Egyptian Elections: Confirming Loring’s 1884 Assessment?

William Wing Loring (1818-1886) was a an American soldier, lawyer, and Florida State Representative.  His career as a professional soldier included service in the armies of the United States, the Confederacy, and Egypt.

Loring fought in the Mexican War during which he received two brevets for valor, one to lieutenant colonel, and another to colonel. A native Southerner, from Wilmington, North Carolina, Loring resigned from the U.S. Army on May 13, 1861, to fight with the Confederacy, telling his fellow officers, “The South is my home, and I am going to throw up my commission and shall join the Southern Army, and each of you can do as you think best.

Following the Confederate defeat in the Civil War, Loring served for nine years in the army of Ismail Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. He thus joined some fifty Union and Confederate veterans who had been recommended to the Khedive by General William Tecumseh Sherman.

The April, 1884 Preface to Lorings’ memoir, “A Confederate Soldier in Egypt”, notes that his

… acquaintance of more than a quarter century with Eastern lands and peoples, and ten years passed in high command in Egypt itself, with unlimited opportunities for study and observation in every direction, may perhaps justify the writer in hoping that the results here presented may not be unwelcome to the general reader.

From Loring’s uniquely informed perspective, the 1884 Preface adds, he,

…endeavored to give in succinct outline such features of Egypt’s history, political, religious, and social, as was deemed necessary to complete understanding of the drama now being enacted on her soil.

Ignaz Goldziher, the pre-eminent late 19th and early 20th century Islamologist, and one of the greatest scholars of Islam the West ever produced, placed the phenomena Loring observed and described into a broader context reflecting global trends in Islamdom, circa 1882:

In recent times the Muhammadan world has been excited by a powerful idea. This is the idea of Panislamism. The spiritual fusion of politically disarrayed Islam into a great unity. The external form of this unity is the institution of the indivisible Caliphate, which is the oldest political structure of Islam…With regard to Islam, the unification of Muhammadan powers, and the awakening of the awareness of their unity and solidarity under a common authority is seen as the sole remedy against the dangers lurking in the womb of the future. And this unification is only conceived under the flag of the united Caliphate of Islam…[T]he idea of Panislamism is a militant idea in their [Muslim] eyes, as it was a militant idea at the time of the birth of young Islam. This idea now reigns over Muhammadan public opinion, in some places with such power that the representatives of European governments now complain of it.

But it was Loring’s unapologetic 1884 observations of Egypt’s deep-seated Islamic irredentism which, sadly, appears to have persisted into the present, as reflected by the vox populi ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood during the country’s first series of open, democratic political elections, both Parliamentary, and now, Presidential.

The precepts of the Koran form his [i.e., a Muslim’s] character and shape his destiny. It penetrates every detail of his daily life, and rules even his most intimate domestic relations. It makes the yoke of the most crushing despotism the will of God. Even trades and professions are under  its control. It is primarily responsible for the degradation of woman to the position of a toy and a slave. Everywhere in Egypt and the Turkish possessions the harem is filled with women, the property of one man who controls it…Reforms may be attempted, and partial and temporary success attend the efforts; but there can never be any lasting advance in education, morals, or government without a radical change in the religion of the East. Slavery in the household is the same today it has been for centuries…The Egyptian race will continue to languish under the heel of..Islam until some Arab Luther shall arise to strike off their fetters…They ..entrench themselves in their besotted ignorance against every form of progress as something contrary to Allah’s command. Their daily prayer is, “O God, assist the forces of the Muslims…O God, frustrate the infidels and polytheists, thine enemies, the enemies of thy religion. O God, invest their banners and ruin their habitations, and give them and their wealth as booty to the Muslims!” In their daily lesson to their children [Note: confirming the slightly earlier 19th century description of this prayer in E.W. Lane’s “An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians,” and contemporary Egyptian children’s textbook analyses] they teach them to say, “O God, destroy the infidel and the polytheist, thine enemies, the enemies of thy religion. O God, make their children orphans, and defile their abodes, and cause their feet to slip, and give them and their families and their household and their women, their children and their relations by marriage, and their brothers and their friends, and their possessions and their wealth, and their race and their lands, as booty to the Moslems, O Lord of the beings of the whole wolrd.” It is no wonder that these people are ignorant and superstitious, and are carried away by the pride of religion, when the same barbarous lesson is taught that led their ancestors to rapine and plunder, and is the doctrine implanted in the mind of the present generation.



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