Hardline Islam steps out of the shadows in Algeria

August 12, 2010

algeria salafi

(Photo: Books by ultra-conservative Salafis are increasingly available in Algeria, 2 August 2010/Louafi Larbi)

In a bookshop in an eastern suburb of the Algerian capital, visitors can stroll in off the street and pick up titles such as “Our fight against the West,” and “Jihad according to Salafist principles.”

After years of keeping a low public profile, Algerian Salafists — followers of an ultra-conservative brand of Islam — are becoming bolder, laying down a challenge to a state that is firmly secular and fighting a lingering Islamist insurgency.

Most Salafists in Algeria have never been involved in the violent conflict that convulsed the country from the early 1990s, and in fact many cooperated with the government to persuade the insurgents to lay down their arms.

They do not seek overt political influence, partly because their beliefs forbid it. But they are starting to exert a growing influence over society and how people dress, deal with the state and do business.

“They are mobilizing and influencing the whole of society in a very negative way … the movement acts in parallel to the state and the society,” political analyst Mahmoud Belhimer told Reuters.

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