The Association of Algerian Muslim Ulema on Monday rejected French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent claims that the Ottoman presence in Algeria amounted to colonization.
"The Ottomans who came to Algeria did not come as colonial occupiers, rather (they came) at the invitation of the Algerians … to help them defeat the Spanish Crusader aggression," Abdul-Razzaq Qassoum, the association’s chairman, said in a column by the Al-Basair newspaper. The newspaper is affiliated with the association.
Tensions have escalated between France and Algeria over remarks made by Macron on the North African country’s colonial past.
In a bid to palliate its atrocious colonial past, Macron claimed that “there was a colonization before the French colonial rule” in Algeria, alluding to the Ottoman presence in the country between 1514 and 1830.
According to Qassoum, the Ottomans, unlike France, did not kill Algerians, destroy their land or plunder their wealth.
Algerians “possessed a lot of wealth (under the Ottomans),” the Algerian scholar said.
He also noted that the Ottomans neither imposed their language on Algerians nor fought their beliefs.
“They (Ottomans) did not fight our belief, not even our Madhhab (Islamic school of law)."
On the contrary, Qassoum said the French colonial forces brought “tragedy” to Algeria and “misery” to its people.
Macron’s remarks in late September that the Algerian nation did not exist before the French colonial rule and that another colonization preceded his country’s sparked a storm of condemnations in Algeria.
Algerian President Abdelmedjid Tebboune condemned Macron’s remarks as an “unacceptable insult” to the martyrs, recalled his country’s Ambassador to France Antar Daoud for consultations, and closed airspace to French military aircraft used by the latter in its anti-terror operations in the Sahel.
In a televised interview on Sunday, Tebboune narrated an official account of the French massacre of nearly 4,000 worshippers during the 1830-1962 colonial era.
The worshippers were killed as they staged a sit-in inside an Ottoman Mosque called Ketchaoua in an effort to stop it from being converted into a church.
Algeria represents the most recent and bloodiest example of France's colonial history on the African continent.
Approximately 1.5 million Algerians were killed and millions more displaced in an eight-year struggle for independence that started in 1954.
France has also committed cultural genocide against Algeria since 1830, destroying Algeria’s 300-year-old Ottoman history and its own local identity, and also transforming many cultural and religious monuments in the country.
Paris has never officially apologized to Algeria as a state for its colonial policies.