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Scarry new Strategy: Algeria’s Islamists Reconsider Dialogue With Secularists

Sunday 5 January 2014, by siawi3

PHOTO A delegate from the Green Algeria alliance, a grouping of moderate Islamist parties with links to the ruling establishment, holds up a placard during the opening session of the new National Assembly in Algiers, May 26, 2012. The placard reads, “No fraud.” (photo by REUTERS/Louafi Larbi)


Algeria’s Islamist parties have begun adopting a new civic political discourse. Statements and speeches given by a number of their leaders were noteworthy in that they recognized the need to change their parties’ political rhetoric and adopt a purely modernist one meant to facilitate discussing the democratic process with the secularist movement.

Summary⎙ Print The Islamist movement in Algeria has begun to build a new civil discourse that leans toward rapprochement with the secular movement.

Author Othman Lehiani Posted July 23, 2013

Translator(s)Kamal Fayad
Original Article اقرا المقال الأصلي باللغة العربية

In this context, the secretary-general of the National Building Movement, Ahmad al-Dan, called on Islamist parties to change their rhetoric and render it more in tune with the potential and limitations of agreement with secular forces on topics relating to democratic principles, freedoms and human rights. In a symposium organized by the movement, Dan said, “Islamist parties are required to change their discourse. We acknowledge that the Islamist rhetoric is no longer viable, but, in return, the secularists must recognize the Islamists’ right to practice politics and rule, if they were to win the elections.â€

Dan pointed out that violating the democratic process and turning against it by force, such as in Egypt and Algeria, leads to violence by young people who have grown dejected by the state of political affairs. He added, “Islamist parties must reach a consensus with secularists about democracy, human rights and social values, all the while rejecting verbal aggression and condemning physical violence. The Islamists should refrain from making the secularists uncomfortable with their religious rhetoric. Meanwhile, the secularists should refrain from making Islamists uncomfortable with a discourse centered on questioning their allegiances.â€

Dan further asserted that Islamist parties were capable of evolving their discourse to accommodate long-established democratic practices, which start with human rights and go all the way to respecting the results of ballot boxes. He stressed that they must exclude new democratic practices predicated on pitting armored vehicles against ballot boxes — if it so happened that the Islamists won the elections — as was the case in 1990s Algeria, or in Egypt at the beginning of the month.

It was noteworthy that the statement of this former leader of the Movement for the Society of Peace coincided with new ideas proposed by the current head of the movement, Abderazzak Makri. The latter announced, at the opening of the first regular session of the movement’s Shura Council last Friday [July 19], that Islamist parties must give rise to civic parties that espouse modern political action methods. These ideas require that Algerian Islamist parties review their political options and take advantage of their bitter political experience in Algeria, and the lessons learned from Islamist forces that stood at the core of successive developments that affected neighboring and Arab Spring countries, particularly Egypt.

In another context, Nasreddine Salem Sherif, who is also a leader in the movement, told El-Khabar that his party had not yet made a decision concerning the coming elections. He stated that the movement was taking its time in adopting a stance vis-à-vis the presidential elections while thinking it unlikely that the Islamists would be able to field a unified candidate to represent them in the coming elections