Beard guide and song ban among Salafist books barred in Algeria

November 25, 2010

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(Photo: Customs officers inspect books purchased at an Islamic book fair in Algiers, searching for Salafist books, October 29, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)

Concerned by the growing influence of the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Islam, Algeria has this year been cracking down on the import and distribution of Salafist literature. Salafist publications, most printed in Saudi Arabia, are still available in some specialist bookstores. See our feature on this crackdown here.

Following is a selection of titles on sale in a bookshop in Rouiba, an eastern suburb of the Algerian capital.

* “Islamic Songs, a bid’a by Sheikh Abdel Aziz Ibn Nada El Otaibi.

This book explains that singing is illicit even when the song is religious. The book aims also to counter the Sufi school of Islam, which does not object to most forms of music.

* “How to answer El Albani’s opponents” by Sheikh Mekbel Ibn Hadi El Wadi’i.

This book defends the thesis of one of the most respected Salafist clerics, imam Sheikh Nasreddin El Albani, who argues that “bid’a”, or innovation, is illicit. To El Albani, Muslims must follow the way of life of the Prophet Mohammad’s companions. For many Salafists, that means renouncing the trappings of modern life such as televisions, modern furniture and eating in restaurants.

* “Principles observed by our imams with regard to Takfir and disobedience” by Sheikh Saleh Ibn Fawzan El Fawzan.

This book explains that politics, elections and political debate are illicit. It also stipulates that a ruler should stay in power for life as long as he is a Muslim. The book contests the view, expressed by a group known as the Al Hijra wa Takfir, that an armed “jihad” can be used to topple rulers if they are guilty of wrong-doing. The arguments of Al Hijra wa Takfir have been widely used in the Arab world to justify armed insurgencies, including al Qaeda.

* “How to maintain your beard”

This book contains 500-pages of religious instructions on beards. Salafists wear their beards long and often dye them with henna, emulating the companions of the Prophet Mohammad.

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