This post comes a relatively long time after parts one (I) and two (II) of this series, but it is not going to be the last. So before I conclude on the topic in a fourth and perhaps last part, I thought it would be useful to share here a paragraph from Noureddine Boukrouh’s “Algeria between the bad (for the Pouvoir) and the worse (for the FIS)” book.
Boukrouh was the leader of the tiny Algerian renewal party (PRA), and I had some affinities with him, politically speaking. But then he joined the crowd and became the minister of small and medium enterprises under Ahmed Benbitour and the minister of trade under Ahmed Ouyahia. I don’t know if it was because, like many Algerians, he had hope in the newly elected 1999-Bouteflika, or because he became a “realist” like many of our politicians (“realist” here is opposed to “idealist” with the definitions Malek Bennabi gave to these two words in his “Mémoires d’un témoin du siècle” memoirs). I heard Boukrouh became an ambassador and then I don’t know what happened to him. If someone has some information, please do let me know.
Back to the topic. In the text below, which I translate into English, Boukrouh gives his vision on how two political groups opposed each other. These groups being the Berberists (RCD and the likes) and the Islamists (FIS and the likes). There’s a lot to say on the below text and on Boukrouh’s book as a whole but I am posting this paragraph only to illustrate how some francophones (the Berberists being usually from this group) and some arabophones (the Islamists here) acted in Algeria when they brought their ideologies into the political field.
The Islamist and Berberist currents had made the fatal mistake of considering the “alternative” problem in a cultural rather than a political scope. Both had focused on the redefinition of the Algerian identity, which was neither necessary nor urgent in the light of the objective difficulties besetting the country. The former wanted to expurgate it from the modern elements at the risk of returning the country into the Middle Ages, the latter wanted to amputate it from the Arabo-Islamic elements and project it into secularism, a perspective completely alien to the Algerians’ mental representation. Anyway, whenever an idea is locked in an “ism” it is to announce its slide towards extremism.
Both posed the problem of the past instead of the present, each referring to a period of the Algerian history: the Islamic period for one, the Numidian period for the other. The assabiyates (عصبيات) which they had thus revived in the era of globalization could only be a source of division and conflict, whereas they were up to a certain stage of Algeria’s evolution a kind of coagulation factors. But that was before the French culture took place in the land and the minds of the Algerians.
The two opposing currents did not seek to amend the power to improve it, but they wanted to take it in order to impose the Islamic or secular state. Their electorate’s importance was not due to their programs’ quality, but to the attraction power these themes had on the people. Neither did offer a national solution or a workable project, but both targeted the people’s emotions, their religiosity or their parochialism to mobilize them, record their votes and use them for purposes unrelated to the social problems raised by the Algerian youths in October 1988.