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ISKP Propaganda Takes Aim at French Colonization of Africa
The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) recently published the 17th issue of its Voice of Khurasan Magazine via the al-Azaim Foundation for Media Production. It includes a notable article titled “French Colonization in Africa and their Barbarism on Muslims” that outlines the history of French colonialism in Africa from the perspective of the Islamic State.
The commentary begins by recalling the beginning of France’s presence in Africa in the 17th century followed by its invasion of Ottoman Algeria in 1830 and incursions into Equatorial Guinea. The introduction also mentions that the French expanded their reach in Africa until they controlled Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and Niger.
The group then offers a brief description of the French Empire around 1920, mentioning its presence across five continents, including Africa. The article asserts that the French aimed to “civilize” Africa by culturally absorbing its colonies. It also claims that it was a clash of civilizations with the French aiming to impose their standards on North Africa, including bringing Christianity and the erasure of Islam. It also mentions that although the French aimed to bring North Africa into its system, culture, and way of life, it was less successful in doing so than the British.
The author asserts that while the British made use of local rulers in their colonial administrations, the French did not. The article also states that the French relied upon a policy of assimilation wherein they aimed to substitute the culture, language, customs, beliefs, religion, and legal systems with French versions thereof. It also accuses France of a belief in the superiority of its own civilization and adds that its assimilation policy was a failure.
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Among the reasons listed for this failure, the article notes the cultural differences between Algerians and the French, especially with regard to the differences between Christianity and Islam. It also notes that France aimed to Christianize Algeria from the outset of its colonial rule, noting the justification for its 1830 invasion as being to “end piracy and reclaim Algeria for Christianity”.
The author argues that Christianization was the driving force of many French deeds in Algeria such as the conversion of mosques into churches and cathedrals at gunpoint. The article also notes the massacre of the Ouffias tribe, in which the French spared neither women nor children before looting their possessions. It also recalls the beheadings of Muslims in Morocco by the French and their subsequent display of these heads in the streets during their 44-year occupation.
Other acts of French aggression in Algeria mentioned in the article include the Bourbon monarchy’s attack on Algiers in 1830 in which a third of the city’s population was killed, reportedly to gain electoral support at home. It also mentions that France killed some one million Muslims in Algeria, referring to the country as “The Land of 1 million martyrs”. Finally, it mentions that upon their departure from Algeria in 1962, the French had placed some 11 million land mines, more than the entire population of the country. The article states that these were acts of genocidal conquest and based on religion.
The author notes that the source of these acts was a hatred of Islam, reportedly the “biggest obstacle” to France’s colonization of the region. The article cites examples of French officials referring to Islam as a “belligerent religion” that must be “controlled”, noting how colonial era imams could be “only people educated in French universities (who had) proved their loyalty to France,” as evidence of this. The author further asserts that the argument that the French were on a civilizing mission was merely an excuse for their imperialist expansions.
The article then notes how Algerians were labeled as “Muslim” or “indigene” if they did not reject Islamic Law, giving them no right to French citizenship. These people were also subject to a “Native Code”, which ensured the inferior status of Algerians and subjected them to repressive laws such as restrictions on international travel, the purchase of livestock, forced labor, dress codes, and curfews.
ISKP mentions that, from 1881, Algeria was an official extension of France. Nicknamed “little France”, it became a place where Europeans settled and assimilation was imposed. According to the group, the French aimed to “impose a French Islam”, a version of the religion that answered to the colonial administration. This was blatant hypocrisy, according to the article, as there was religious freedom for French citizens, as guaranteed under the constitutional principle of Laicité (secularism). The author states that the French denied these rights to Muslims because the faith does not have a separation of religion and state, but that this was merely a means by which to control the local population.
The author mentions the 1954 Algerian War of independence, stating that Islam was the central pillar of the National Liberation Front, the members of which were referred to as “rebels” or “nationalist terrorists” by the French authorities. It is also mentioned that Algerian migrants living in France were also discriminated against during this time, including a curfew between 8:30pm and 5:30am in Paris.
The Islamic State closes its argument by mentioning the contradictions of French colonial rule. In Algeria, the natives were referred to as “French Muslims” whereas in France they were called “Algerian Muslims”: in both instances, it asserts, they were treated as second-class citizens and threats to national security.