THE PLACE OF ISLAM IN SHAPING FRENCH AND BRITISH COLONIAL FRONTIER POLICY IN HAUSALAND: 1890

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THE PLACE OF ISLAM IN SHAPING FRENCH AND BRITISH COLONIAL FRONTIER POLICY IN HAUSALAND: 1890 – 1960

Abstract:

The subject of this thesis is the place of Islam in the shaping of French and British border policy. The period covered extended from the first attempt at drawing frontier between British and French spheres of influence with the Anglo-French declaration of 5th August 1890 to the attainment of independence by the two countries in 1960. The issues raised concerned the control of the frontier by the colonial powers, especially the movements of scholars and pilgrims who, for reason of their religious duties had to travel and to cross the frontier in a direction or another. The colonial powers tried to check these movements because colonial administrators came to Hausaland already equipped with stereotypes vis-a-vis the Muslims in general and those of Hausaland in particular. Both of them had experienced Muslim resistance elsewhere, in Algeria and Morocco for the French, and in Sudan and India for the British. To that background was added the widespread idea drawn from the Crusades, that a Muslim was always waiting for an opportunity to slaughter the infidel. This led the two colonial powers to be obsessed with the “Muslim plot” and Mahdism and therefore to interpret any slight disturbance or unrest, as a plot against the Europeans, engineered by Mahdi agents and supported by local Muslims. Consequently, these disturbances and discontents, mostly due to the harshness of the colonial regime, especially on the French side of the frontier, were ruthlessly dealt with. Where the British used persuasion and concession, the French developed coercion and harshness, making people to flee to the British side. Whereas rivalry developed between the two colonial powers, during the conquest of Hausaland, as soon as the frontier was demarcated, the French began to seek for cooperation with the British, to monitor the movement of “undesirables”, basing their action on the conviction that only the British colony was a real threat for their regime in Niger, as far as Muslim activists were concerned. But the British didn’t consider the need for cooperation with the French because they expected no danger from Niger territory. Instead they concentrated all their attention on the “road to the Mahdi”: The East (Sudan and Hejaz). Only when they felt fully concerned with the situation in “French territory” that they reacted, as in 1917 with the Kaussan revolt in Ahyar. But as soon as the danger was discarded they came back to their first preoccupation, i.e. watching the Mahdi messengers. As a whole, Anglo-French cooperation developed in ups and downs according to circumstances. But it allowed the two colonial powers to handle adequately the crises: Alfa Saybu and Satiru (1906); Kaussan (1917); Tassawa raid (1927); Mahammadu Tambari (1931), and the Hamallism (1947-50). It was only during the second world war that serious crisis occurred between the colonial powers, especially between 1940 and 1943, when Vichy – France controlled Niger territory. Immediately after the war, the political changes reduced the efficiency of colonial powers policy towards Islam.

THE PLACE OF ISLAM IN SHAPING FRENCH AND BRITISH COLONIAL FRONTIER POLICY IN HAUSALAND: 1890 – 1960


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