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Full text of "The Egyptian Problem"

EDUCATION
241
th$ same interest in the matter. Nor would it have accorded with their policy of giving a freer hand to the Khedive to attempt to check him when he sought to tighten his own hold over El Azhar. Upon Abbas, too, his religion sat very light indeed, but he had been quick to perceive the uses to which he could put his authority, as head of the State, over El Azhar, both to enhance his own prestige and to turn Mahomedan feeling against the British control. A law passed in 1898 had done something to place the fur&tions and powers of the governing body on a sounder basis and to regulate the course of studies and the tests to be applied for the granting of certificates of proficiency. Another law framed under the Khedive's close supervision was passed in 1911, which made a great show of introducing modern features into the curriculum and further reforms into the government of the University. But the most important clause of all was that which reserved the choice and appointment of the Rector to the Khedive alone. Its whole tenor bore out the old Egyptian saying : " If the head of the State is a strong man, he rules El Azhar, but if he is a weak man. El Azhar rules him." And with all his faults Abbas was a strong man.
We have lately witnessed the truth of that saying in the other alternative, when, with a Sultan on the throne of Egypt who owes his nomination to the British Protectorate, the governing body of El Azhar, of which the Sultan is the recognised chief, issued a manifesto boldly denouncing the Protectorate and endorsing all the demands of the Party of Independence. To-day the Azharites, who a few years ago were derided as hopelessly vieux jeu by the more " advanced " students of the Government schools and colleges, are welcomed by them once more as brother patriots in every Nationalist demonstration, and El Azhar itself has become the chief centre of anti-British agitation. But it would not be fair to attribute the revolt of El Azhar solely to religious or social animosity. It has never felt the pinch of poverty so severely aseither of his successors tooktly, however, it is to be feared, the average El Azhar student carries away with him chiefly a religious arrogance which, rooted in the belief that the world belongs by rights to Islam, resents all forms of progress emanating from Western civilisation and readily translates itself into aggressive fanaticism.