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La Prise de Constantine, 1837, Horace Vernet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Crémieux Decree, 1870

  • France and Sephardi Jews
  • France and native Algerians
  • Algerian Islamism

On 24 October 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, the Crémieux decree granted  French citizenship to 35 thousand Sephardi Jews living in French Algeria. The decree was named after French-Jewish lawyer and Minister of Justice Adolphe Crémieux. The Crémieux decree was abolished by the Vichy government from 1940 to 1943 but it benefited Algerian Jews when Algeria won its independence. They were French citizens and most chose to move to France. (See Crémieux Decree, Wikipedia.) However, initially, Sephardi Jews hesitated to accept double citizenship. They lived in a Muslim country and feared being accused of apostasy, but it would appear that native Algerians were, as Ahmed Ben Bella described himself, Islamist of a “mild and peace-loving flavour.”

During the Algerian Civil War (1992-2002), which began when the Islamic Salvation Front appeared to be winning an election causing the election to be cancelled, the government believed it had disabled the Islamic movement, but armed groups emerged to fight jihad. (See Algerian Civil War, Wikipedia.) 

In 2003, Ben Bella was elected President of the International Campaign Against Aggression on Iraq. At its Cairo Anti-war Conference,“[h]e described the militant voice rising in the Islamic world as having developed from an incorrect and faulty interpretation of Islam (my bold characters).” (See Ahmed Ben Bella, Wikipedia.) It seems Ben Bella was a moderate Muslim. Islam was his faith. I should also note that Algeria did not participate in the Arab Spring (2010).

The Code de l’indigénat: Algerian Muslims

  • Tocqueville’s Report (1847)
  • the Code of the Indiginates (Indigenous; 1887
  • two classes

The Crémieux decree had an adverse effect on the inhabitants of Algeria. Muslims could apply for French citizenship, but most of these applications were rejected. A previous Code de l’indigénat was implemented in Algeria on 14 July 1865, but the naturalization regime in French Algeria was confirmed in the Code de l’indigénat, Decree 137, in 1887, an official date. In 1887, it applied to all native citizens of French colonies.(See Indigénat, Wikipedia.)  One wonders. What had happened to Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité? A text authored by Alexis de Tocqueville, dated 1841, may have influenced the French government. In 1841, Alexis  s reported that He reported that Algeria’s Muslims were cruel, as cruel as the Turks, a view that may have spread, except that he looked upon the French as the greater barbarians. (See French Algeria, Wikipedia)

Tocqueville submitted a Report FR, dated 24 May 1847. This text is online. It was posted by Simon Pierre in Culture d’Islam (see Sources and Resources). In Algeria, a first Code de l’indigénat went into effect in 1865, before the disastrous Franco-Prussian War.

The Code de l’indigénat was equally disastrous as it  created a lower class in French Algeria. Sephardi Jews were model citizens, but not in a million years should France have declared Muslim Algerians, native Algerians, second-class citizens. This was a prelude to war, the War of Independence. If native Algerians were cruel, the Code de l’indigénat, could only result in resentment and greater cruelty. However, a certain group, called évolué (evolved) were Europeanised as a result of education and assimilation. They were an élite. The aim of French colonialism was assimilation.


Évian Accords

A cease-fire leading to independence

Assassination attempt at Clamart, France

Mistakes were made in Algeria, but de Gaulle ruled in favour of self-determination. When he first went to Algeria, French Algerians thought de Gaulle would save them. Algeria was part of France. His first speech was misleading. He seemed to favour the French colonists. However, Charles de Gaulle changed his mind. It is as though he suddenly realized that colonialism was a thing of the past, not to say a mistake, but no one expected de Gaulle would act as he did.

The Évian Accords are the context within which a cease-fire was declared. It took place on 18 March 1962 and, in a referendum held on 8 April 1962. The French approved self-determination, or the Évian Accords, with almost 91% in favour. On 1 July 1962, a second referendum took place in Algeria, with nearly everyone approving. As I wrote in an earlier post, Algeria was pronounced independent on 3 July 1962 and celebrates its independence on 5 July, Algeria’s National Day.

However, the French Algerians, the Pieds-Noirs, loved their homes, and Algeria was part of France. I doubt that French Algerians had the time to prepare. We saw that the Organisation de l’armée secrète (OAS) fought de Gaulle. I have also referred to assassination attempts. There were approximately ten, but the attentat most people remember took place on 22 August 1962, at Clamart, France. Le grand (tall) Charles claimed that his Citroën DS 19 had saved his life. Bullets from machine guns hit the car, but de Gaulle and his wife Yvonne were not hurt.


Second-Class Citizens

When it became independent, Algeria had been under foreign control for more than a thousand years[1] and the Code de l’indigénat had made Muslim Algerians second-class citizens in their own country (territory). Such classification is humiliating and it lingers. The Algerian War liberated the mostly Muslim Algerians, but did anyone apologize for the Code de l’indigénat, so it coud be put to rest. Muslims may have forgotten, but not necessarily the French. If elected to the presidency of France in 2017, Marine Le Pen will not accept immigrants, which probably means that she will not let Muslims enter the country. On 14 May 2012, under Nicolas Sarkozy, France recognized its “historical responsibility” for leaving its Harkis behind.[2] (See Harki, Wikipedia.)

Again, one wonders. What does Marine Le Pen plan to do with Muslims who have lived in France for decades? The Nice attack was a victory, albeit gruesome, for France’s Front National because Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was a Tunisian and a Muslim. Marine Le Pen can use the attack as “proof” that Muslims are “cruel.” Doesn’t cruelty also reside in rejecting Muslim migrants. Being rejected could lead to despair and it could also lead to radicalization.

Muslims should not be treated as second-class citizens. They are victims and this cannot be said often enough. If Europe is too crowded to welcome migrants and Donald Trump locks them out of the United States, forgetting that the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and did so illegally and with the help of Tony Blair, what will happen? The US may have an “historical responsibility.” It seems everyone has les mains sales (dirty hands, the title of a play by Jean-Paul Sartre).

Yet, the world must demand that the countries of the Middle East end the violence perpetrated by ISIL and end the Syrian Civil War, because both force Syrians to leave their country. I cannot think of another option. Moreover, all Middle East leaders should respect human rights (i.e. no torture, etc.) including King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Migrants are fleeing ISIL and autocrats, but Europe hesitates to take them in as refugees, and Islamophobia is spreading rapidly. It is well-known that, as President of the United States, Donald Trump will not allow Muslims to enter the United States. Does he not know the facts?

At any rate, the crisis in the Middle East is, to a significant extent, retaliation, and retaliation is permanent war. Since 2011, the year Bashar al-Assad did not listen to protesters, 250,000 Muslims have died and 11 million have fled their homes. They need help. If they are denied a refuge, they too could resort to violence. Or, there could be yet another genocide. We must put on the emergency brake. Muslims are not second-class citizens.

Putting on the Emergency Brake

I read yesterday that if Theresa May puts on the emergency brake (my bold characters), she would come back to Britain, a hero.


Well, it seems that putting on the emergency brake is the order of the day. Bashar al-Assad should perhaps give it a thought…


Sources and Resources

Love to everyone.

[1] Perhaps 2 thousand years. (Hérodote.net)

[2] De Gaulle was criticized for leaving the Harkis behind. The Harkis served during the Franco-Prussian War (1870), the two World Wars, the war in Indochine (Vietnam), and the Algerian War of Independence.


Horace Vernet Painter


Horace Vernet, self-portrait (Photo credit : Wikipedia)


© Micheline Walker
29 July 2016