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Topic

Compilation year

Releaseyear

Summary

Anglo-Muslim Society

1958

1989

Including efforts to influence Muslim opinion in WWII & measures to influence Saudi Arabia


Several files entitled ' Proposed Moslem Institute in London'

- Mr Ibrahim Mougy approached Foreign Office with proposal and hope that it would receive 'blessing of HMG' - Mr Mougy lived for many years in Britain and 'hopes soon to be naturalised British subject':

* Work: translated 'Authentic Traditions of Mahomet' into English on behalf of Al Azhar University in Cairo.
* Recently acting as secretary to Yemeni Prince (Seif-ul-Islam). Appealed to Government by referring to acts by other governments: French gave plot of land for 'Institut Musulman de Paris'; Italy - Oriental Institute in Rome; Germany - and even in Spain Institute of a similar kind. Justifies approach to government: fact that Britain Empire 'comprise the greatest number of Muslims of any Empire in the world and Britain's relations with the Independent Muslim countries is close and important'
* History of the project: attempted several years ago to pursue this plan however Indian political nationalist pushing their own agenda- Mougy withdrew from project. Hence his aims were in no way political. Simply religious and cultural, mentions the Woking mosque and critical because it is in the control of the Ahmedis.
- Foreign Office reply - first define plan more carefully, i.e., who are the sponsors from the Muslim world?...also suggested Mougy approach the India Office as largest Muslim population = Indian Muslims FO views of Mougy:
'At best he is a somewhat irresponsible adventurer, and at worst, he may easily let down rather badly any enterprise with the conduct of which he may be entrusted'. (Ref. 206)

+ File on 'Proposed Anglo-Moslem Society'- proposed later on in the same year (November):

- Mr M. Yehia proposed this society with 'warm support' from Dr Hafez Afifi Pasha, Mr Eden was 'favourable' to the idea...
'Nashat Pasha, on the other hand, the present Egyptian ambassador is hostile, and according to Mr Yehia, told him that he did not want any more 'shackles' between England and Egypt, as the ultimate goal of the latter was independence. Nashat Pasha said, however, that he would co-operate if he received instructions from Cairo to do so.'

+ Lays out proposals, some suggestion of a political role, especially re: relations between Britain and Egypt ('to keep in constant touch with the Egyptians and understand the Egyptian point of view, to endeavour to settle disputes arising out of the application of the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance'

+ Several files titled 'Measures which might influence those minor powers and Arab States whose assistance or benevolent neutrality might be of value to HMG during the war' (ref. No 280) Prepared by Middle East, India Office and other departments

' The importance of these territories to Britain in time of war lies in their situation on the air route to India and in the significance as actual or potential sources for the supply of oil.'
' They are politically backward.... their subjects are not sensitive to the currency of Pan-Arab politics; it is significant that they have shown little actual interest in the cause of the Palestinian Arabs...their attitude in time of war would depend on the prestige enjoyed by Great Britain. Prestige, manifested particularly in the form of naval supremacy, has for over a century been the basis of British influence among the minor Arab states of the Gulf...and {thus} the point of cardinal importance is the maintenance of British prestige and the avoidance as far as may be possible of any means that would impair it in the eyes of the rulers or their subjects.'

(India Office document dated 4th May 1938)
- 'Principal methods in Influencing Minor States' (ref. 291):
'1. Cash gifts and subsidiaries to sheikhs
2. The influence of His Highness the Amir
3. Prompt action against agitators
4. A favourable press
5. Control of WWII propaganda'

'Most of the tribal sheikhs are open to persuasion if accompanied by a douceur in cash. Moreover the sum required are trivial, compared to the experience of a war.'

+ Timing: British particularly anxious that the sheikhs be prevented from rousing unrest over the Palestine issue and therefore follow Amirs suggestion:

'The influence exerted by His Highness on the inhabitants of the Transjordan is much greater than is often believed by his detractors...Every effort should therefore be made to secure the support and wholehearted co-operation of His Highness' = extract from a note on 'Reactions in Transjordan in the event of a European war', 23rd October 1935.
- ' Both the British Resident and Major Glub are of the opinion that the subsidising of tribal sheikhs if proving efficacious and His Highness the Amir also attaches a very great importance to this method' (ref. no 293-5 from High Commissioner for Transjordan, Arthur Wauchope, 31st August 1936)
- on ref. no 294 there is a list of disbursements which were sanctioned by British government in order 'to influential persons with the object of preventing the spread of the Palestine disorders'. List of people who were bribed includes 'sheikhs, notables, agents in Palestine, Religious Personnel in Palestine and Palestinian and Syrian Press'.
- Analysis of the strategic importance of the Islamic Middle Eastern countries to Britain - Turkey is highest on the list and Persia is lowest (ref. 500-505)

Summary on Ref. 505: Noting the lack of real unity, political and economic divisions within this region:
' All these territories are permeated by an intense spirit of nationalism, the placation of which is essential to include in any measure undertaken...They are all, with the possible exception of Iran, bound racially and linguistically and the predominating religion is Islam. Measures taken in one country are therefore likely to react on the others. This suggests that certain measures of a general nature should be applied in addition to those particularly applied to individual States. Suspicion of Western nations in general is rife and requires circumspection in the methods of approach.
A pronounced characteristic is the tendency to "sit on the fence"in the first instance even in situations involving their own friends, and to waste time in fruitless discussions before deciding on action. In many of the States the personality of the British representative is still a big factor in determining the attitudes of the Ruler. Personal rivalries and intrigue play a big part in their politics and offers scope for influencing the Rulers. Money is an even more potent weapon than is the case elsewhere.'

+ 'Measures to influence Saudi Arabia' - ref. no 555 from the British legation in Saudi Arabia written by R.W.Bullard:

'On more than one occasion I have compared the position of Ibn Saud, in the case of war, with that of the Ottoman Empire in 1914: our enemies could promise him all he wants, without cost to themselves'
Examination on what 'promises the British government should make him': 'The experience of the Great War suggests, I think, that what neutrals really like best is to be able to pursue their normal affairs with the least political interference from belligerents...Ibn Saud would be glad if three forms of activity in his country could continue with the minimum of hindrance, viz. the pilgrimage, the development of Hasa oil field, and the reorganisation of the Saudi army...

The pilgrimage. The king is interested on religious as well as financial grounds. Moreover a numerous pilgrimage offers political advantage to Saudi Arabia in that what the pilgrims spend in addition to the Government dues help to keep the Hejaz quiet. We ought to do our best to keep the pilgrimage up to paying level by seeing that lack of shipping shall not prevent any pilgrim from exerting their pious intention'.

Thus the Government decides to 'Pay Saud a subsidy which might have to be as large as the subsidy that Sharif Husain received during the Great War, keep the pilgrimage running as far as possible, set aside a sum...of 25,000 pounds to be used if opportunity offers, to influence one or two of the leading officials in our favour'

PRO File: F0 371 21837  















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