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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:France as a Muslim Power in West Africa
Author:Robinson, David
Periodical:Africa Today
Geographic terms:West Africa
international relations
Religion and Witchcraft
Politics and Government
Abstract:By the early twentieth century, French authorities were actively discussing and evaluating their colonial policies as a 'puissance musulmane', or 'Muslim power', i.e. an imperial power with Muslim subjects. This way of thinking had begun in 1830 after the invasion of Algiers. Algerian precedents were invoked in Senegal in the 1850s and in Mauritania in the early 1900s. The emergence of France as a Muslim power in the Senegalo-Mauritian zone occurred partly in response to the North African experience, including the conquest of Morocco. The conscious effort to control Islamic societies, to establish Muslim leaders and allies, and to put a secular and tolerant face on imperialism was essential to the success of colonial rule. This article looks at the stereotyped ethnic classification scheme that the French employed during the nineteenth century, the establishment of the practice of relating to Muslim societies, and some of the individuals and families upon whom the French relied in these relations, notably Muslim institutions and officials in St. Louis. It concludes with an analysis of the full-blown policy of the early twentieth century that drew on the earlier system of classification to establish the categories of 'Islam noir' employed in the 'sudan', or 'black', societies of West Africa, and 'Islam maure' embodied in the marabout class of 'whites', or 'bidan', of Mauritania. This compartmentalization reflected contemporary French racial thinking. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum.