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Title:France and Islam in West Africa, 1860-1960
Author:Harrison, ChristopherISNI
Series:African studies series
City of publisher:Cambridge
Publisher:Cambridge University Press
Geographic terms:French-speaking Africa
West Africa
religious policy
Abstract:Focusing on the development of French policy towards Islam in the Federation of French West Africa (AOF) in the period 1860-1960, the author describes how French understanding of Islam in West Africa evolved from the short-term, and often contradictory, policies associated with the period of military expansion, through a period of intense suspicion and fear of pan-Islamic movements, to a widely held consensus that Islam in Africa was quite distinct from the Islam of the Arab world. This consensus arose from the work of a group of scholar-administrators employed by the French administration in the early decades of the century. Their work, which was heavily influenced by developments in the social sciences in France, gave the administration the knowledge and the confidence to intervene in local Muslim politics. During the 1920s and 1930s the French administration established very close and very rigid alliances with a limited number of Muslim leaders who to a very large extent had been identified as potential allies by the scholar-administrators. This highly personalized pattern of relationships continued, with a brief interruption during the Vichy regime, through to the achievement of independence.