Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 1.djvu/218

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AFRICA
AFRICA
186

agated Islam along the whole Mediterranean coast, from Egypt to Morocco, a conquest greatly aided by the exploitation of the country by the Byzantine governors, the divisions among the Christians, and political disorganization. In the ninth and tenth centuries, however, the opposition of the Berbers and the too tardy resistance of the Byzantines, assisted by the Normans, but chiefly the mutual strife of the Mussulman emirs, arrested its advance; there were still bishops at Carthage, Hippo, and Constantine in the eleventh century. The second period (1050–1750) is connected with the invasion of the Himyarite (Arabian) Bedouins, sent by El Mestune, Caliph of Cairo, to chastise the Magreb, or country stretching from Tripoli to Morocco. It was then that Mauretania became definitely Islamized, and in its turn the centre of a propaganda carried on among the Berber tribes of the Atlas, and of the Sahara, and among the negroes of the Sudan. This conquest, however, was not unresisted. We learn from an Arab historian, Ibn Khaldun, that the population of northern Africa was forced fourteen times, at the point of the sword, to embrace Islamism, and that it returned fourteen times to its own religion. Traces, moreover, of Christianity are still found among the Kabyles of Algeria, among the Tuaregs, and the Mzabetes of the Sahara. The name Tuareg (singular, Targui) was given by the Arabs to the Berbers of the desert, and means "those forsaken of God". They were the founders of Timbuctoo (a.d. 1077), Djenné, and of the principal centres of influence in northwest Africa. While this part of the continent was being converted, willingly or by force, to Islam, eastern Africa was invaded in its turn by colonies of merchants, who, however, readily became warriors, and never failed to be apostles. It was thus that Islam gained the shores of the Red Sea, Somaliland, the Zanzibar coast as far as Kiloa, and the islands as far as the Comoto Islands and Madagascar. One nation alone, Ethiopia, entrenched in its huge, mountainous citadel, held out against them. Unfortunately, however, since the sixth century, it has held the Monophysite heresy. It was on these unconquered Christians that the Arabs bestowed the scornful name of Habesh, meaning, "sweepings of the nations", whence the name Abyssinia is derived. The last period of the Mohammedan expansion extends to the present time. It is due to a veritable recrudescence of fanaticism, zealously fostered by a number of religious societies, whose members, or Khuans, are to be found everywhere, and possess unbounded influence. Daily, one may say, Islam spreads over the great African continent, creeping down from Morocco to Senegal, making inroads on the valley of the Niger and the shores of Lake Tchad, passing from Kordofan into Uganda, and from Zanzibar to the Congo. Bitterly hostile to Europeans by its very nature, it is yet very skilful in adapting itself to circumstances. This is, doubtless, why so many governors, functionaries, travellers and writers, duped by this deep hypocrisy, favour this expansion of Mohammedanism, and are even guilty of flagrant injustice and abuse of power in imposing it on fetishist populations who have no wish to embrace it. As there are no Mohammedan statistics, it is impossible to make an accurate census. The following figures may, however, be quoted: 4,070,000 in Algeria; 1,500,000 in Tunis; 10,000,000 in Morocco; 6,800,000 in French Western Africa; 3,000,000 in the Wadaï and the Sudan, besides those in Egypt, Somaliland, Zanzibar, and the interior. The total numbers of Islam in Africa approximately amount to between thirty and forty millions. Its marvellous spread is due to various causes. In Egypt, to begin with, and throughout northern Africa, it was a forcible conquest of countries and peoples in a state of utter social, political, and religious disorganization. These remnants of peoples were intoxicated by a doctrine of great power, covering all that relates to the interests and concerns of man. From the new groups thus remoulded issued successively other conquerors, down to the recent uprisings of the Samory and the Rabah tribes in the Sudan. Moreover, since Islam is at once a religious doctrine, a social system, a political principle, a commercial interest, a civilization that arrogates to itself all manner of rights against the "infidel", it follows that each Mussulman is intimately possessed by the spirit of proselytism. To this end he may, and does, make use of every means; all is permissible against the "unbeliever". Islam, therefore, imposes itself by force, by persuasion, by interest, by alliances, by the spirit of imitation, by fashion. It should be added that there is a real affinity between the manners and customs of the Moors and Arabs and those of the more or less mixed populations of northern Africa; and between these and the negro tribes. Moreover, Mussulman exclusiveness becomes not a little modified by contact with Fetishism, and if Islam imposes certain beliefs and practices on its black disciples, they, in turn, bring into it a number of their superstitions and usages. Finally, the extreme simplicity of its doctrine, the easy yoke of its liturgical discipline, its liberal indulgence in respect of morality, all sustained by the hope of a Paradise made up of well-defined and attractive pleasures, combine to make Islam an ideal religion for the childish intelligence and sensual nature of the African peoples among which it labours. These causes, of themselves, suffice to explain the slight hold that Christianity has gained on the Mohammedan social system. The Mussulman who becomes a Christian must renounce, not only his faith, but also his family, his social standing, his interests, all that binds him to the world. Hence it is evident how utterly mistaken those are who may have held that Islam is a kind of useful, possibly necessary, transition, between Fetishism and Christianity. On the contrary, Islam as it were crystallizes the heart and mind of man. It is not a step taken upward, but a wall that arrests all progress. From a philosophical and religious standpoint, however, Islam is undoubtedly superior to the Fetishism of the negro. It acknowledges but One God Almighty, who rewards good and punishes evil in a future life; it teaches the need of prayer, penance, and almsgiving; of a public worship; of abstaining from the use of fermented liquors, etc. But the absolute freedom with which it preys on the "infidel" by means of polygamy, slavery, thefts, and all kinds of injustice, the utter corruption and the spread of venereal diseases to which it gives rise, the pride, hypocrisy, and laziness which it engenders in its disciples, the formidable cohesion which it gives them, make the expansion of "Mussulman civilization" among fetishist peoples anything but desirable. From the standpoint of their proximate evolution they have more to lose from it than to gain. As fetishists they constitute a reserve for Christian civilization; as Mussulmans, they are lost to it.

(D) Parseeism; Buddhism; Brahminism.—To be complete, this account should include certain Parsee colonies at Zanzibar, Mombasa, Natal, and the Cape; Chinese and Indian Buddhists in the Transvaal, and the Island of Mauritius; and the Brahminist Banyans, natives of Kurachi, Kach, and Bombay, who trade with intelligence and success in most of the centres of Eastern Africa, from Port Said to the Cape. None of these, however, make any proselytes, and all will receive due treatment under their respective titles.

(E) Christianity.—Christianity penetrated into Africa through two principal channels. It was first brought by the Evangelist St. Mark to Alexandria,