Algeria also opts for “Sufi card” to fight Islamist extremism

July 9, 2009


(Photo: Sufi at festival in southern Algeria, 24 March 2008/Zohra Bensemra)

FaithWorld recently ran a post about Pakistan considering playing the “Sufi card” in its campaign against Islamist militants. The idea is that promoting this mystical and tolerant school of Islam could counteract the influence of more radical readings of the faith. It looks like they’re not the only ones considering this:

After using police raids, arrests and gun battles in its fight against Islamist insurgents, Algeria is now deploying a new, more subtle weapon: a branch of Islam associated with contemplation, not combat.

The government of this North African oil and gas producer is promoting Sufism, an Islamic movement that it sees as a gentler alternative to the ultra-conservative Salafism espoused by many of the militants behind Algeria’s insurgency.

The authorities have created a television and radio station to promote Sufism and the “zaouias” or religious confraternities that preach and practise it, in addition to regular appearances by Sufi sheikhs on other stations. All are tightly controlled by the state.

Read the whole feature here.

Neighbouring Morocco is taking a different approach, opting to reinforce the authority of state-appointed imams in the hope this will cut off support for jihadism.

What do you think? Do state-supported campaigns to promote certain types of Islam are an effective way to counter militancy?

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

“Mystical and tolerant”, Lamine? Isn’t that a tad general? There are many forms of Sufism, and many of them are not “tolerant.” The Jihad waged against the Russian Empire in Chechnya more than a hundred years ago was waged under the banner of Sufism… and they were ruthless, fighting viciously to the death. The Sanussis that wore down the Italian occupation of Libya were Sufis. Some African Jihad movements were Sufi. Let’s not reduce everything to simple (and misleading) headlines. It only messes everything up even more.

Posted by A | Report as abusive

Yes, we can indeed argue that to stereotype Sufis as pacifistic contemplatives is potentially misleading, and it amuses me when those usually prone to essentialising Islam as inherently violent suddenly appeal to Muslim diversity to assert Muslims are inherently violently, but the fact is, zaouias have been largely associated with hospitality and education, not anti-colonial resistance.

Posted by Yakoub | Report as abusive

The idea of supporting Sufism to combat “jihadism”, which is usually anti-western and pro-Qutbist in nature, is one of the more intelligent ideas which Islamic regimes are now advocating after Saudia Arabia’s efforts to return to the Salafism and Wahabist currents which have destroyed the Ummah and broken it into 72 warring sects opposed to each other: whereas Sufism seeks the Unity which the Elect know is the “essence” or “Fruit” of the Tree of Life.

To overcome the demons of ignorance it is far more perplexing to the supporters of hatred and violence to deal with the reality of the Sufis than conventional tools of repression and civil authority and the police; thus we are now seeing the manifestation of the true jihad that the Apostle Muhammed advocated: the one within.

It is for this reason that he said; to wit;

“The ink of the Learned is holier than the
blood of the Martyr”.

The advent of Misih ad-Dajjal Osama bin Laden has not been recognized in Islam due to the destruction of the schools of Sufism and their adherents: now Islam sees that to survive it is indded the Sufus and the 4 Major Orders who are that of the People of Salvation for the Ummah.

Could the Voice of Reason by those like Sayed Hisham Kabbani and others be making itself heard?

Perhaps the real jihad against the ego and it’s attendent blindness and greed can now begin; as we are at the Last Day of which Muhammed and Jesus both spoke; the 2 Brothers of the Truth of Allah that restored the relationship Ishmael and Issac were to have enjoyed and thus healed the heart of Abraham; and it is this which will unite the Believers at the End.

Posted by christopher witt diamant | Report as abusive