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Arabi Pasha

This personage, with whom, as the ambitious representative of a powerful native faction in Egypt, Great Britain is now at war, suddenly emerged from obscurity in September last. He then appeared at the head of a military and popular revolt, compelling the Prince Khedive, Tewfik Pasha, to dismiss his former Ministry, and to convene a sort of Parliament, called the Assembly of Notables, which met about the beginning of the present year. Ahmed Arabi Bey, to speak of him by the rank and style he then held, was simply a Colonel in the Army, but his character and position were respectable; he has, indeed, never been accused of personal or official dishonesty, and, however misguided in his conduct as an Egyptian politician, seems to have enjoyed the esteem of his fellow-countrymen. He was born at or near the important town of Damanhour, thirty or forty miles from Alexandria, and belongs to the native Egyptian race, that which constitutes the bulk of the peasant population, or Fellaheen; his name, more properly written "Ourabi," has nothing to do with an Arab lineage. He appears to have received a purely Musselman education, and to have little knowledge of Europe, understanding no foreign language; but he is a devout and zealous professor of the religion of Islam, and inherits from his ancestors the title of " Syed," which implies a certain claim to orthodox consideration. The affair of Sept. 8, much resembling a pronunciamento of the type familiar in Spanish history under Queen Isabella II., resulted in the overthrow of Riaz Pasha's Administration, which was unpopular because it was supposed to be too deferential to certain foreign interests. Sherif Pasha, who was thereupon appointed Prime Minister, pledged the Khedive to establish a Parliamentary Government. A manifesto was issued by "the National Party," as Arabi and his supporters call themselves, on Dec. 18, containing an exposition of their views and purposes. They profess loyalty to the Sultan, both as Imperial Suzerain and as Caliph of the Mussulman community, but will never suffer Egypt to be reduced to a Turkish Pashalic, and they claim the guarantee of England and of Europe for the administrative independence of Egypt. They also profess loyalty to the Khedive, but will not acquiesce in a despotic rule, and insist upon his promise to govern by the advice of a Representative Assembly. They accept the obligation of the Egyptian public debt, as a, matter of national honour, although it was incurred for the private ends of a selfish and dishonest ruler, the late Khedive Ismail Pasha, without the consent of the nation. The Financial Control, for the security of the foreign bondholders, is recognised as a temporary necessity, but the Egyptians hope gradually to redeem their country from its subjection to the European creditors, and to enjoy the management of their own affairs. They complain of the intrusion of foreigners (mostly Frenchmen) into 1345 Government offices, with an aggregate of salaries amounting to not less than 370,000 a year. The exemption of European residents in Egypt from certain taxes, and from the ordinary jurisdiction of the Egyptian Civil Courts, is also mentioned as a grievance. The Army, in the opinion of Arabi, should be raised to its full complement of 18,000 men, as allowed by the firman of the Porte in 1841, the extended dominion in the Soudan being taken into consideration. Finally, the National Party declares its sincere regard for the principles of religious liberty, and the civil and legal equality of Mussulman, Coptic Christian, Jewish and other native Egyptians. Such principles are approved by the Sheikhs of the Azhar, the great Mussulman University at Cairo. At the beginning of the present year the Khedive and Sherif Pasha, according to promise, called together the Assembly of Notables—that is to say, of "Omde," elected for each district by the village mayors, "sheikh-el-beled," who are men of wealth holding an hereditary municipal office. Arabi was then appointed Under-Secretary of State for the War Department, and was raised to the rank of Pasha. The Assembly of Notables wanted to vote the Budget. It was refused by the Khedive's Government, on account of the Financial Controllers. Hence the Egyptian Crisis of this day; but Arabi Pasha's insubordinate behaviour has been infamous, from first to last. He is not the less a rebel and a traitor, though both the Khedive and the Sultan condoned his offences. It was most needful that, in May last, he should be summarily sent into exile; but he refused to go; and now the British Fleet and Army will enforce the decree for his expulsion

Source: The Illustrated London News, No.2255—Vol. LXXXI, Saturday, July 22, 1882, p.81