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xin      ^                         EDUCATION                               233
fying out of their own mouths the conclusions embodied
in its exhaustive and illuminating Report.    The problem
of Western education in Egypt is far less complex, and
with the help of a man of Sir Thomas Sadler's experience,
Mr. Paterson and one or two leading Egyptians should
have little difficulty in conducting an inquiry which would
place its solution on a new and sounder basis.    We should                          J' J
then at least have done our best to discharge one of our                             |
great responsibilities—one which we have hitherto treated                          ' |
with culpable indifference.
Western education, even if it can be raised on to a higher plane, will for a long time to come have to contend with powerful and profoundly antagonistic forces of which our own acquired habits of religious tolerance make it difficult for us to grasp the reality. One of the most stubborn facts we have to reckon with in Egypt is that the ancient school or university of El Azhar still remains, with its offshoots in the provinces, the great Mahomedan educational agency which moulds the character and outlook of a considerably greater number of young Egyptians than all the primary and secondary schools and colleges modelled on Western lines. Its most brilliant days belong to that short period when Arab civilisation, absorbing the remnants of Greco-Byzantine and Persian civilisation, kept the torch of ancient learning alight which had almost flickered out in the                          j f1
darkness of the Middle Ages in Europe.    Its intellectual                          *! M
decay followed, as in the rest of the Mahomedan world, when mere scholasticism of the narrowest type destroyed such germs of evolutionary vitality as Islam may have originally possessed. But the influence of El Azhar as a stronghold of Mahomedan orthodoxy continued none the less to grow, and it gradually overshadowed and absorbed all the other seats of Mahomedan learning in Egypt, or brought them into subordinate affiliation with itself, like those of Tanta and Alexandria and a few others of less importance. Its position has seldom been more 4ominan^ than it is to-day as the rallyingement.    The Special