I am one who likes everything Algerian, I am even capable of finding positive aspects in the worst among us and the worst of our traditions. And being abroad is not the only reason for this as it is not nostalgia for weqt zman, it is deeper in me: I love my people, I love my country, I like wearing the Kabyle Burnous and I’ve always liked seeing men (young and old) in the high plateaus wearing their Qechabia.
This is why I welcome events such as the Haik Day which took place two days ago in Algiers. It doesn’t cost money and creates some change in the capital while reminding the people of a past we all share in our memories.
But my positive stance doesn’t mean I become blind whenever things are related to Algeria and its traditions. It’s our Algerian tradition to criticize after all and this is what I am going to do here.
In the above video, at 1’19”, a woman says, in French, that el haik is beautiful and sensual, that it is the symbol of Algiers and Algeria, because the white colour is us and the black colour is not us, it is Saudi Kharabia (Kharabia is my word) and the Gulf countries. Another one, at 1’38”, says, again in French, that el haik is an honour and that it’s a pity only a few women still wear it.
This article mentions the event and reports what some participants said. You can read things such as “We want to sweep away these clothes which come from Saudi Arabia, black, sad and stifling under the sun, to return to our traditional ‘haik’ which is the pride of Algerian women“, “It is unfortunate that we’ve had the hijab imposed on us since the 1990s, it is not a part of our tradition“, “Sure, the haik has Turkish origins, but it was with us for centuries” or “The hijab and the niqab are not a part of our tradition“.
The above statements lack consistency. One thinks it is a pity that most Algerian women do not wear el haik any more, and she doesn’t wear it herself. The other says white is us and black is KSA but she seems to forget the black mlaya that
is was worn in Eastern Algeria. The fact they “want to sweep away these clothes” because “they are not part of our tradition” would be acceptable if they didn’t only target the clothes they think come from the Middle-East forgetting about what they wear in they daily life. I came across a photo of some of these women on Facebook with tags so I could check their profiles and, none wore the hijab… nor the haik. So is “western dress code” us just like el haik is us? Or, another question, what makes things part of our tradition? One says she knows el haik has Turkish origins (is it true?) but it’s ok since our women have worn it for centuries; does this mean the hijab, niqab or whatever outfit will be part of our tradition in a few centuries? And speaking of niqab, I am always amazed by those who abhor it while finding the 3jar sensual.
My point has to do with the fact many think that using “our traditions” is the best way to make a point or… win an argument. It is usual to hear Algerian feminists and secularists speak of our traditions and the way our grand-parents lived in their argumentation against what they like to call the Islamo-Baathism (a very odd association if you ask me) influence in Algeria. It is like those who speak of our ancestors’ understanding of Islam, the North-African Islam, which would be a more peaceful and tolerant one. They are actually a kind of salafists themselves 🙂
And the worse is that more and more people use our traditions in almost every topic. Only a few days ago, an Algerian minister said that raping and killing children was not part of our traditions (cf. previous blog entry).
Do they not know that societies evolve, whether we like it or not. They progress and they regress. Some traditions are forgotten and others are created.
It seems like we’re unable to have arguments/debates without getting emotional. Perhaps it’s an Algerian (and more generally an Arab) trait, a tradition. I know I just used our traditions to make my point; I hope it worked 🙂
Seriously, when are we going to have serious discussions based on consistent facts? That day we might finally be ready to move on.