What Is Moslem Race’s Future?

League of Nations Must Tackle This Difficult Problem and Settle Differences Between “Believers” and “Unbelievers”.

DR. CHARLES H. LEVERMORE February 15 1925

What Is Moslem Race’s Future?

League of Nations Must Tackle This Difficult Problem and Settle Differences Between “Believers” and “Unbelievers”.

DR. CHARLES H. LEVERMORE February 15 1925

What Is Moslem Race’s Future?

League of Nations Must Tackle This Difficult Problem and Settle Differences Between “Believers” and “Unbelievers”.


ONE of the sternest problems that confront the League of Nations is that of bringing the Moslem races into world peace pacts that may function with any degree of permanent success. This is a situation that is exhaustively treated in an article by Dr. Charles H. Levermore appearing in the Times (New York). Dr. Levermore is the author of the plan that won the Bok peace award, and he has since written a series of articles for the Times drawing attention to “danger zones of the world, where wars lie latent.” In one of these articles he takes up the Mohammedan situation, with which the league has been wrestling for some time. The difficulty with the Mohammedan is that his religious fanaticism makes him incompatible to his Christian and pagan neighbors. All who do not range themselves under the banners of the “true prophet” are, to his mind, “dogs of unbelievers,” and should be either destroyed or made vassals to the “true believers.” Furthermore, the Moslems are themselves divided into many factions that set up difficulties to fusion in the interests of peace. Dr. Levermore’s summary of the situation is therefore very timely and very interesting. He tells us, in part:— The Moslem world comprises all of northern Africa, including Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and the Sahara. It takes in the Sudan, considerable portions of central Africa and the eastern seacoast regions as far south as Zanzibar.

In Europe Mohammedans are found not only in southern Russia and in the Balkan peninsula, but also in eastern Russia and the Volga valley northward as far as Kazan.

In Asia they occupy all of Turkey, Arabia, Persia; the lands of the Tartars north of the Caspian Sea from the borders of European Russia to the desert of Gobi; Afghanistan, large portions of India, one of the western provinces of China, the Malayan peninsula and islands and the southern part of the Philippines.

It is estimated that there are 225,000,000 persons in the Moslem world; in Africa approximately 58,000,000, in Europe 6,000,000, in Asia 125,000,000, and in the East Indies and other islands of the Pacific 36,000,000.

Significantly, only about 33,000,000, or less than fifteen per cent, of the entire Mohammedan population, are found in politically independent states, such as Turkey, Persia, Afghanistan and a few states in Arabia. In regions under the control of nominally Christian governments there are 192,000,000 Moslems. By far the greater number of the followers of Mohammed live under the British flag.

Moslem and Christian states and peoples will have to live together in the world and must learn how to deal with one another, but their relations are likely to be for a long time those of an ill-mated pair; there is between them a fundamental incompatibility.

Islam is essentially a militant religion. Its spirit tends toward a fierce fanaticism. The Mohammedan ideal to-day is but little different from that of the Arabs who went forth centuries ago to conquer Christian peoples. The foundations of the Saracenic power were laid in war. To the believers in Mohammed the Christian is still a “dog of an infidel.”

The Koran makes it clear to all the faithful that he who does not accept Islam must bow down before its sway. Either he becomes a slave and pays tribute or he dies. This is the option presented by Mohammedan law to all who will not accept the Moslem creed: slavery or death.

With such a creed orthodox Moslem states can scarcely regard Christian states as equal to themselves. The Christian states constitute an overwhelming majority of the nations in the league. No orthodox Moslem state has yet been willing to enter the league. The Arab kingdom of the Hedjaz was one of the victorious allies and was therefore eligible for admission. It has never seen fit to accept the opportunity.

It is true that after sanguinary wars in former generations France has learned how to deal with the Moslem peoples of northern Africa—the Moors and the Berbers. Islam is practically quiescent in French Morocco, in Algeria and Tunis. But Spain, in northern Morocco, is engaged in a deadly struggle with the mountaineers of the Riff, the country opposite Gibraltar.

Spain’s attempt to control that country is only the present phase of a war that began between Moslems and Christians in that region twelve centuries ago and has been going on intermittently ever since. The mountaineers of the Riff are Berbers, of Aryan origin. Some authorities think they are of the same blood as the Basques in the Pyrenees. They are fighting for their independence. They all are Moslems and have Arab names. Their present war against Spain is nourished by memories of the days when their ancestors shared in the conquest of Spain, which begafi with the first Saracen invasion in 711.

Further to the east Italy retains her precarious hold on Tripoli and its hinterland. It is in this region that the great Moslem fraternity of the Senussi is all powerful. During the great war, Italy lost the control that she had previously in the interior, but was able to cling to a few spots along the coast. Since the end of the war Italy, by negotiation and the use of money, has been able to reestablish herself in Tripoli and to arrive at an understanding with the chiefs of the Senussi.

A few years ago Lidj Yasu, the young emperor of Abyssinia, deserted Christianity and showed a disposition to favor Mohammedanism. The result was a civil war. Lidj Yasu was captured and Zaoditu, a devotee of Christianity, was made empress. The present Abyssinian government, with Ras Tafari, as regent for the empress, at its head, stands for the maintaining of the old Christian Ethiopian church, not only as against the strong Mohammedan minority in Abyssinia, but also as against the power of the Senussi from without. Abyssinia’s admission to the league brought to Ras Tafari’s government increased prestige at home and assured it of the friendly support of the family of nations.

Egypt comes next. Its geographical position and its relation to the Suez canal give it an obvious strategic importance. The British are at this time dominant in Egypt and the Sudan, but their hold upon Egypt may be regarded as tenuous.

Just now the point of controversy is the insistence of the Egyptian government that Great Britain shall recognize Egyptian supremacy in the Sudan instead of its own. This the Sudanese do not want.

Just across the Red Sea from Egypt is the great homeland of the Arab race. Arabia is half as large as the United States and is inhabited by about 12,000,000 people. The Arab of central Arabia has never forgotten that his ancestors at one time conquered a large part of the Christian world. He knows also that his own land has never yielded to a foreign ruler. Neither Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, nor even Turk, was able to establish supremacy in central Arabia.

Great Britain, however, by the use of persistent diplomatic effort, coupled sometimes with arguments of a substantial nature, has now more political influence in all parts of Arabia than any former empire has ever possessed there.

One of the new-old Arab states that have escaped from Turkish leading strings is Hedjas, whose King Hussein, a descendant of the family of Mohammed, was guardian of the holy cities. As grand shereef of Mecca he occupied a position of central importance, if not also of authority, in the Moslem world.

King Hussein and his family were not regarded with friendly eyes by the rulers of neighboring Arab states. His most formidable enemy, Ibn Sa’ud, sultan of the Wahabi state of Nedj, in central Arabia, went to war against him this year.

Feisal’s kingdom of Iraq is likely to be the first Arab state that will seek admission to the League of Nations. A treaty made last year between Great Britain and Iraq provides that as soon as Iraq becomes fully independent, perhaps after an interval of four years of probation. Great Britain will support its application for admission into the league. This treaty was strongly opposed in the parliament of Iraq; its ratification was finally secured there by reason of assurances that Great Britain would defend Iraq’s right to the vilayet of Mosul, which is claimed by Turkey.

Great Britain and Turkey both appeared in the council of the League of Nations to discuss their differences concerning Mosul, differences which they were unable to settle in the treaty of Lausanne and subsequent negotiations. Great Britain claims that the question to be determined is the mere northern frontier of Mosul. Turkey refuses to admit that it is a question about a boundary line, demands the whole province and expresses willingness to accept a plebiscite of the inhabitants of Mosul, who are chiefly Kurds. Behind Great Britain stands its dependency Iraq, which will regard British prestige shattered and British word broken if the whole of Mosul is not left under the government of Iraq.

A revived militant Turkey, full of martial enthusiasm and nationalistic feeling, is a republic only in name. It has invested the sovereignty of the state in the representatives of the people in the national assembly. It has dethroned the house of Othman, which had ruled Turkey for almost seven centuries. It has driven the surviving princes of that race out of the country. It has given up the caliphate of the Moslem world which an Ottoman sultan snatched from the weak hands of an Egyptian puppet prince centuries ago, and which Mustapha Kemal and his friends believe to be a source of peril and not of strength to the new Turkey.

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Although the new Turkey has withstood Europe successfully it has at the same time dared to make a wholesale adoption of the political nomenclature and ideas of the occident. Not since Japan, at infinite cost, broke loose from its age-long feudal customs and traversed seven hundred years of European history in a few decades has any oriental nation started upon a swifter and more radical career of transformation than Turkey to-day.

It is inevitable that these changes will bring about in Turkey what the revolution brought about in Japan; a fierce struggle in which religious bigotry and social conservatism on one hand will contend with the new forces and will endeavor to restore Turkey to its old character and position among the followers of the prophet. Such a struggle will inevitably have far-reaching effects not only in the Turkish world but in the Arab world also.

All these Mohammedan fluctuations, whether backward or forward, concern the whole organized world, especially Great Britain and France, both of which govern millions of Moslems. Outside the organized world these movements vitally concern Russia also.

In India the forces of Islam possess at once their greatest political powers and their closest contacts, in the persons of the leaders, with the culture of Great Britain and the western world in general. The caliphate is a matter of anxious debate among the sixty or seventy millions of Mohammedans who live in Great Britain’s empire in the east.

Thsre is à hèW Unrest among the Moslems of India, caused by the necessity of new alignments in the world of the faithful around the question of the caliphate and of some central organization for the faith.

The Indian Mohammedans are the most powerful, prosperous and intelligent body of Moslems m the world. Among them has already been voiced a demand for a pan-Moslem congress to discuss the question of the caliphate. Such a congress, if it could be gathered, would probably be split wide open by the rivalries of race.

The conclusion is that Mohammedanism is a source of danger to international peace because its founders based it upon force, bade it go forth to conquer and blessed it in so doing. In this respect, Islam is unique among the important religions.

Buddhism is essentially a religion of fraternity. Christianity ought to be so. Islam asserts the brotherhood of true believers, but not of humanity. Mecca is as cruel to unbelievers as was the inquisition of Spain. Islam asserts an infallibility in the Koran as absolute as that which Catholics profess to find in the pope when he speaks ex-cathedra.

With its legions of dervishes, its thousands of pilgrims to Mecca and its fanatical Afghans and Arabs of the desert, Islam prays with a religious zeal not often equaled among Christians, for the unquestioned triumph and supremacy of “the one true faith.”

If the organized world, now functioning at Geneva, can find out how to attract and retain the co-operation of orthodox Moslem states and can through them, without injury to legitimate aspirations toward independence, begin to soften this untamed and aggressive spirit by the process of friendly counsel and good-will, it will thereby go far toward the healing of one of the most dangerous aberrations of the human mind.