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as such myself; but Mr. Orpen's method is an interesting variation of method.
In short, we are saved by our portraits this year, in what would otherwise be a very weak exhibition. There is plenty of room for a new genius who would treat great subjects in a great manner. But we want the great subject as well as the great manner. The misfortune is that some people who can paint in something like a great style waste their talents on trivial subjects. Subject counts for something after all.
H. HEATHCOTE STATHAM.
THE SENUSSI AND THE MILITARY
ISSUE IN TRIPOLI
Events in North Africa have entered a phase the significance of which is not completely recognised. Although the last vestige of direct Ottoman rule is in process of effacement, there remains the foyer of Islam, which has been deeply stirred by recent European aggression. In so far as its power may be expressed by concerted military action, there are two opinions : first, that military resistance alone is involved and must speedily succumb to the forces of Italy; second, that the most fanatical element in modern Islamism, the Senussi confraternity, will determine the issue of the war in Tripolitania. Since I was responsible for introducing to the English public in 1899’ the full significance and even the existence of the Senussi movement, I venture now to express my views on the political situation, which reacts intimately on the British Occupation in Egypt.
Our position in Egypt, in view of this war, is most delicate, particularly on the frontier of Tripoli (to revert to the popular rendering of Tripolitania). The 'ancient boundaries of Egypt,' as set forth in the firmans of the Suzerain, never have been accurately defined; but in regard to Egypt Proper these have not been the subject of dispute, if we exclude the protest of the Porte in 1899, based on the extravagant claims in Said Pasha's despatch of 1890. In the West, the Libyan Desert is a no-man's land, in which frontiers are lost in a sea of sand, although nominally the Libyan Desert falls within the Anglo-Egyptian sphere of influence, as recognised by the Anglo-French Agreement of 1899. The frontier between Egypt and Tripoli, on all maps published prior to the issue of my book From Sphinx to Oracle and on most maps since, is shown to include Jerabub, the sanctuary and fortress of the Senussi (or, more correctly, Senussîa); and, doubtless, that was the ancient boundary of Egypt. But it is not the frontier recognised by the Egyptian Government, nor the frontier that would be acceptable to the Senussi, who, in the militant days of the late Senussi el-Mahdi (uncle of the present head of the sect),
· From Sphinx to Oracle : Through the Libyan Desert to the Oasis of Jupiter Ammon. (Hurst and Blackett.)
exercised an influence and a power transcending and technically infringing the sovereign rights of Turkey. As a result of my visit to the oasis of Siwa (the ancient Jupiter Ammon) in 1898, I was able to define the frontier which is tacitly recognised by the Egyptian Government and the local Senussi sheikhs, respectively. Starting from a point located at half-a-day's journey, or ten miles, to the west of Siwa town, the frontier extends northwards (roughly speaking, along the twenty-fifth meridian) to the Gulf of Solum, leaving the port of Jerjub in Egyptian territory and Jerabub in the vilayet of Tripoli. The caravan-road from Siwa to Jerjub, which Siwans (Siwasa) regard as their natural port, would necessarily remain in Egyptian territory; but Jerabub—the Mecca of the Senussi-would lie outside the sphere of influence of Egypt, whose authority, for 200 miles to the west of the Nile Delta, was represented, until quite recently, chiefly by the Coast Guard service, the oasis of Siwa being attached to the mudiría of Damanhur.
These dry details are an essential premiss to my argument. It is important to realise, at the outset, that, south of the oasis of Siwa, one enters the heart of the Libyan Desert, which renders almost impregnable the oases of Kufra, from whence, at the present day, the temporal power of the Senussi is said to be exercised. This region of the Sahara, in which desert conditions are more pronounced than in any other part of the world, although left, in principle, within the Anglo-Egyptian sphere of influence, has no natural boundaries. But, although its physical limits are undefined, its conventional boundaries are politically recognised. Tripoli and Cyrenaica in the north, Fezzan in the west, the ancient boundary (Firman, 1841) in the east, the highlands between Tibesti and Ennedi, and the open desert in the south-these may be said to delimit the Libyan Desert on all sides, from the political point of view. The principal Senussi settlements in the borderlands of the Libyan Desert (apart from Kufra and Cyrenaica) are Aujila (where the Mojabra slave-traders of Jalo are their copartners), Fezzan, Tibesti, Borku, Wanyanga, and Ennedi. Their domination over Kanem and Wadai wa's overthrown by France, and after the fall of Abeshr the heads of the confraternity
Turkey, by agreement with the Egyptian Government, has withdrawn ('provisionally ') her small garrison from the fort at Solum, which was occupied last December by 50 men of the Egyptian army under a British officer. In regard to this action, an official statement was made by our Foreign Office, in which the following passage occurs : ‘The Turkish Government was informed as long ago as November 1904 that the line of the Egyptian western frontier ran up to and included Solum, and this was also communicated to the Italian Government. The present movement of Egyptian troops is merely due to the decision which has been come to recently by the Egyptian authorities to establish a frontier post at Solum within their own boundary,'
removed to Borku and Kufra-perhaps the least accessible regions of Africa. There is now an unconfirmed report of their return to Jerabub.
Any European Power attempting to occupy Tripoli (I stated in 1899, in The Expansion of Egypt, p. 396) would inevitably find itself in opposition to the Senussi, whose base of communications is now established at Benghazi. Should any attempt be made to cut off their supplies of arms and ammunition, which freely enter at this port, under the averted eyes of Turkish officials, such an attempt would be in itself sufficient to rouse the Senussi to revolt, the consequences of which would injuriously affect every State holding territory in North Africa.
And I went on to say :
It would be in the highest degree unwise, on the part of Italy or of France, to take any steps to change the status quo in Tripoli, which, anomalous as it may be, is fraught with serious issues to Egypt. The settlement of Tripoli involves the solution of the Senussi Question, which at present is dormant, though big with fate. To that opinion I adhere, and for the reasons to be set forth. For, although since these words were written the power
3 By kind permission of the Royal Geographical Society.
of the Senussi has been broken up to some extent by the French in Wadai and Kanem, it has been enhanced to an even greater extent by their present co-operation (of which there is no longer any doubt) with the Ottoman Government-an alliance which would have been impossible in the lifetime of the late Mahdi, and which none could have foretold who believed in the unchanging intolerance of 'the way of the Senussi.' To what may this adjustment of policy be ascribed?
In the main, it may be ascribed to the logic of events. The policy of the Senussi is essentially pacific and self-accommodating : so long as it was controlled by the modus vivendi with the Ottoman administration of Tripoli, points of divergence were readily adjustable. Senussi el-Mahdi recognised the temporal authority of the Sultan of Turkey because the principles and politics of the Senussi were respected by him; the Senussi representative at Constantinople was among the most trusted advisers of the ex-Sultan. The Senussi claim that they are neither reformers nor innovators : they wish to expunge all idea of revolution from their doctrine. They profess to preach the 'primitive contract,' or original teaching, of the Korán, free from all heresies but developed by the various mystic orders of the orthodox rites. They therefore revert to the Korán as first expounded, and recognise the authority of the Sonna (or collection of traditional sayings of the Prophet), affirming the necessity of the Imamat (panIslamic theocracy) and the excellence of a contemplative and devout life. But in practice, as in theory, their doctrine-reinforced by their policy of conquest by colonisation-inclines to accommodate itself to circumstances. Now it is, what we would call, Lutheran; now Puritan; and again, particularly in its political propaganda, wholly Jesuitical. Its most vital characteristic is, however, its capacity for assimilation. Thus, the Senussi claim the support of no fewer than forty (or, as some authorities would hold, sixty-four) groups-religious orders, or branches of these-more or less allied to the Shadli school of philosophy, which embraces the majority of the Moslem orders. Amalgamation is undoubtedly aimed at, and is, in truth, progressing rapidly : because wherever the Senussi settle, there they eventually rule. That is the cardinal fact and political significance of the Senussi. Latitudinarianism constitutes the greatest cohesive force in their propaganda.
The 'way of the Senussi' embodies a triple protest : (i) against concessions made to Western civilisation, (ii) against innovations--the result of what we would call progress-in Eastern countries, and (iii) against all fresh attempts made to extend Western or European influence in countries still preserved by ' the divine grace.' All good Moslems are enjoined to expatriate