The total victory of the Islamist doctrine in Algeria
In light of the results of the last legislative elections (if those results are to be believed of course), how can I say that the Islamists and Islamism have won in Algeria? After all, the Islamist coalition and Islamist-leaning lists came in third and fourth position. Am I delusional? And the answer is no; I am far from any delusion or craziness. What do I mean by this total victory of Islamism then? I mean that the Islamist thinking and doctrine have permeated and dominated all the circles of power, the official and unofficial opposition, and the society in Algeria. At every level of the Algerian society, the Islamist doctrine has prevailed with the support and the complicity of all state apparatuses.
Since the end of the civil war (or the military defeat of the most virulent terrorist groups), we have seen a resurgence of the Islamist doctrine in almost every city, every village, and at every level with the complicity and the tacit support of the Algerian state. We have seen women beaten and lynched by mobs of fanatics because they allegedly engaged in prostitution. We have seen homosexuals murdered in the most atrocious manners and their murderers were never brought up to justice. We have seen kids of primary school age kicked out of schools and sent back home because they did not know how to pray properly. We have seen women attacked in the middle of the day before everyone and in the presence of the police (or gendarmerie) because they were not wearing al-hijab. We have seen prosecutors bring charges against men or women who allegedly broke the fast during the month of Ramadan. We have seen judges sentencing men or women to prison time for breaking the fast. We have seen judges forcing rape victims to marry their rapists. We have seen legislators pushing laws banning and criminalizing religious conversions. We have seen mobs burning to the ground restaurants and brasseries. We have seen male doctors beaten to death in the emergency rooms just because they did their job. We have seen pregnant women dying during labor because the husband(s) refused the medical assistance of male doctors. We have seen first and second year male medical students banning their colleague female medical students from lecture halls during lectures on the anatomy of the reproductive systems. We have seen judges dismissing domestic abuse and domestic violence charges and cases under the pretext that it is legal in the Islamic jurisprudence that husbands may discipline their spouses. We have seen religious marriages of underage girls. We have seen virginity certificates become the most lucrative activity for obstetricians and gynaecologists. We have seen legally issued marriage certificates nullify by judges because the brides failed to provide virginity certificates. And so on and so forth.
I could be accused of cheery picking data or using anecdotal examples, but I am compelled to do so not by malevolence, but because of the paucity and the scarcity of hard data in Algeria. However, what is important is not the prevalence or the reliability or even the validity of these examples–which they are–but how all these crimes and this mob justice were conducted with the blessing of the legal system, and the tacit agreement and participation of law enforcement officials. When a friend of mine told me that his 9-year-old kid was kicked out of school and sent back home after he was berated by his teacher before his classmates because he didn’t how to pray properly, my first question was: was the teacher fired or disciplined by the school superintendent? Not only was this teacher not fired, but he benefited also from the support of his superintendent and of the city school board (in French it is known as: l’inspecteur de l’academie).
What we see here is that the Islamist doctrine has prevailed in the society, and has been supported by all state apparatuses. State officials and regulators, national legislators, city officials, courts, police and gendarmerie all have either tacitly supported these crimes or actively and legally backed them. Islamism in Algeria has become so powerfully rooted at every level that the president or the prime minister (as well as all cabinet members) engage in a 5 minute (and sometimes 10 minutes in the case of Belkhademe) prayer before every speech. It is no longer enough to just say “Salamou Alikoum” and then get started. Our state officials willingly engage in these long religious openings that we are left wondering whether the speech is of a political or a religious nature.
In sum, the Islamist doctrine dominates the power structures and the state, dominates the legal and lawful opposition, dominates the illegal and unlawful opposition, and dominates all the layers of our civil society and societal life. The difference between these different circles of domination is the level and magnitude of radicalization. We have the so-called moderate Islamists in the state and the opposition (moderates as in not engaged in armed struggle anymore), radical Islamists in the unlawful opposition, and then the radical proselytizers in the civil society and the society as a whole. I believe that this phenomenon is unique to the Algerian case. Even in Saudi Arabia—a fully-fledged Islamist state—we do not see this level of penetration of Islamism at every level of the country.
This is very worrisome on so many levels…