Orientalist knowledge or colonial intelligence? Alois Musil, a Czech Arabist, discovered the Arab world

Moselle – while in hiding – was able to draw military maps with extreme accuracy in Palestine, Jordan, and the Arab desert region of parts of the Arab world with an area of ​​62,000 square kilometers.

Prague – Czech Professor Alois Mosel (1868 – 1944) was not an ordinary Arabist and traveler like those who toured the Arab world. He combined extensive scientific experience and close knowledge of tribesmen to the point of calling him “Sheikh Musa” in addition to working to serve the interests of his country; His star shined among the Western rulers to be a scientific reference that drew the features of the Levant region and the Arabian Peninsula geographically, historically and militarily, in a professional documentary style, after he was able to speak 17 Arabic dialects in addition to the fluency of classical.

In the National Library in the capital, Prague, the official in charge of the archives department presented some rare documents to Al-Jazeera Net, including one of the pictures of the Arabist Moselle a year before his death, in the Vyshkova region of Moravia, eastern Czech, where he was born in 1868, and also died in 1944.

Some documents speak of him reaching the rank of priest at the age of 23, and the rank of professor at the Faculty of Religious Sciences at the Czech University of Olomouc in 1902, while another document shows that he made multiple trips between 1886 and 1915 to Palestine and the northern Arabian Gulf, with official assistance from the Austrian authorities that It was ruled in the name of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (1867-1918).

The great Arabist

It is also remarkable among the documents – which Czech historians, such as Jana Mozlova, wrote about – the focus of Musil’s efforts in the years of World War I (1914-1918) on strengthening commercial and political ties and relations with the Arab world, where he established the Balkans and Orientalism Department, which was known as “The Balkans and Orientalism Department” The Austrian Orient and Overseas Foundation”.

With the rise of Kaiser Karl I, Moselle rose to the highest levels to become a highly influential figure in the court of the Habsburgs (also called the House of Austria, which they had ruled for centuries), and in 1917 Moselle was sent by the Kaiser to the regions of the Ottoman Empire on a political mission, who was among the Its objectives are to enhance the chances of the Austrian tsarist regime’s economic entry into the Middle East.

Alois Musil traveled extensively throughout the Arab world (networking sites)

This policy was an ambition from the tsar to extract a position in the Ottoman Empire by defending the rights of the Catholic Church, instead of France, which was in control there at the time.

Arabist Lubusz Krupacek – formerly a professor of Islamic sciences at the famous Karl University in Prague – says that during his research and documentation of Alois Musil, he found that he was a great Arabist with a scientific reputation and a high-level expert on the political situation in the Middle East.

“With the end of World War I 1918, the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic and the receipt of Thomas Masaryk, Mosel left Vienna for Prague and became very close to Thomas Masaryk – the first president of Czechoslovakia – relying on his services to the new state to strengthen relations between Czechoslovakia and the Arab world.”

The National Library in Prague (the island)

‘A smart client’

Krupacek adds – in an interview with Al-Jazeera Net – that it is no secret that Moselle was a very intelligent agent in providing the most accurate details about the Arab world, which Caesar and Masaryk, who presented him to the political elite in New York, benefited from, to study and document his books as a global reference in determining and understanding the identity of the Arab world.

With regard to an aspect of the life of the Arabist Musil in the Arab countries, especially among the tribes, the head of the Paradise Islamic Center in the capital Prague, Badr Al-Shamri – who is the son of the Al-Shammari tribe in the north of the Arabian Peninsula about which Musil wrote a book – says that no one can deny the cultural and historical value that he The Czech orientalist Alois Musil presented it to the smallest details in the life of the tribal society in northern Arabia.

Al-Shammari adds – to Al-Jazeera Net – that Musil was very smartly able to market the reports he recorded during his life among the tribes – such as Rolla, Shammar and Al-Huwaitat – that lasted there for 6 continuous years, taking advantage of some of their noble qualities, such as generosity and guest celebration.

However, the side and the intelligence role he played and benefited from the armed Zionist militias at that stage, and that would not have happened had it not been for his closeness to the princes of some tribes, who formed an incubator of men, equipment and horses in locations not far from Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa Mosque.

For example, Mosel – while in hiding – was able to draw military maps with extreme accuracy in Palestine, Jordan, and the Arab desert region of parts of the Arab world, with an area of ​​62,000 square kilometers, warning of its economic importance, and that map was published by the Austrian Military Survey Institute in 1906 , in addition to publishing a detailed study on the historical monuments of Jordan through his accompaniment to the Rolla tribe, which named him Sheikh “Musa Al-Ruwaili”.

Al-Shammari pointed out that Mosel – with his intelligence – followed the methodology of the research, focusing on fact-finding, writing down the smallest details and adopting research comprehensiveness, commenting with an accurate explanation of what he transmitted and explored in the field, to give a scientific character to research and study.

It is worth noting that Thomas Masaryk, who assumed power in the new state – at that time Czechoslovakia – in 1918 – had visited Palestine under the British Mandate in 1927, and there blessed the Jews immigrating from Czechoslovakia to Palestine by establishing the first kibbutz (an agricultural and military settlement) in Palestine at the time and was known as “” Beit Alfa” on the slopes of the Gilboa Mountains, and was one of the strongest supporters of the Zionist movement.

colonial transformations

In his study of the work of the Czech traveller, the academic at King Saud University, researcher Saeed Al-Saeed, wrote that the scientific formation of Mosel – who studied the Old Testament and theology at Almitz University and obtained a doctorate from it in 1895 – is what made him leave for the Levant, but there are transformations that occurred in his interests and goals of his frequent trips. To the Arab region, as he wrote in his memoirs, “My interests at present focus on the study of the living rather than the study of the dead.”

As for the second shift in Alois’ interests – according to the academic paper at Ibn Saud University – it coincided with the European countries’ interest in extending their influence and expansionist policies in the Arab region, as Mossel invested his trips to serve the interests of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and its aspirations to achieve its colonial purposes in the Arab region, and in the meantime, He noticed that gaining the region would not be achieved for his country through military power, but through the establishment of economic projects, which prompted him to focus later on the economic aspects, according to the working paper delivered at a symposium on Moselle at Charles University in Prague in 2008.

During his efforts with the rival tribesmen of the Arabian Peninsula, Mosel was able to consolidate his country’s interests in the Arab region at the time of the First (European) World War, and took advantage of his strong friendship with the Austrian Kaiser and his influence in the institutions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, making culture and economy two main axes to consolidate his state’s influence in The Middle East, and for that he revived what was called the “East and Overseas Company” at the time, and supported it by the Austrian Kaiser with two million and 100 crowns as the first Karis, despite the difficulties that the Austrian treasury was experiencing at the time.

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