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(Literary Masterpieces, Volume 2)

With the subtitle Anger of the Dispossessed, Martin Evans and John Phillips evoke well in their book Algeria the tragic fact that, since the French invasion and occupation of Algeria in 1830, most Algerians have been effectively excluded from any meaningful involvement in determining the economic, political, social, and religious policies of their country. This marginalization quite naturally caused deep feelings of bitterness, especially because Algerian Muslims, who remained faithful to Islam, recognized all too clearly their powerlessness to create a society in which the basic tenets of Islam determined governmental policies and the rule of law in Algeria.

Evans and Phillips do an excellent job describing the humiliating nature of the French domination of Algeria, which lasted 132 years, from 1830 until 1962. This was far longer than French colonial rule in any other African country. Further insults to Algerian Muslims were manifested when France annexed Algeria, sent French immigrants to settle in the country, and showed contempt for the well-known Muslim prohibition against alcohol by planting vineyards and making wine in Algeria. France made a mockery of its supposed commitment to liberty, equality, and fraternity, three values affirmed in the motto of the French Republic, by offering French citizenship to those Algerians who renounced Islam. Apostasy is an unforgivable sin for Muslims. Algerian Muslims understood all too well that they would be exploited for as long as they remained under French domination.

Although many Algerian soldiers fought bravely with Free French Forces under the command of General Charles de Gaulle and helped to liberate France from Nazi occupation, nothing really changed in Algeria after France and Algeria were freed from Nazi rule. In November, 1954, Algerian Muslims saw no alternative to overt resistance to continuing French domination in Algeria. Under the general leadership of the National Liberation Front, Algerian Muslims began a civil war that French soldiers and police officers could not suppress. In 1958 the French Fourth Republic came to an end, and French voters turned to De Gaulle to extract France from the seemingly endless violence in Algeria. Although De Gaulle had favored preserving the French empire during and immediately after World War II, he was a realist: He realized that the modern world was rejecting colonialism. Starting in 1960, he began granting independence to French colonies throughout Africa, while at the same time offering financial and technical assistance to new democracies. In Algeria, rebel French army officers undertook military action against Algerian Muslims in a vain effort to prevent De Gaulle from granting their country independence, but De Gaulle handled effectively this disobedience to the rule of law. He went on French television and denounced military officers who had committed treason by disobeying lawful orders from their commander in chief. His speech followed several attempts by French traitors in the Secret Army Organization led by General Jacques Massu to assassinate De Gaulle. De Gaulle skillfully persuaded people in both Algeria and France that France could remain faithful to its ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity only by granting these same values to all people, no matter where they might live. He presented French and Algerian people a simple choice: order or chaos. Order meant a peaceful transition in Algeria from colonial domination to independence; chaos meant endless violence fomented by the Secret Army Organization under the traitorous Massu against Algerian Muslims or violence by the National Liberation Front against French citizens in Algeria that had been occurring since 1954. On March 18, 1962, Algerian and French negotiators signed the Evian Treaty, granting Algeria independence, and submitted it to Algerian and French voters. In both countries, support for the independence of Algeria was more than 90 percent. This permitted a...

(The entire section is 1,666 words.)