Algerie: La victoire totale de la doctrine islamiste en Algérie

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…

How did we get here you may ask? Well, this is a long conversation, but you might find the first sketches of a possible answer or cause in my precious posts here and here and here

  1. grati
    November 21, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    You have a nice site over here. I just wanna thank you for all the interesting stuff on it. I’ll follow your site if you keep up the good work!

  2. Cayl, Batna
    October 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Very interesting blog, keep it up laseptiemewilaya and algerianna, you are some rare openminded thinking heads, God bless u.
    The most prominent point you mentioned was the involvement of judicious authority in applying the blinded vision of the society to religion.
    So, apart from sucking up to the majority of the population (specially the practicing elders), the justice upholds a blatantly macho attitude witch reflects the nature of man WHO abused the “one degree” that Allah granted him over women.
    It saddens me that it’s almost mandatory to get a virginity certificate to get married the first time.
    Saddens me that a raper gets only one year of prison, that if he doesn’t marry the victim (to protect her!!!!!!!), cuz now she’s worth nothing now that the father can’t put her up for auction ( and they say the westerns treat women like objects).
    It saddens me that a child molester gets away with an injunction (because in the religion that’s a taboo), while the possessor of a tiny gram of canabbis does three years (because the scholars curse the weed smoker from sunrise to sunset).
    I could go on and on but the hypocrisy of the legal system in Algeria is endless…
    Been nice to let it all out, take care. and don’t worry you ain’t going to hell 😉

  3. May 17, 2012 at 11:43 am

    The issue I’ve taken is with your affirmation that the situation is particular to Algeria when in fact it is almost identical in all Arabo-Muslim countries (even though there are parallels to draw with Pakistan and Afghanistan and even Iran).
    I don’t think there is a difference between Islam and ‘political Islam’, you can only make that distinction if you use a non-Islamic analytical framework. And I think in a sense, Islam is incompatible with at least some aspects of modernity. This is not always a bad thing.
    I am not AT ALL sanctioning mob rule. But whenever the State recedes, anarchy sets in, whether the society in question is Muslim or Buddhist. And again, whatever the cultural particularities, minorities and the weakest pay the price. This is a ‘natural’ process.

    I may have missed the point of your post, but it is clear that you are advocating a less worrisome alternative to what you describe as ‘islamist doctrine’ which the anecdotes you give lead to understand that it is about mob rule etc. Algeria has suffered an unimaginable degree of violence at the hand of fanatics (whether from the ‘Islamist’ side or the ‘secularist’ side). To me, the problem of which you speak cannot be reduced to the total victory of ‘islamist doctrine’ in Algerian society. Let us at least acknowledge that almost all attempts to change the dismal situation in the Muslim world have originated from various groups of ‘Islamist doctrine’.

    I may be wrong of course, but as you say we can agree to disagree.

    • May 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      I wouldn’t say that it is identical to all arab/muslim countries. This situation is not prevalent in Tunisia or Egypt or Jordan. In these 3 countries, you have Islamist political movements, and some of them are stronger than others. However, in the society, these movements don’t have total control over every aspect of the society. Moreover, like in Tunisia, the islamist movement of the Nahda doesn’t want to have total control over every aspect of the society. The circles of powers (especially, the judicial branch) is immune from their influence. In our case, it is the opposite. They are in power, in the legal and lawful opposition, in the unlawful opposition, and in the society, and all of this influence has completely changed people’s behavior either through intimidation or adhesion to those values. Read the comment of “USMA pour toujours” and you will see that has become almost normal. And since i wrote this blog, people have been emailing me horrible stories and some of them with pictures. I will be posting those emails whenever i get the consent from those folks to post their stories (i might be changing names, locations and dates). All of this thuggish behavior is backed and supported by the state.

      As for anecdotal data, i agree it is anecdotal data. However, i am using anecdotal data because there is no hard data. I give you an example, our law enforcement does not automatically compile or gather data on crime. Some crimes are reported and compile and some others are not. Guess which crimes are not compiled? Rape is not compiled at all, pedophilia is not compiled, sexual harassment is not compiled, domestic violence is not compiled etc. Moreover, our courts do not compile or gather data on lawsuits or rulings (and i am not even talking about desegregating those rulings and lawsuits by categories which every other country does–just look at our next door neighbor Tunisia).

      As for differentiating between Islam and political islam, i would advise you to read Malek Bennabi. He does make the difference and he even refutes the notion of political Islam when the society is totally paralyzed and backward (i wrote and posted on this blog a kind of review of his major work on this topic) and his criticism of Qutb is excellent and one of the most accurate.

      Again, you are using modernity without defining it, which is why you are saying that islam and modernity are incompatible.

      Anyways, good conversation!

      • May 18, 2012 at 9:00 am

        Yes I enjoyed the conversation too. I was looking the other day at a report about police forces around the world (by the UN or some other international organization I don’t remember) and it is true – in Algeria, unlike Tunisia and Morocco, many crimes are not registered in official records. There are hardly any statistics. But this is another issue I think, ‘islamist doctrine’ cannot be blamed for it 😉

        The influence of ‘islamist doctrine’ is impossible to estimate because nobody knows what this ‘islamist doctrine’ is supposed to mean, but I observe that whenever it is used, it is used in a Western frameworks of analysis. The bottom line is Islam is and will always be a major force in all Muslim societies. Islam will also play a role in politics and so political Islam is a redundent term unless we’re advocating a complete exclusion of Islam from politics which is a highly debatable position from an Islamic viewpoint. Political thought in Islam is diverse although it is ture that not all ‘schools’ have the same influence. What defines their influence is the political regime in place and I agree with you here when you say the State backs this situation.

        To me it is the victory of the Police State doctrine which is to deplore in Algeria and not some ambiguous ‘Islamist doctrine’, a term that is mostly used as a scarecrow to validate the incumbent regimes.

        Maybe I will write a post about this in my blog one of these days. Look forward to the post with the stories and emails you received, even though the world is in no need of calamitous stories. Things are bad enough as they are :).

      • May 18, 2012 at 5:35 pm

        I didn’t blame the islamists or islamism on the paucity of data. Our authoritarian state is the sole and unique responsible for that, and for a simple reason, they just don’t want to tell the truth (and we have scarcity of data in every field, even economics). Data lead to descriptive statistics (and causal analyses) which lead to having a better and more accurate picture of the situation and this is the last thing this thuggish regime wants to broadcast.

        I also agree that islamism and its radicalization in Algeria is a direct consequence of 50 years of dictatorship. And the islamization of the society is a dire consequence of an unholy alliance between this regime and the most radical element of this movement. So instead of having a purely political islamist party (or parties) concentrated at bettering the country economically and so forth, we have an amorphous movement whose only venue to exert its influence is the society instead of the exerting that influence on politics. You add to that the civil war and the radicalization that comes with it, and you have a unique situation that is taking place.

        Look forward to reading your post.

        PS: i will not post every story, though some of them are just horrible.

  4. USMA pour Toujours
    May 15, 2012 at 2:10 am

    Je partage ce que tu dis, mais tout a fait même si je n’ai pas tout compris, mais bon google traducteur marche très bien MDR. Les bâtards des islamistes sont partout. Et je te dis une de plus, ils sont allé jusqu’a ordonne au filles du quartier–un quartier du plein centre d’alger–de porter le hijab et celle bien après la décennie noire. Et maintenant, on a les anciens terro qui font la loi. Ils sont intouchables. La police les protège. Ils ont un salaire du gouvernement et ils passent leurs jours à emmerder tout le monde. Et si, par malchance, tu les touches, ils te tuent et ils ramènent tout leur anciens terro et ils tuent tout ta famille. Et je te dis une autre chose, les terro (moi je les appelle les terro pas les islamistes) sont allé a l’école primaire du quartier pour dire au directeur de stopper l’enseignement de la démocratie aux enfants et d’arrêter tout activités durant l’heure de la prière. Ca ces Alger, si tu vas dans les petits patelins et les villages c’est encore plus pire.

    NB: essaye, stp, d’écrire en français.L’anglais c’est bien, mais sa prend du temps MDR

    • May 15, 2012 at 2:23 am

      Merci pour le commentaire et je vous remercie pour votre temoignage. Si vous le souhaitez, vous pouvez m’envoyer un email avec plus de détails sur cette ecole et sur ce groupe d’anciens terroristes et j’ecrirai un bulletin sur cet affaire. Je vous garantis que je garderai votre identite et votre location geographique off the record comme on dit.

      En ce qui concerne d’ecrire en français, je essayerai de faire de mon mieux, meme si je ne vous promets rien 🙂

      • USMA pour toujours
        May 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm

        J’ai eu ton email. Merci, je vais t’envoyer plus d’histoires de ce genre. Il y a plein. Et juste pour te donner un exemple, ma tante, 56 ans, qui vit à ******* toute sa vie et ne portent pas le hijab a été menacé avec un sabre dans son propre quartier devant tout le monde et on lui a ordonne de porter le hijab sinon ils allaint la defigurer avec de l’acide. Quand elle est allée au commissariat de ******* l’inspecteur lui a dit: «pourquoi ne portes tu pas le hijab. A ton âge madame, tu doit avoir honte madame.”

        Et oui khouya, ici c’est Kaboule. Ce n’est plus Alger. Les autres villes c’est carrement, ils sont dans alhakoum etakatoure.

      • May 17, 2012 at 10:35 pm

        Mr. USMA, s’il vous plaît, lorsque vous postez un commentaire la prochaine fois, ne laissez pas les noms des personne, ou leurs adresses. J’ai peur que cela pourrait indiquer ou identifier l’endroit où vous vivez. Donc, j’espère que vous comprenez que je censuré l’addresse et le nom de la personne dont vous parliez dans votre commentaire. Je l’ai fait juste pour protéger son identité et la votre aussi.

  5. Samir Al Djazairi
    May 15, 2012 at 1:55 am

    لعنك الله عليكأ أنت مجدفا زنديق. مكانك في الجحيم

  6. May 14, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I live in Algeria and although it is true that what is referred to as ‘islamism’ is present to various degrees in Algerian society as in all Muslim societies, it is in no way as black and white as affirmed here. I think you speak from an ultra liberal perspective which most Muslims reject. There are a lot of problems true, but liberalism is not the solution. That much I think most Muslims agree on. At least not the sort of liberalism that is campaigned for by the West. The problem is not ‘islamism’, the problem is corruption. It has always been corruption and ill will.

    • May 14, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      Ultra-liberal? Kicking a kid from school because he doesn’t pray properly is ultra-liberal? Beating a doctor in the emergency room because he was doing his job and touched a woman is ultra-liberal? Lynching 3 women in the south and 2 in the west because they were allegedly accused of prostitution is ultra-liberal? Forcing women to have virginity certificate before getting married is ultra-liberal?

      Come on, this is not about being liberal or not (which i am not by the way), but about our society getting a totally perverted understanding of Islam or what’s Islam is about.

      I think you missed the point of the post. Keep reading until the end and you will see that i do hold our government/state responsible for all of this.

      • May 14, 2012 at 7:36 pm

        BTW it’s funny how you put French titles and then write the post in English.
        There have been terrible miscarriges of justice in Algeria, we agree on that. But although in your post you do say that the Algerian State sanctions this, you blame it all on ‘islamist’ ideology. I think this is a sweeping generalization that’s all. Also, Algerian society does not approve of these crimes, you would find various opinions with regards to drinking, homosexuality, fasting, praying….BUT, understandably, the majority do take religion quite seriously indeed, and religion is clear on these issues. Of course there are also traditions and customs too involved and these pose the biggest challenge to reform, alongside the political system.

      • May 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

        Yep, it is funny…because i am too lazy to write the whole thing in french. I used to, and there are some posts that are all in french, but i no longer want to do that.

        Again, this has nothing to do with justice or miscarriage of justice because there is an islamization of the legal system or the state and of the society: women victim of domestic violence, that’s ok because in some twisted religious jurisprudence some idiot Alem said that husbands could beat the shit out of their wive, and that has been incorporated in the legal system and the consequence is that prosecutors do not bring charges and judges dismiss these cases. This goes deeper into the deep fibers of our society. The relationship between people, religion and the state has gotten politicized to an unbelievable level. And that politicization has the stamp of Islamism; of the most radical and backward form of islamism all over it.

        These are not some isolated incidents. I find out that some hospitals in some cities have to have a woman doctor in the ER just in case someone refuses to let his wife get examined by a male doctor. This happens almost on a regular basis. Rape victims forced by judges to marry their rapists, happens all the time, and on and on and on.

        This trend of mob rule and justice and the cozy relationship between hardline religious fanatics in the society and the government and the lawful opposition didn’t exist before, and I remember Algeria since before the independence. I believe this case is almost unique to us, and i considered it a serious problem.

        I might be wrong or i might be right, but the probably of me getting it wrong is as big as the probability of you getting wrong as well.

        Anyways, let’s agree to disagree, that’s ok.

      • May 16, 2012 at 6:03 am

        Nobody can deny that our society has steadily developped an unhealthy relationship with religion, and the political system started encouraging it when it realized it rather serves its interests for continuity. BUT, we shouldn’t overlook also that Islam is a religion which has rules and specificities. I don’t think it is specific to us as it is happening in almost all Arabo-Muslim countries. The question is why? Obviously the politico-economic situation has a huge role, but in my opinion we shouldn’t miss the wood for the trees. What you refer to as ‘islamization’ is a backlash to anarchic modernization of our societies and actually even genuine attempts to ‘modernization’ initiated by various intellectuals throughout the years. It’s all very well to say that people break into bars and demand their closing down, or they force women to veil…etc but why has this happened? It is because now in Algeria people drink and take drugs, engage in fornication and just about everything that shocks the established values in PUBLIC. People see this as the enemies of Islam growing in confidence and this is unacceptable to a Muslim society anywhere on the planet, it is perceived as a threat to the cohesion of society. To me what is worrying is that Islam doesn’t seem to be enough anymore to hold people in check. Because we have no other alternative moral system. It is an impasse and as usual the weakest factions of society will pay the price (women, children, minorities…etc).

      • May 16, 2012 at 4:19 pm

        A backlash against what modernization? When you say this it is as if you are saying islam is incompatible to modernization (moreover, we have never been a “modern’ state or society for that matter, and you need to define what you mean by “modernization”). I think you are still missing the point, if some behaviors are nefarious, it is not up to the mod to do its justice. It is the state’s role to regulate those behaviors and to do it in a rational and legal framework–not embrace the mod rule and justice. Do you know what’s the definition of a government? Among other things, a government has the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in society. When that legitimate use of force is usurped or given away or eroded for political reasons, we are in deep doudou as the kids say, and the ramifications of that erosion are impossible calculate. And this is what we have been looking at in these last 10 years or so. Moreover, the state cannot engage in a some kind of quid pro quo with radical islamists just to keep them happy and keep them away from threatening its political future. We are moving (or we moved i should say) toward a situation like the Pakistani situation where the state in 1970s (and early 1980s) left to the Islamists the whole sector of education and local justice (and also small business) and what we got out of that is the madrassates, the rise of the taliban, and the profound political islamization of the Pakistani society. Now, the situation is so chaotic over there that it is almost impossible to revert, and for the last 15 years or so, every government has failed to revert it. You have also to understand that there is a huge difference between islamization of the societal fabric and islam. One has a political goal, the other has not. And as far as i am concerned, we weren’t a bunch of hedonists sodomites in the 1960s and 70s and even 80s that we need now some kind of course correction.

    • USMA pour toujours
      May 17, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Je vis à Alger. Je n’ai jamais vécu ailleurs, toute ma vie a Alger–wlide al-3assima et j’ai 45 ans et je peux te dire que ce que ce gars-là a dit, c’est tout à fait vrai. C’est la vérité khouya. Elle fait mal, mais c’est la vérité. J’ai vu pire de mes propres yeux. J’ai vu des petites filles giflé devant leurs pères parce qu’elle ne portent pas le hijab. Ma tante a été menacé avec sabres et couteaux devant tout le monde. Personne ne parle. Chiche si tu parles. Et la police? Ils ne font rien. Le gouvernement leur a dit de ne pas déranger les barbus et les ancien terroristes. Tu sais, si tu frappes un ancien terroriste, tu vas en prison directe et les barbus te cassent ta maison. C’est kaboule ici khouya. Si tu vis a alger, tu sais tout cela.

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