Monday, 3 October 2011

I watched The Battle of Algiers again recently and this led me to want to know more about the background to the war (Algeria's war of independence from France) so I started reading Alistair Horne's book, "A Savage War of Peace". Both the film and the book are highly recommended.

It's fascinating that, even back then, some French politicians were indulging in fond delusions about how they could Frenchify the Mohammedan population. Of course that was a catastrophic misjudgement, one which, much more menacingly, is now being repeated in France itself rather than an overseas colony.

One of the passages that has most struck me in the book describes the demographic jihad waged by the Muslims against the French, a demographic jihad that is still ongoing, not only in Algeria but around the world. Rapid population growth of this type makes political tumult inevitable; indeed, the recent "Arab Spring" is just another consequence of the same phenomenon.
The most ineradicable cause of all Algeria’s economic woes from 1945 onwards, the factor constantly nullifying any French ideal or scheme of improving things had one simple, insoluble root: the net Muslim birthrate. At the time of the conquest the indigenous population stood at somewhere less than three million; then a combination of war, disease and disastrous famine reduced it by fifty per cent. But by 1906 it had re-established itself at 4,478,000, and from then on it began to take off, as European medical prowess made its impact. Such population inhibitors as malaria, typhoid and typhus all but disappeared; infant mortality shrank to a percentage not far from that of metropolitan France; penicillin became known as “the drug that brings children”, for it stamped out venereal diseases causing sterility. According to figures cited by Robert Aron, if between 1830 and 1950 the population of France had risen at the same rate as that of Algeria, it would by then have reached more than 300 million. As it was, by 1954 the Muslim Algerians numbered nearly nine million, and were increasing in a geometrical progression. Over the previous twenty years the urban population had more than doubled, and it was reckoned that it would double again over the next twenty years — which, but for the war losses, it probably would have done. With one of the highest net birthrates in the world, the Muslims were estimated to be breeding at ten times the rate of the pieds noirs [the European colonists] — hence the very real basis of their fears of being demographically “swamped”, for they could reasonably reckon that, within the next generation, instead of representing eleven per cent of the total population they would have shrunk to a mere five per cent. Here also, by extension, lay one of the root sources of opposition in metropolitan France to a policy of “assimilation”, or “integration”; for, by the end of the twentieth century, what kind of France would there be if she were wedded inextricably to an Algeria by now of almost equal population, and increasing more rapidly, and with equal rights and representation in all her councils?
Source: A Savage War of Peace by Alistair Horne


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