Islamist Parties in Algeria Undergo Pragmatic Shift

Article Summary
Islamist parties are expected to build a coalition in Parliament after this week's elections. Al-Arabi Zawwaq writes that the presence of multiple Islamist parties and their pragmatic political alliances demonstrates a shift towards accommodation and interest-driven politics in Algeria. 

Whether or not the results of the 2005 referendum on national reconciliation are accurate, it still seems that the majority of Algerians, or at least the majority of those who participated in the referendum, voted in favor of the reconciliation project. This project entailed dropping of all criminal charges against the terrorists and their “emirs.”

Allow us to remind readers that the vast majority of Algerian politicians, media personalities and civil society activists gave their blessing to the project. They also voiced their approval for the results of the referendum, and its implementation. Their reason for doing so was not necessarily linked to the referendum’s content. They rather agreed to it because the person leading the project was the President of the Republic.

Today, some of those who had previously supported the project, which involved pardoning terrorists and their warlords, warn of the Islamist threat. How can those who applauded the decision to pardon [Former Commander of the Armed Islamic Movement] Madani Mizraq and his companions, now raise the alarm over islamist leaders Jaballah, Munasara,  Abu Jarra Soltani [leader of the Movement of the Society for Peace], Fatah Rabei [a leader from the Algerian Ennahda Movement leader] and Akkoushi?

To those who had applauded the previous referendum, we say to you: “Please be so kind as to maintain a civil atmosphere.”

Now, back to the subject of the Islamists, and the supposed threats that may arise from their possible victory in the legislative elections May 10. We say that all Islamists today were fundamentalists in the past.

These individuals used to reject the opinion of any non-bearded person, as well as that of those who differed from them in any way, and this is of course not to say that these people were against religion.

In the past, the only possible debates to be had with Islamists centered on how to apply the teachings of the Book of God. All of the Islamists supported, in one way or another, the slogan: “No Charter, No Constitution... only the Words of Allah and the Apostle.” Today, after a bitter experience, for them and everyone else, these Islamists have somehow been convinced by others that the ideas they used to espouse is not [real] Islam, nor do they represent the [teachings of] the Book of God.

The Islamists now rather claim that this was simply their own point of view on Islam and the Book of God. Consequently, given that these parties agree that their religious views are merely opinions, there can exist a divergence of political views. This is evidenced by the presence of more than one Islamic party on the national scene.

Within democracy, accepting the views of others is natural. Indeed, this is actually what happened with the Islamic movement, and within the wider political arena at a later stage. As days went by, former president of the Islamic Salvation Front Abassi Madani praised the fake leftism of the head of Algeria's Workers' Party Louisa Hanoune. He also attacked Jaballah, the bearded Islamist, who responded to the affronts against him by stating: “On the Day of Resurrection, man will be joined with that which he loves. He who loves Louisa Hanoune will be joined with Louisa Hanoune, and who loves Jaballah will end up with Jaballah.”

In the midst of all this, Algerians watched as hard-liner Ali Belhadj appeared on TV demonstrating in the squares on May 1 beside secularist Said Saadi, supporting him against the reigning authority.

Is there any greater and more significant development than that? Let us assume that all Islamists will take part in the referendum this weekend. Can we, for example, imagine Ali Belhadj voting for Abu-Jarra? He will certainly align himself with Louisa Hanoune, who has in the past defended him and his activism. Hanoune also signed the petition of “St. Gideo,” a document which also bears the the signature of [former leader of the dissolved Islamic Salvation Front] Anwar Haddam. Haddam signed his approval of the document at a time when Abu Jarra’s group was still aligned with the authorities, supporting them in their war against the remnants of the banned Front.

It is worth noting that Abu Jarra’s movement is pragmatic, driven by its self-interests. In this regard, Jaballah says that he does not mind nominating somebody in the elections as long as he believes that they are apt for the post, even this individual hails from outside his own Islamist movement. All of this is demonstrative of how the Islamists no longer seem to have an ideological bone to pick with others. This transformation is welcome indeed.

Found in: pragmatism, movement of society for peace, jaballah, islamists, hanoune, algerian elections, abu jarra soltani

Larbi Zouak is a regular contributor to El-Khabar.


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