2 SEPTEMBER 1882, Page 5


WHATEVER we may think of Mr. Wilfrid Blunt's capacity as a politician and a discerner of character, there can be no question about his honesty and moral courage. In the article which he has just published, in the Nineteenth Century he frankly acknowledges that he is " in violent opposition to " the policy of his country, " and in as violent sympathy with the enemy." Mr. Blunt sincerely believes that Arabi is entirely in the right, and the British nation entirely in the wrong, and he boldly wishes success to the side on which, in his opinion, justice lies. We do not quarrel with him for this. It is, no doubt, a trying dilemma for a patriot to find himself in a position in which he must choose between the success of his country's policy and arms on the one hand, and the success of the cause which he believes to be just on the other. In one of the debates on the Eastern Question, three years ago, Lord Elcho declared that it was the duty of an Englishman to support his country," right or wrong." True patriotism, how- ever, demands no such self-sacrifice. It may be difficult some- times to draw the line between duty to one's country and allegiance to one's conscience; but no one who believes in morality at all can ever be justified in supporting a cause which he conscientiously and deliberately believes to be wrong. We do not quarrel, therefore, with Mr. Blunt for "finding himself in violent opposition to " the policy adopted by his country, " and in as violent sympathy with the enemy." He is morally entitled to follow his convictions, and to take the conse- quences. We also gladly admit that his article is written with great moderation and in excellent taste. And the case which he makes out for Arabi's party is a plausible one. His view is, that there is throughout the Arab world a movement in favour of a religious and political reformation, coupled with a detestation and an impatience of Turkish rule. " The sight of a free native civilisation in the heart of the Desert" "inspired him with the thought of aiding the Mussulman nations to learn self- government, shake off the yoke of strangers, and so regenerate their social life." And he supports the so-called 44 national " party in Egypt because he believes them to be the vanguard of this reforming movement. At first, he thought little of them, and was disposed to distrust them. " The fact of their being soldiers repelled me ; for I still looked on every soldier and zaptieh in the East as the symbol of that imperial order Pashas love and Bedouins and I abhor. A Fellah Colonel I found it impossible to think of as a patriot." But chance de- tained him at Cairo, and personal intercourse with Arabi and the Ulema of el Azhar (the Moslem university of Cairo) convinced him "how strangely he had been in error. Where the year before I had left them half-hearted, distrustful of each other, now they were confident, and talked openly the language of religious and political liberty." " They detailed me their plan of action—their intention to insist upon Parlia- mentary Government—upon reforms in the Administration and reforms in morals. They complained bitterly of the evils brought on them by the family of Mohammed Ali, the finan- cial ruin of the country, its invasion by foreigners, the wine- shops, brothels, opera-house, and other public scandals imposed on them by these. They spoke of the injustice of the taxation which favoured Europeans, of the mismanagement of the reve- nue of the Domains, the railways and customs under European Control; and they announced their intention, as soon as their Parliament met, of insisting on the remedy of such abuses, the suppression of the unnecessary offices held by foreigners, and the reduction of foreign salaries." They would tolerate the

existence of Christians in Egypt, " as long as these were con- tent to live by the laws of the country,"—i.e., the Sacred Law of Islam.

Mr. Blunt admits that both Sir Edward Malet and Sir Auckland Colvin were at first well disposed towards Arabi's party, and took a hopeful view of the movement. Why did they eventually come to distrust and oppose the movement, while Mr. Blunt is still as firm a believer and sympathiser as

ever ? It seems to us that Mr. Blunt's own article, even without the aid of official papers, furnishes a sufficient ex- planation. He placed an implicit and undiscriminating con- fidence, which nothing apparently could shake, in Arabi and the Sheikhs of el Azhar ; whereas Sir E. Malet and Sir A. Colvin compared the fair professions of the leaders of the " national " movement with certain indisputable facts with which those professions were in conflict. On the very threshold of the movement some significant facts became known to Mr. Blunt which ought to have roused his suspicions. Arabi, when he first saw him last year, " seemed to me," says Mr. Blunt, " strange as it may sound, to take a more distinctly religious view of the move- ment than did the religious Sheikhs [i.e., the Ulema of Cairo], spoke with more respect of the Caliph, and did not absolutely deny, when I rather indiscreetly asked him whether he had ever written to Abdul Hamid. It was evident that he believed he had a mission to restore good Mussulman govern-

ment in his country On a second interview, I liked Arabi better, and better still on a third. I inquired of my friends, and found it was perfectly well known that he had been in communication with Constantinople, but that they did not on that account consider him to be distrusted. Arabi was before all things an honest man, and might be trusted to correspond with the Sultan, or with the Pope, for that matter, if he thought fit to do so in the interests of his country." Surely all this ought to have put Mr. Blunt on his guard. Here was the chief of a party which professed to desire, above all things, to get rid of Turkish rule, in confidential corre- spondence with the Sultan of Turkey ; and the other leaders of the party, so far from distrusting him on that account, thought his conduct the most natural thing in the world. The man who " believed that he had a mission to restore good Mussulman government in his country" spoke with great " respect of the Caliph,:' and entered into confidential corre- spondence with him on the subject. Most natural, we admit, from Arabi's real point of view, but not from the point of view from which he wished Mr. Blunt to regard the movement,—that, namely, of a reformer who was striving to rid his country alto- gether of the Caliph and his rule. If Luther had begun his movement by " speaking with more respect " of the Pope than other Reformers of the time, and had entered into confidential correspondence with his Holiness as to the best method of conducting the Reformation in Germany, would the Protestants of Germany have thought that Luther " was before all things an honest man, and might be trusted " Hindly, whithersoever he might choose to lead his followers? But Arabi and his colleagues had taken the measure of Mr. Blunt. They saw that he was an enthusiast, whose reason was under the dominion of a sentimental imagination, and they played their cards accordingly. At his first interview with Arabi Mr. Blunt informed him that his wife " was a grand-daughter of Lord Byron, the poet, who bad fought for the Greeks." The acute fellah immediately "showed great interest and satisfaction,—a sign," adds Mr. Blunt, ingenuously, " by which I judged him more than all else to have a true love of liberty. Indeed, the universal sympathy we have received from the Mussulmans in Egypt, because we are connected with one who died in arms against the Turks, seems to me a most convincing proof of the national and liberal character of the movement. If only a Panislamic plot, why should we thus have found favour ?" A man who picks up his " most convincing proofs " in this fashion is plainly a witness whom it is impossible to trust, however much we may respect his honesty and motives. The foregoing quotation supplies us with the key to Mr. Blunt's invincible faith in Arabi and the TJlema of el Azhar. Mr. Blunt was seized with the honour- able ambition of playing in Egypt and Arabia the part which Byron had played in Greece. Arabi cunningly played on this foible, and was able from that moment to make Mr. Blunt believe almost anything lie chose to tell him. Mr. Blunt " decided to trust " the man who gave his sympathy to him- self and Lady Anne, " because we are connected with one who died in arms against the Turks," although Mr. Blunt knew at the time that Arabi was all the while in sympathetic cor- respondence with the Sultan 1 Under the influence of his new-born faith in Arabi Mr. Blunt wrote home to Mr. Gladstone his impressions of the coming regenerator of Egypt. He describes Arabi as " an acute reasoner, a man of education and practical good-sense, and a theologian of the most enlightened school of orthodox Mahommedanism." His " ideas" " are based on a knowledge of history, and on the liberal tradition of Arabian thought, inherited from the days when Mahommedanism was liberal. He understands that broader Islam which existed before Mahommed." Nearly all this, we need hardly say, is evolved out of Mr. Blunt's imagina- tion. Arabi is a very cunning but a very ignorant fellah.. The only language he knows is Arabic, and the only literature he knows is the Koran, and a smattering of kindred lore, in-• eluding some second-hand quotations from the Old Testament. And pray, when were " the days when Mahommedanism was liberal ?" History knows them not, and it is equally silent about. " that broader Islam which existed before Mahommed." • The truth is, Mr. Blunt has evidently never studied Islam in its own literature. He has derived his impressions of it from his conversations with Arabi and other Moslems, who believed that they had strong reasons for winning to their side a connection of Lord Byron. He is indignant because Sir E. Mulct's " ideas about el Azhar were gathered mainly from. the Khedive, who had uniformly represented its Sheikhs as a body of fanatical obstructives opposed to all national progress."' Competent authorities, however, agree with the Khedive's. estimate rather than with Mr. Blunt's. Mr. Gifford Palgrave, for one, represents the Azhar of Cairo as one of the most fanatical nurseries of Mahommedanism in the world. Our Consuls all over the Turkish Empire, men who have spent their lives among. Mussulmans, and who are more impartial than Mr. Blunt,. represent the ideas which dominate the Mussulman mind everywhere, Arabia and Egypt not excluded, in a very different light from Mr. Blunt's imaginative picture. Mr. Consul Stuart., writing some years ago from Epirus, gives the following speci- men of the Moslem style of reasoning :—

" God, who gave us these countries, can, if he pleases, enable us. to hold them. If we are to lose them, His will bo done. But, happen what will, wo !nest follow the Commandments of the Prophet. At the same time, wo must try, as long as we can, to keep up appear. antes with the Ghiaours, promise anything, and boldly affirm the execution of the promises. Deception is lawful with the Ghiaours."

Consul-General Wood, writing also some years ago, from Tunis,. gives his experience of Arabian Mahommedans in the fol- lowing passage :—

" Their policy may be briefly defined, namely, the maintenance of their faith by exclusiveness and isolation; the emancipation of the countries which have fallen under Christian rule, and the extermina- tion of the Infidel nations who, by refusing to pay tribute for the redemption of their blood, are pronounced by the Prophet to be in a state of open rebellion against the Law, and consequently deserving of death. Enlightened and tolerant Mahommedans will endeavour to palliate these precepts by quotations from the Koran and Hadis ; but they are not the less the cherished creed, the conscientious belief, of upwards of 200,000,000 Mahommedans."

The whole history of Mahommedanism everywhere attests• the truth of this description, and all the fine ideas about religious and political liberty which Mr. Blunt's Moslem friends expressed to him are but exemplifications of their creed that " deception is lawful with the Ghiaours," when it serves. the cause of Islam. How completely Mr. Blunt allowed him-

self to be made the dupe of Arabi's party is shown by his hyper- bolical description of the genius and virtues of that paragon of liars, the editor of the Taif, of Cairo, whose mendacious. description of the bombardment of Alexandria was published in the Times of last Wednesday. In fine, it is evident from. Mr. Blunt's own narrative that the " national " movement in Egypt is the offspring of intrigues carried on between Arabi and the Porte. Both Arabi and the Sultan saw Egypt pro- spering under the European Control, and they wished to lay hands on the treasure for their own purposes. It is probable that each hoped to be able in the end to get rid of the other, and appropriate the spoils ; and both believed that international jealousies, skilfully manipulated, would prevent foreign inter- vention. In this delusion Arabi, at least, was encouraged by Mr. Blunt. According to Mr. Blunt's own account., his last words to Sir A. Colvin were, " I defy you to bring about. English intervention or annexation." The natural result has. been that both Arabi and the Sultan have over-reached them- selves, and done serious damage to Egypt,—a catastrophe for which Mr. Wilfrid Blunt is largely responsible.