Marseille's Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations communly called the Mucem is hosting a special exhibition on Algerian national icon Emir Abdelkader. Seen as a national hero by algerians, the religious and military leader is not well known if France. Whereas in his country he notably stands as a resistant against french occupation, the founder of the first Algerian state and a humanist.
"The Emir Abdelkader, who was not just an emir, is a character who crosses the history of the 19th century. He is at the same time a young nobleman, pious, religious, who is destined for a life of erudition, of spirituality. He becomes, by way of fact, with the arrival of France in 1830, the leader of the resistance, the fighting leader. He really takes the head of a group of confederation of tribes but has to lay down his arms in 1847. He finds himself, imprisoned in France and then exiled to the East.", describes Camille Faucourt, curator at the Mucem.
With this exhibition, the curators wish to bring together Algeria and France's history. They even admit their ambition to set it up this event in one of the museums of the North African country.
Emir Abdelkader based his authority on the Sharia, the Islamic law, but was admired for keeping a dialogue with other religions. And in 1860, he is said to have saved in Damascus over a thousand Christians from deadly riots. This act earned him international recognition, including the Legion of Honor, the highest French honorary decoration.
"Some consider him to be part of those reformers of Islam, the whole reform movement that appeared in the 19th century, and Abdelkader is often associated with that movement. He is really a man who, while being deeply rooted in his Muslim faith, but also in a Sufi current, therefore mystical, opens his heart to all human beings. He is a man of brotherhood, he is very modern from that point of view.", says Christian Delorme, scientific advisor, priest of the diocese of Lyon in France.
The exhibition is taking place as Algeria is celebrating this year, its 60th anniversary of independance from France, it will be running until August, 22.