18 AUGUST 1906, Page 5


WE cannot believe much in what is called " Pan- Islamism," at least not if that barbarous combina- tion of Greek and Arabic means that a union is probable of all Mohammedans to defy or to resist the Christian Powers. The faith taught by Mohammed has, no doubt, a strong grip upon its votaries, but there is no real unity in the existing Mussulman world. Heresies, racial quarrels, dynastic jealousies, and differences of civilisation divide the Mussulman world as sharply as the Christian one, and prohibit anything approaching to common violent action. What is now visible among Mohammedans is not an out- burst of Pan-Islamism, but an unrest arising in each country from local causes, and urging the people of each to seek ease rather through an internal change than through any general combination or adventure. In Persia, for example, the grievance of the people is the inability of the community to support the wild expenditure of the Court, and the consequent pressure of a taxation which, as the only resource of the country is its agriculture, is felt in every cottage and by every class except the place-holders of the State. In Arabia the grievance is oppression by Turkish officials for the benefit of Constantinople. In Egypt the people would rather be rid of the ascendency of Great Britain, which gives them justice, a large measure of prosperity, and freedom from oppression, but which is felt, none the less, to be unsympathetic and foreign. In Turkey the complaint is of oppression felt in the refusal of justice, in the insecurity of every prominent citizen, and in the dominance of the brave, but ignorant and tyrannical, Ottoman caste, a dominance felt all the more because the cruel ability of the present Sovereign—a reproduction of Philip IL—makes resistance so excessively dangerous. In each of these countries, therefore, there is visible unrest, and signs of an effort, usually confused and headless, to secure an immediate change of administrators. The reform sought is not, however, what in the West is under- stood by that • word, but a change of ruler, who may remain as absolute as he has always been if only he will govern well. Arabs are not shouting for a Parliament, but for a withdrawal of Turkish troops. The Persians are tired of being robbed for the benefit of the Kajar family, who monopolise all high offices, and are in each province sovereign and tyrannical Princes. Western scribes are writing nonsense about a Persian Parlia- ment. The Assembly of Notables just now decreed has not been demanded by the people, but has been called together by the Shah and his governing group in order that it may 'stand between the people and the Throne, and, now that Russia can afford no more loans, may sanction some great increase in general taxation, or some loan which, thus apparently aregular, may be subscribed by European financiers. The Egyptians are not asking for a Representative Assembly, •but for rulers who shall not be white men. Even in Turkey, although numbers of young. men educated' in Paris or Berlin, or filled, like our own Bengalees, with Western ideas, profess to desire the Parliament which less than thirty years ago was dismissed by a word from the Sultan, the desire of the real people is that some member of the house of Othman should rule, but rule with lenity and some desire for the prosperity of his people. Their fighting classes are still convinced of the truth of their old proverb that " when Othman falls Islam falls," but they never- theless think that an Othman may be found who will rule as absolutely as the Deity, but with something of divine wisdom and benevolence. It is the chance of a change in the ruler, not in the form of government, which makes the recent reports as to the Sultan's illness so " agi- tating " to Constantinople. Each country has its separate difficulties in the way of securing the popular purpose. The Arabs, greatly divided by their mode of life and by their traditional jealousies of each other, have not as yet the strength to expel the Turks, without whose expulsion there can be no relief from oppression. The Persians have no leaders and no armed force with which to resist the Kajar troops, and apparently no Prince ready to seat him- self on the throne, and give them for a generation or two a wiser, though still absolute, Government. The Egyptians are totally powerless against the foreigner, as they have been for two thousand years. Even in Turkey there is no force, except that of the Ottoman clan, which can upset the Sultanate, and the Ottoman clan is as little likely to do it as the landlords of Ireland are to abolish rent without demanding • full compensation. Their dignity—and to Orientals dignity is even more valuable than it is to European aristocracies —is bound up with the existing system.

Do we then think that there is no hope of deliver- ance for these vast masses of human beings from sufferings which, if we only knew them accurately, would excite the compassion of the whole Western world ? That is not at all our conclusion. We think it much more probable that the Mussulman countries are on the edge of movements such as have often occurred in the East, and have produced Governments such as Orientals approve. They will be as they are now, despotic Governments ; but though the Flavians were as despotic as the Caesars, their effect upon human happiness was widely different. The Kajars, deprived of Russian support by the revolution in Russia, are uneasy on their throne. The Egyptians, when they once recognise their powerlessness, will submit, as they have always done, to a Government which means them well and does not deprive them of their wealth. The Turks will wait until a vacancy in the Throne enables them to choose from among the members of a dynasty which they cannot abandon some one who will govern them fairly well, and at least promise them relief from the oppression of the Satraps, who, as so many Oriental rulers know, discredit the Throne without increasing its authority or its territories. It is not through Parliaments, which they do not understand and cannot work, that the Mussulman countries will obtain one of those periods of comparative prosperity which throughout Asia the peoples desire, which intermittently they enjoy, and 'which they remember for ages as golden eras when their Kings " crushed the bad and cherished the good." Why the East has so steadily rejected the idea of popular govern- ment it is not easy to explain. Most Oriental populations quite acknowledge in theory that the good of the people should be the object of the ruler. They all are accustomed to Governing Councils, and they allow in those Councils an astonishing latitude of speech. So long as he abstains from personal insult, the member of an Oriental Cabinet is as free to express his opinion as the member of an English one, and if many express the same the Sovereign rarely overrides it. The final decision always, however, rests with him ; and except when the dynasty is new, the interests of the people are seldom regarded, the real feeling of the governing group which grows up around each Throne being that which M. Guizot attributes to the similar groups which surrounded the Throne of France.. " The people must be heavily taxed, or they will cease to recognise .that they are only subjects." Resistance would be much more common but tlia.4- the Asiatic never quit* rids himself of the ideas that the government of a country should be an imitation of the government of God ; that disloyalty, except in extreme cases, is base ; and that in permitting an individual to reign God gives him the right to do it. There have been in Asia many Governments without military force, but never a Government whose head could not at his discretion pass a sentence of death on a dangerous or detested individual. That strict limitation of powers which is the first necessity of freedom, though it is quite compatible with an absence of popular control, strikes every average Oriental as a limitation of the use for which rulers exist. His ideal is Haroun-al-Raschid, not a representative who rules by argument and persuasion.