Andrew Hussey is a professor of Cultural History at the University of London’s School of Advanced Study. His latest book, The French Intifada: The Long War Between France and Its Arabs, seems to be an extension of his previous one, Paris: The Secret History. However, this work is more overtly political as it reveals the relationship between “France and its Arabs” starting from 1830, with “Colonization” and “Arabization” being its keyterms. Hussey’s many visits to the Maghreb, the core setting of his book, allow him to present us with first-hand observations of the situation there, while his immense historical knowledge on this subject is expressed in a highly sophisticated manner.
The French invasion of Algeria on 14 June 1830 resulted in a deeply hostile and rancorous environment due to the tense relationship between the settling colons and the natives. The Algerian War of Independence between 1954 and 1962, as well as The Algerian Intifada of 1988, only affirm the endless brutalism among many similar events that have happened there. Generally speaking, most of us are aware to some degree of the atrocities that have occurred in the country, but the various incidents the book tackles are often shocking in what they reveal. Hussey’s account draws an uncompromisingly realistic and illustrative image of the violence during the clashes between the colonizers and the colonized. Colonialism, Anti-Semitism, and Wahhabism have become important catalysts for the development of The French Intifada. France, it seems, suffered greatly in its attempt to control “the inferior races”. Lethal radicalism in the hands of the opposition became the sole weapon of decolonisation which, as the book proves, in present years has also transferred and established itself firmly onto European soil.
Hussey withdraws from Algeria only to shift the story to Morocco and Tunisia. With its Spanish influence in the north and French protectorship in the south, Morocco was perhaps an even more dichotomized community than Algeria. After the Second World War, as the author discusses, the formation of extremist groups exacerbated the state of political and social affairs. Corruption, Hussey claims, has penetrated the government and pro-French sympathizers are represented as pawns in the hands of France. The account of Tunisia identifies similar trends. Tunis, with its attractive beaches and touristic amenities, in The French Intifada becomes a dark place where extremism plagues the streets and starvation contributes to the horror. The war there involved France greatly due to its surreptitious attempts to subjugate Tunisia. Hussey extensively discusses the “Stealing of Tunisia” and the resultant mass emigration to France from the 1970s.
The author begins his book with the depiction of the Parisian communities, concentrating on the life in the banlieues; ‘‘If you live here, if you speak with a banlieusard accent, you are condemned as an outsider in Paris and in fact in all French cities.” Admittedly, France is the residence of the largest Muslim population in Europe, with approximately 5 million Muslims, most of whom having emmigrated to the banlieues from the Maghreb region, in the past century. The so-called “French Intifada” taking place “is only the latest and most dramatic form of engagement with the enemy.“ Who is the enemy, though? Hussey does not provide a straightforward answer or clear judgement… His meticulous evaluation is open, leaving his readers to decide for themselves having been given the facts in their unbiased form. Nevertheless, Hussey implies that the present violence – a clear example of which is the recent terroristic attack on Paris, which ended in taking the lives of more than 150 people – filling the news on a daily basis is the consequence of two centuries of sadism. The incessant wars between the French and Arabs highlighted in The French Intifada should serve, I feel, not only as historical and political information but also as a warning of current and upcoming worldly threats.