Innlegg merkte med ‘Sharif Hussein’

In Robert Ryan’s newest book, Empire of Sand, he takes us back to the Middle East during the First World War. Ryan’s main protagonist is the legendary Thomas Edward Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia. The main focus of the story centers around the year 1915, before the Arab Revolt of 1916 and Lawrence’s fame, and shifts mainly between Cairo and Persia. In Cairo you have Lawrence the map maker and in Persia you have his German counterpart and lookalike Wilhelm Wassmuss (short, blond, blue eyes, etc.).

The book is a work of fiction, but most of the characters are real. It seems that Ryan could not resist adding a number of colourful characters to his story, one of these being Gertrude Bell. Even Harry St. John Philby makes a small guest appearance where he makes Lawrence annoyed by claiming that Ibn Saud is the right man to bet on, not Sharif Hussein.

The book is good and very entertaining, but I keep asking myself where the story is going and how interesting it really was. Ryan’s portrayal of the characters is very good together with his descriptions. You get sucked into his fictitious world which seems very real. My main problem with the book is the story on a whole. Ryan blends fact and fiction skilfully, but for me it seems a bit anti climatic. The story keeps growing and you expect a big showoff that never really comes.

Ryan’s book is worth a read, mostly because of his portrayal of Lawrence and his surroundings, but I would rather recommend James Barr«s non-fiction book Setting the Desert on Fire. It is very interesting and at the same time as exciting as a work of fiction.

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So will it be with the English!

The following text is a memorandum translated from Arabic describing the «wicked ways» of the English. It was issued by the Arab Committee of the Pan-Islamic Society and distributed secretly. It was written in a pocket book belonging to a member of a deputation from Emir Faisal in Mesopotamia (Iraq) to Ibn Saud, then the Sultan of Nejd. Ibn Saud handed it over the Mesopotamian authorities from their information. This happened in the first half of 1920 when the future of the Middle East still was not certain and when idea of pan-Islamism was very much alive. It is a pretty interesting read:

[The English is] a most cunning and ambitious people on the face of the earth. They are hypocrites and fanatic for their race and religion. They hope to rule all the world even after generations and to attain this, they have plans and committees which have control and branch offices and employés.

The most important object of the English is to destroy the rule of Mohamedans and afterwards to destroy their faith. Mr Gladstone their foremost leader said «As long as the Koran is believed and respected, civilization is threatened». Lord Salisbury said «What the Cross has taken from the Crescent must not return to the latter, and what the Crescent has taken from the Cross must return to the Cross».

On this principle they declared at the outbreak of the Balkan war [1912-1913], that no victorious Power is allowed to take any territory from the conquered, believing that Turkey will be victorious. But when the Balkan States won the War they allowed them to take a good slice of Turkish territory.

From remote times Britain intended to take possession of the Arabian Peninsular and Mesopotamia. She made agreements with the Arab Chiefs and through these agreements she made them enemies to each other; Hejaz against Nejd and Imam Yehia against Idrisi etc.

Britain divided Mesopotamia and Syria between herself and her Ally, France. Mr Lloyd George declared that the war in Palestine was the last Crusade which is finished by finishing with the rule of Islam for the destruction of which the Crusades were created.

Their (the English) intention by giving Palestine to the Jews, is to prevent the Mohamedans from resuming their authority or rule. They will do the same in Mesopotamia by populating it with millions of Indian Heathens.

Their plan is to make the Arabs fight each other by helping one party against the other until the Arabs are weakened, when they will be desarmed unless they are required to fight for the English some where, as they made the Egyptians open the Sudan for them. When the British rule supreme over Arabia, they will spread Christianity and allow every thing which is forbidden by Islam except aggression against personal liberty, so that a man should not be allowed to prevent his son from becoming an infidel or his daughter from committing adultery.

In short the English are the greatest enemies of Islam and their sole object is to exterminate it. They are the cleverest people, as Bismarck said, to escape of their engagements by misinterpreting them, as they have done with Sherif Hussein and Ibn Saud etc.

The English have reached, after the war, the summit of their political influence; but as they have risen, they will also fall down. The human nature will no more submit to being enslaved. The British provoked all the world against the against Germany by accusing her of waging this war for the love of conquest and enslaving the world. But it has now appeared that it was England which attempted this for herself.

Bolshevism is against Imperialism and colonization and consequently against England and it is spreading in the East and being supported by the Mohamedans, because it is against colonization.

The Germans who are the best organized nation support the Bolshevism and the Moslems in India, Afghanistan, Caucasia, Persia and Turkistan against the English. India is in flames against them. The U.S. of A. is disgusted with their (English) wicked games. Their allies France and Italy hate them and will turn against them on the first opportunity.

It is therefore the time for the Arabs to open their eyes and not lose their opportunity. They must unite against the English who keep no covenant and fulfil no promise.

If they (Arabs) do not benefit by this opportunity of the English being in trouble in Europe, Egypt, India, Russia and the Near East, they will be enslaved for ever and lose everything.

Another equally interesting text follows about «The British ambitions to possess al-Hejaz». After both texts the translator comments:

With regard to the tone of the above articles I can say that they were written with a «pen of fire».

When Ibn Saud gave the text, that is basically praising Bolsheviks as champions of Islam, to the British he discussed it at length and requested British views on the subject. Britain then sent a private letter on the subject of Bolsheviks saying that «there is no sign that they contemplate further activities beyond the limits of Russia». The also added that they regarded Bolshevism «as unlikely to make headway in Mohammedan countries whose social organisation and traditions are alike unfavourable to the spread of views which are contrary alike to their religion and interests and repugnant to common sense».

(The memorandum has by the way a few grammatical errors and spelling mistakes so they can not all be credited to me.)

In the early 1920’s the power balance in Arabia changed. Sultan Abdul Aziz ibn Saud of Nejd was expanding his realm in all directions and defeated longstanding enemies. Ibn Saud was supported to a certain degree by Great Britain, but one of his main rivals, Hussein b. Ali, Sharif of Mecca and King of the Hejaz, was also supported by the British. A former British Agent once said that «ours is a Hussein policy» and there was no doubt that Britain focused most of their energy on Hussein. Britain’s ideas on Arabia, however, slowly changed as Ibn Saud grew more and more powerful and as Britain found Hussein more as a burden than a valuable ally. The same Agent, Col. Vickery, spoke of this growing power in November 1922:

I see also in Arabia, a growing power, a power not of our forging, a power which will eventually overrun the very homes of these we have so openly and so prodigally supported … The custodianship of the holy places lies now with the Sharif of Arabia [sic], but I feel that peace will not descend on Islam till the cities of the Prophet are once again under the aegis of a Mohamadan nation which unites both spiritual and temporal power.

Three years later the Hejaz fell to Ibn Saud’s fanatic fighting force, the Ikhwan, and thereby ending Hashemite rule over the holy cities of Islam. Hussein fled to Aqaba and was then «invited» by the British to Cyprus.

(The quote is from Randall Baker’s book King Husain and the Kingdom of Hejaz.)