Dialog on Algerian Islamic Movement

On the Political-Islam list <political-islam@lists.utah.edu>,
January, 1995

Date: Mon, 16 Jan 1995 19:10:51 -0400 (AST)
From: Jamal En-nehas <o7tq@unb.ca>
Cc: Political Islam <political-islam@lists.utah.edu>
Subject: Re: Back to the theme of the list
Message-Id: <Pine.SUN.3.91.950116190636.13030A-100000@jupiter>

On Mon, 16 Jan 1995, Steve Muhlberger wrote:

Algeria struggles for years through a harsh war to win its independence, and sets up a regime that must at the beginning had a wide popular base (otherwise they would never have one).

Sorry but the Algerians, after a liberation war which claimed 1.5 million, did not have a say in the postcolonial political settlement. The Front de Liberation National cadres took over from the French, and proved worse than their colonial administrators.

Jamal En-nehas

Message-Id: <199501162358.QAA09573@ns.utah.edu>
Date: Mon, 16 Jan 95 18:57:24 EST
Subject: Re: Back to the theme of the list
To: political-islam@lists.utah.edu
Resent-Message-ID: <"TvYC1.0.uZ2.bjm6l"@ns.utah.edu>

Two comments on M. AKCEM's post. He said:

In the case of Algeria, I do not subscribe to the theory that the timing of the resurgence necessarily correlates with the drop of oil prices (86) thus revenue and thus transfer payments to the poor etc...I say this because October 1988 is a significant turning point in Algeria's history. The country experienced riots from students, unemployed that led (for the first time since independence) the Algerian Army to shoot and kill some 600 protesters. In an effort to calm the population, Chadli's government decided to open the political system up.

Although I agree that a one-way attribution of cause to economic constraints is at best shaky, and probably fundamentally flawed, at the same time, I don't think that Chadli was merely reacting or that the opening was "triggered" by the riots. Chadli's role was, I think, a bit more involved: he was in favor of economic, as well as political openings, but he faced a formidable resistance from within the party and the administrative apparatus. This was rather known among the various groups and leaders operating in the political scene in Algeria, and the uprisings of October '88 would not have taken place if the perception was not there that Chadli was in favor of an opening. In any case, the riots did lead to an opening, but the case was not one of direct cause leading to reaction by way of opening.

Then you said:

It is important to remember that all of this was taking place well before Iran came onto the scene. I say this because once in a while you read in the press about the spill over effects from Iran to Algeria to other places.

I agree that we have to look back to the historical developments of the various movements. Certainly, the Algerian Islamic movement did not emerge ex nihilo in the 80's. It has always existed in varying degrees of prominence and intensity. After all, the Liberation struggle had a strongly Islamic dimension to it, and the fighters on the Algerian side were called mujahidiin. At the same time, I don't think it would be an exaggeration to talk about the spill over of the Iranian revolution: the 1979 victorious return of Khomenini had an incredible effect on many young people, and I don't think we can easily overestimate it. Now, again, we have to look at this with a sense of context. The Islamic movements all over the world do have distinctive characteristics. But at the same time, we have to recognize that they share much in common and are dialectically related to one another. If tomorrow Algeria's FIS manages to topple the government, you can be sure that the effect of that victory will be intense on the movement in Egypt. And this notwithstanding the fact that that they have completely different histories (and they do).

Ahmed Bouzid