the actual systems which inspired it) is directly related to the visions of both Maistre and Saint-Simon.
The full blossoming of this new outlook would have grisly repercussions in its European birthplace, which would far outstrip the already long and sordid history of European mass murder, both in the name of commerce and for its own sake. Berlin again:
The transformation in our own century of political and social movements into monolithic bodies, imposing a total discipline upon their followers, exercised by a secular priesthood claiming absolute authority, both spiritual and lay, in the name of unique scientific knowledge of the nature of men and things, has in fact occurred, and on a vaster scale than even the most fanatical systematiser seems to have imagined. (1992, p. 240)
Hobsbawm (1991, p. 318), who notes that prior to 1848 the Saint-Simonists were themselves not set on socialism or capitalism as the best system to implement their gargantuan plans, also makes the connection between their thought and the emerging 19th century Western worldview:
Saint-Simon himself is best regarded as a prolongation of the "enlightenment". It is significant that the young Marx, trained in the German (i.e. primarily romantic) tradition, became a Marxist only when he combined with the French socialist critique and the wholly non-romantic theory of English political economy.
By 1844, Marx noticed that the Saint-Simonists had declared that "industrial labor as such is the essence, and now also aspires to the exclusive role of the industrialists and the improvement of the workers' condition" (in Tucker, 1982, p. 82). And in 1878 Engels said of Saint-Simon:
[S]cience and industry was to lead and command... the bankers especially were to be called upon to direct the whole of social production by the regulation of credit... But what Saint-Simon especially lays stress upon is...the lot of the class that is the most numerous and the most poor... Saint-Simon lays down the proposition that "all men ought to work"... what is here already very plainly expressed is the idea of the future conversion of political rule over men into an administration of things and a direction of processes of production--that is to say, the "abolition of the state"... almost all the ideas of later Socialists that are not strictly economic are found in him in embryo. (Cited in Tucker 1982, p. 688-9)
Many historians underestimate the impact of Saint-Simonist ideology on the development of Western civilization an on the Westernization of the colonies. This tendency has also prevented Arab nationalist historians from seeing the clear links. For example, Hourani (1962, p. 53), who generally applauds the disruption and redirection of Muslim society in Egypt as necessary progress toward modern achievements in transport and commerce, at the same time underestimates the impact and breadth of Saint-Simonist direction of Muhammad Ali:
[H]e may have been influenced by the followers of Saint-Simon who spent some years in Egypt in the 1830"s, working as doctors, engineers, and teachers, and helping him to design and execute the first great modern work of irrigation in Egypt, the barrages on the Nile... Saint-Simon's vision of a model society directed by a priesthood of scientists, and with the system of scientific truth taking the place of the religious systems which had broken down, is not likely to have appealed to him, even had it been explained in familiar terms; but the exaltation of industrial development and the planned economy was in line with his own interests.
Many of the Egyptian schools opened during Muhammad Ali's reign were directed by Saint-Simonists. A girls school opened in 1834 by Saint-Simonist Mlle. Suzanne Voilquin taught French language, midwifery, and basic medicine . From 1835, the artillery school at Tura was directed by Bruneau, a Saint-Simonist and graduate of the Paris Polytechnique, while the School of Mines came under the charge of Lambert, another Saint-Simonist, who was later to direct the School of Minerology (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, pp. 132, 137, 142, 187).
Soon thereafter, the several small schools were absorbed into the new School of Engineering, which was organized by a number of Saint-Simonists. A main project of this new school was planning the Suez Canal:
The main avowed objective of the Saint Simonites was the industrial and cultural development of Egypt and the opening of the Suez Canal. The project of encouraging engineering studies in Egypt, while providing employment for a number of Frenchmen and giving a good opening for the growth of French culture, certainly seemed sincere, and, although it bore fruit in the long run, yet the tradition of the Egyptian engineering service has never been sufficiently strong to remain independent of European experts. In fact, it has rarely become a part of the traditional system in technical branches of the Egyptian service that serious enterprises are always undertaken by Europeans. (Heyworth Dunne 1938, pp. 144-5, 188)
In realizing the dream of the Suez Canal in 1869, the Saint-Simonist technocrat de Lesseps "had melted away the Orient's geographical identity by (almost literally) dragging the Orient into the West and finally dispelling the threat of Islam," As Edward Said put it (1979, p. 92). And,
[d]espite its immemorial pedigree of failures, its outrageous cost, its astounding ambitions for altering the way Europe would handle the Orient, the canal was worth the effort. It was a project uniquely able to override the objections of those who were consulted and, in improving the Orient as a whole, to do what scheming Egyptians, perfidious Chinese, and half-naked Indians could never have done for themselves. (Said, 1979, p. 90)
In a plan to reorganize the army and military schools suggested by a Polish general in 1834, Saint-Simonists supported colonial subjects like Sulaiman Bey and Adham Effendi, both who had been "attracted by the ideas of that group." During this period,
the Saint-Simonists were in great favor; there were over fifty of them in Egypt, several of whom were employed as doctors, engineers and teachers, and there was great hope of a further demand for Frenchmen after the completion of the reorganization which Sulaiman was undertaking in connection with the educational system and which he was considered to be the director. (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, p. 184-6)
The Saint-Simonists recommended forming a "commission of inspection", which was to be independent of all other ministerial bodies and which would evaluate all schools--military and otherwise--and which included Sulaiman Bey, Adham Effendi, General Seguera, and a number of Saint-Simonists. Another member was Mukhtar Bey, a close friend of Muhammad Ali who had been sent to France in one the education missions, and who was a "favorite" of the Saint-Simonists, although he was also said to be of "bad character" (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, pp. 186, 189).
However, all parties in this phase of creating order were not united and there were a number of "intrigues," involving several members of the Commission, which "were the combined machinations of the Saint-Simonites and the ex-mission students against three officials who were not of their way of thinking... they sought to create a situation by their intrigues whereby they might bring about the elimination of these officials for their own advantage and advancement." By 1836, the mission students and the Saint-Simonists had "taken over the control of the schools." However, soon thereafter, direct presence of the group seems to have dwindled, and although some returned to France, many remained in the service of Muhammad Ali, who had an especially strong interest in the new Egyptian engineering services. In 1837 this came under control of Mukhtar Bey, a Saint-Simonist protégé. While Muhammad Ali gradually attempted to replace more Saint-Simonists with his own people, there is little evidence that he questioned the underlying assumptions of their policies. This and a plague in Cairo caused an exodus of many Europeans (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, pp. 190, 192, 194, 204, 208-9, 210).
By the early 1840s, attendance at the various technical schools was in decline, coinciding with a reduction in government support for schools, illustrating the direct connection between schooling and military-commercial state in Egypt. Perron, a Saint-Simonist, wrote to France, blaming
the European coalition for having obliged Muhammad Ali to withdraw from Syria and to cease hostilities, thus putting him in the position of reducing his army and, consequently, the number of men required for the schools; Perron seems to have had an idea of the meaning of civilisation quite as confused as that of his Turkish and Egyptian friends for he maintains that this action on the part of the European powers did great harm to civilisation in Europe. (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, p. 235)
In any case, despite their important early influence, the Saint-Simonists were not the only European advisers working in Egypt; others would also have profound impact on the future of Egypt.
Schools in the Colonial Military Order
European military men often worked with Muhammad Ali and subsequent rulers to develop Egypt's Westernized army. A Spanish military man, Col. Seguera, organized an artillery school in 1831, which taught French and Italian (Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, p. 137). By 1836, there were over 3,000 European advisors in Egypt, mostly in military and technical fields. This number grew to 80,000 by 1872, and would exceed 200,000 by the turn of the century (Issawi, 1982, p. 80).
Marshall Hodgson (1974, p. 218) also saw the far-reaching implications of Egypt's nearly sudden shift to cotton monoculture:
The old staple wheat was replaced with a non-edible and market fluctuating crop, and eventually Egypt had to import much of its food on terms dictated by the modern international price system... The net result (not unlike what happened in Bengal) was great wealth and power and even legalistic security in the ruling circles, in a close, if dependent, relationship with European interests.
Meanwhile, Muhammad Ali's military schools were "based on the confinement of the students and a regime of surveillance and constraint" and "administered by French and Egyptian military engineers and scholars, many of whom had been trained as the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris, including several disciples of Saint-Simon and of his secretary Auguste Comte" (Mitchell, 1991, p. 39). The new school system quickly supplanted many of the traditional centers of learning, causing the Orientalist traveler E.W. Lane to remark in the 1830s:
Learning was in a much more flourishing state in Cairo before the entrance of the French army than it has been of late years. It suffered severely from this invasion; not through direct oppression, but in consequence of the panic which this event occasioned, and the troubles by which it was followed. (Cited in Heyworth-Dunne, 1938, p. 101, n. 1)
What kind of educational system was in place before this disruption? Some elements of medieval informal education in Cairo were surveyed above. In addition to that, Mitchell (1991, p. 85) summarizes three components of traditional education in Egypt, which was relatively consistent from al-Azhar University in urban Cairo to small rural mosques and other places of village learning:
First, learning occurred within the practice of the particular profession or craft to be learnt, and was not separated out as "schooling." The law was one such profession, centered upon the mosque; other professions and crafts were studied in their own locations, in similar ways. Second, within the profession learning was not a relationship that separated practitioners into two distinct groups, students and teachers. The relation of teacher and student could be found between almost any two or more members of the occupation group (though of course the more senior practitioners might distinguish themselves from the rest in several ways, including the way in which they gave instruction). Third, present at almost every point in the practices of a craft, learning did not require overt acts of organization, but found its sequence in the logic of the practices themselves.
In such educational settings, the method was dialectical, "one of argumentation and dispute, not lecturing. The individual was to be deferent where appropriate, but never passive" (Mitchell, 1991, p. 84). As a modern autocrat, Muhammad Ali was concerned with training a technocratic elite that would help shore up his power and establish order; there was no room for debate or consultation.
A primary component of the Lancaster method was to redistribute authority with a system of monitors, thus diffusing disciplinary power throughout the school, "implicating every individual in a system of order" (Mitchell, 1991, p. 71). By 1847, school supervisors laid plans to establish the new schools throughout the country, forming a new network of "national schools." As Szyliowicz (1973, p. 127) notes,
teaching involved the inculcation of feelings of obedience and discipline and the memorization of curricula drawn up in Cairo. Discipline and obedience were the very characteristics the British desired in the Egyptians who entered the administration since the overwhelming majority were restricted to routine clerical tasks. Nor were the few Egyptians who did achieve responsible positions expected to display any initiative and leadership.
While the Lancaster schools were attempting to train obedient citizens for the emerging Egyptian state, the ruling circle came to be dominated by graduates of the military school in Paris run by the French Ministry of War, where "a significant proportion of the future educators and administrators who from the 1860s were to attempt to construct a new system of disciplinary power in Egypt." One of the first things they did was to legislate a three tier school system. The primary level was intended to provide literacy, while the secondary level, in the words of European trained administrator Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, "civilises the community" (Mitchell, 1991, p. 71). Higher education continued to be reserved for the ruling class.
In short, colonial schools in Egypt served two basic functions: 1) to provide well-trained armies for policing Western investments, which also entailed training a strong ruling class and an obedient populace, and 2) to systematically undermine and replace local culture with a Western-derived system of political and economic order. In both cases, successful colonization depended on a local ruling class that directed the process and provided a semblance of native legitimacy, who at the same time believed in the supremacy of Western science and technics.
Abduh's view of a reformed Islam, as a system of social discipline and instruction with which an intellectual and political elite would organize the country's "political education" and thus assure its stability and its evolution, was indebted to his reading of Le Bon and other French social scientists; and indeed when he visited France he paid a call on Le Bon. (Mitchell, 1991, p. 125; cf. Hourani, 1962, p. 139-40)
Abduh called for redirecting al-Azhar, making changes that would effect the millennium old teaching mosque up until the present (Hourani, 1962, pp. 154-5). Abduh also called for the revision of Islamic law to conform with the new technical knowledge coming from Europe, which he, along with his mentor Jamaluddin al-Afghani, mistakenly saw as the sum total of all human knowledge. By the mid-20th century, the colonization of al-Azhar had been completed to the point that the newly appointed rector was a student of Durkheim at the Sorbonne (Mitchell, 1991, p. 163). As canons began to supplement cannons in the Western drive for world domination, redirecting Islamic law for political and economic expediency would become a technique that came to be used throughout the 19th and into the 20th centuries (c.f., Christelow, 1985, on Algeria). Western colonizers utilized this technique with great effect on Muslim peoples. This colonial order was implemented in the guise of modern schooling, and its legacy remains today.
The Shadows of Colonization in Modern Muslim Education
The basic infrastructure for social order in parts of the Muslim world was in place by the end of the 19th century. We could trace the details of interminable education "reforms" since then, but most are basically adjusting a system that at its foundation is a colonizing order. The impact of this order is felt to this day throughout the Muslim world, though the intellectual and economic entanglements have shifted away from Europe and closer to the United States, especially since the Second World War. This problem is particularly pronounced in the Arab world, as Edward Said described it in the late 1970s:
[U]niversities in the Arab world are generally run according to some pattern inherited from, or once directly imposed by, a former colonial power. New circumstances make the curricular actualities almost grotesque; classes populated with hundreds of students, badly trained, overworked, and underpaid faculty, political appointments, the almost total absence of advanced research and of research facilities, and most important, the lack of a single decent library in the entire region...the few promising students who manage to make it through the system are encouraged to come to the United States to continue their advanced work...the patronage system in scholarship, business, and research makes the United States a virtual hegemonic commander of affairs...the Arab and Islamic world remains a second-order power in terms of the production of culture, knowledge, and scholarship. (1979, pp. 322-3)
Though, as Said suggests, American hegemony pervades the Muslim world in the post-war period, French intellectual sway also continued into the 20th century; in mid-century Sayyid Qutb and other modern Muslim intellectuals turned to the work of French philosophers like Alexis Carrel. But during the 20th century, there is a gradual shift in the use of European thinking: rather than accepting as a total system of thought to be implemented, modern Islamic thinkers and activists like Sayyid Qutb in Egypt or Ali Shariati in Iran (who met Franz Fanon while studying in France) began to use a Western discourse against itself, in some cases as part of a larger project of rediscovering and implementing a framework of thought and life grounded in Islam, while simultaneously dismantling the colonial derived system.
What can be discerned here are the beginnings of an attempt to dismantle colonial rules with colonial tools, or, as it was put by activists for Black liberation in America, "tear down the master's house with the master's tools." But, as Audre Lorde insightfully reminded us, "the master's tools can never tear down the master's house." Colonial systems often die slowly, and they also transmogrify, demanding constant vigilance. So, while Egyptian revolutionary leader Gamal Abdel Nasser was resurrecting de Lessups, the 19th century Saint-Simonist, in his nationalization of the Suez Canal and his building of the gargantuan Aswan High Dam in the late 1950s and early 1960s (the latter project would surely have made Saint-Simon smile), his military police hunted down Islamic activists, throwing them into dungeons and marching them to the gallows, in the name of Egyptian nationalism and dreams of social order through Western technics. In 1966, two years after Malcolm X visited Egypt in search of Third World support for Black liberation in America, the Nasserists in Egypt executed the great Islamic thinker and social activist Sayyid Qutb, as the ghost of Saint-Simon struggled to maintain order along the Nile, a multiple irony of subjugation made possible in the halls of modern schooling.
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[This research began as a chapter in my 1996 Ph.D. dissertation at the State University of New York at Buffalo. I had become intrigued by the role of education in colonization and initially pursued it in the context of nineteenth and early twentieth century Egypt, Iran and Turkey. In particular, I wanted to know more about how and why most post-colonial independent states in the Middle East today continue to frame their educational systems along the lines developed under direct colonialism. The original thesis chapter was revised and published in Iran under the title “Western Education as Muslim Colonisation: Egypt in the Age of European Imperialism” (Al-Tawhid: A Quarterly Journal of Islamic Thought and Culture, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 108-41, Spring 2000). The article was significantly revised and published in 2004 in New York, under the present title, as an invited chapter in The Miseducation of the West: How Schools and the Media Distort Our Understanding of the Islamic World, an edited volume by Joe L. Kincheloe and Shirley R. Steinberg. Slightly revised, that chapter was most recently published in Malaysia in my 2008 book Encountering Islam: The Politics of Knowledge and Scholarship. Although originally developed as a historical line of inquiry oriented toward the Muslim world, the theme of education as cultural colonization has continued to inform my work and I have broadened it into other areas, including an exploration of the colonization of higher education by the neoliberal market, a version of which is available here.]