بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
It has been sixty years since the start of the French-Algerian war.
France remains one of the most anti-Islamic nations in the world. It is also the birthplace of the Enlightenment and Western secularism. In many ways, French identity and its conceptualization of secularism are necessarily framed as opposing Islam.
Alice Kaplan writes in an article in the New York Review of Books:
The casualties were overwhelming on the Algerian side: 250,000 dead, two million forced to leave their villages and parked in “re-groupment” camps.
On the French side there were 25,600 dead; 1.5 million Frenchmen were drafted for service in Algeria, and nearly 100,000 Algerians were conscripted into the French army. The official French claim was that a war must be fought between two nations, and that the events of 1954–1962 happened to a single nation: France. L’Algérie, c’est la France, the saying went: Algeria is France. So for thirty-seven years the Algerian War was known officially as a peacekeeping operation, as “actions to maintain order,” or simply as “the events.”
European or white supremacy and colonialism are a necessary part of secularism. The idea of the secular could not exist without being constructed under the framework of people of European descent going to foreign lands and believing that they are somehow endowed with the right to own those lands. Enlightenment thinkers believed that this right was not given to them by God — most of them did not believe in God. Rather, they believed that this right was due to the superior European mind and intellect, which was more rational and scientific and, thus, more worthy of ruling the globe.
Accordingly, the mass murder and casualties incurred in the process of colonialism are justified because they ultimately are meant to produce utopia and Enlightenment for the entire globe.
The sub-human natives have no right to oppose such a “noble” secular mission.
Until the threat of nationalist movements after World War II forced a series of reforms, Muslims remained subjects, not citizens. Noureddine Amara, a historian of Algerian nationality, argues that Algeria was France only if you ignored the natives—or if it was France, it was France despite and against them.
France did not consider itself an invader, just as contemporary Western nations do not consider themselves invaders. Rather, the entire world belonged to the French, unless it already belonged to other Europeans or there was nothing in that land which they wanted.
Sixty years have passed since Algerian independence, and the architects of torture during the Battle of Algiers are dead. Moreover, the Évian Accords that ended the war in 1962 amnestied men like Aussaresses, who was free in 2000 to write proudly of his torture with no fear of legal consequences.
Muslims who opposed the French invasion of Algeria were labelled as “extremists.” The idea of Islamic extremism or radicalism is not a native Muslim concept but rather projected by the French onto the subjects of their vicious campaign.
Extremists were people who were “too Islamic,” as if a person can have too much of Islam, and who opposed the imposition of this brutal foreign ideology.
In 2020 French president Emmanuel Macron asked Stora to assess “the progress made in France on the memory of colonization and the Algerian war,” and to produce an “independent set of recommendations” that might foster “the reconciliation of the French and Algerian peoples.”
Macron’s attempts to reconcile with Algerians and the greater international Muslim community have included violent colonialist campaigns in former French colonies, suppression of Islam within France, and antagonism of our greatest religious symbols.
Allah سبحانه و تعالى says,
وَإِذا قيلَ لَهُم لا تُفسِدوا فِي الأَرضِ قالوا إِنَّما نَحنُ مُصلِحونَ
When it is said to them, ‘Do not cause corruption on the Earth,’ they say, ‘Surely, we are only rectifiers.’
أَلا إِنَّهُم هُمُ المُفسِدونَ وَلٰكِن لا يَشعُرونَ
No! They are nothing but saboteurs, but they do not perceive it. [Surah al-Baqarah, The Heifer (2):11-12]
Sixty years later, the lessons of the French-Algerian war have never been more important.