This is the title of a book written by Malek Bennabi, the most prominent Algerian thinker. In this book, he describes the subtle tools used by the colonisers (and others) to control and neutralise the “ideas”. He tells us, among other things, how the coloniser uses others’ hands to give the wrong perception (through several mechanisms) on the owner of the idea so that this very idea never makes it to the targeted audience or at least doesn’t have the expected and hoped for effect.
He uses his own case as an example. When he published the Arabic translation of his “the conditions of renaissance” book, many supposed nationalist press attacked the ideas conveyed by the book. This wasn’t enough, he was also targeted by a more subtle attack: Another important book “Al 3orwa al wuthqa” was published. This book gathered the articles of the reformer scholars Jamal Eddine El Afghani and Mohammed Abdou. And the person who prefaced the book mentioned Bennabi’s “Vocation of Islam” book and introduced him as ” a French man who lived in North Africa and converted to Islam”. This preface and the nationalist press attacks reflected a specific image of Bennabi and his book, which may have turned those who didn’t know him away from reading it and materializing the idea.
Bennabi admits that the author of the preface had good intentions and was only used by the coloniser, which made the process more effective.
I recommend reading this book as I am not going the summarize it here. I actually remembered it after I read this article on Le Soir d’Algerie newspaper. It talks about Khaled Nezzar’s new book which relates the story of Algeria’s participation in the 1967 and 1973 wars. This topic is fashionable nowadays and the book proves that we HELPED them b… Egyptians.
The publication of the book and the article calls back some of the ideas I mentioned here but this is not my point today. What really caught my attention is the fact that Benbitour wrote the preface of Nezzar’s book.
Benbitour just launched his project to save the Algerian nation a few months ago, and I must say I have some sympathy for him even though I have little confidence he’d get really dedicated and altruistic people to work in his groups. I am also sceptical about a project created by someone from within the system, but then I think reform is a way of change as is revolution so good luck to him. The problem is now I see his name in the preface of a book written by General Khaled Nezzar and my brain makes an interesting association. So here I am back to Malek Bennabi’s book!
Now I wonder whether Benbitour’s aware of the possible effects of his preface or not.