Has Political Islam Failed in Algeria?


The question whether Political Islam has failed or not due to the
internal structure of the Islamic political movement, in either Algeria or any
other country in the Islamic World, is an important question for the analysis of
the politicized Islamic phenomena. Olivier Roy sees the movement as a failure,
not only in Algeria but also in the whole area from Casablanca to Tashkent, the
movement has resulted in failure due to many reasons that are seen as common
among all the divisions of the movement regardless of their different socio-
economic and political background that are more or less responsible of the
generation of such movements. The Algerian case is the best case one can see as
a direct application of Roy\'s theoretical analysis of the Failure of political
Islam.

The Islamic movement started in Algeria by the end of the 1980\'s, after
a long era of the corrupt regime and it\'s economic in efficiency that led the
country to live under extremely harsh standards of living for the average
individual. While most of the Algerian citizens are under 30, namely 75%, which
means a huge number of people in need for a high rate of creation of jobs,
especially with the growth rate of population that is up to 3%, thirty percent
of the Gross National Product used to go to service the payment of the national
debt . This, of course, resulted in the decline of the growth rate of the GNP.
What made it even worse is the fall of natural gas revenues during the 1980\'s. “
In the days after the dual fall of the price of oil and the value of the dollar,
the demographic expansion had pushed the GNP\'s growth curve below the horizontal
for the first time in years. ”

Such economic conditions were very much responsible for the instability
and the weakening of the legitimacy of the FLN government. “The plummeting of
oil prices in the 1980\'s combined with the mismanagement of Algeria\'s highly
centralized economy brought about the nation\'s most serious economic and social
since the early days of independence. ” Housing conditions were extremely bad
and it was normal for the average citizen to live in one room with six other
people. The economic frustration was a general of the Algerian citizen and
still is. This economic frustration led to street riots that were not
characterized by an Islamic attitude but rather a normal frustration that any
population would feel towards an inefficient corrupt regime that seems to be
directly responsible for such economic status. “The masses that took the
streets of Algerian cities, in October 1988, were not only Islamists but workers,
students, secularists, leftists, feminists and Berberists, all demonstrating
their disillusionment with the FLN (National Liberation Front). ” The FLN
government responded by the Army intervention and the arbitrary arresting of the
protesters. They used torture against people which ultimately created a high
measure of resentment and destruction of the government legitimacy. Moreover,
the government doctrine to reform the Algerian economy was so much supportive to
those who had money already, which gave no benefit to the crushed masses that
were striving under poor standards of life, which is the case in most countries
that undergo transitional periods of economic reform where the desperate need
for investment forces the government to grant the investors more rights and less
duties to assure an attractive business environment. However, the corrupt
regime seemed to do that for its own benefit since most of the rich Algerians
were practically either government officials or having strong connections with
the authority. Thus, the economic reform fired back on the FLN.

Meanwhile, there was another severe problem that affected the countries
domestic politics; the problem of identity. As a French colony under the French
authority, prior independence, Algeria suffered what Arab writers and
journalists call “farnasah” which means Frenchization of Algeria. This is what
is noticeably seen in most if not all French colonies. Spencer mentions that “
Largely -but not exclusively- because of the colonial legacy of France, language
has been politicized since independence and continues to present problems for
national unity. ” The French suppressed any attempt to apply Arabization of
education and thus succeeded in creating an elite of French speakers. After
independence, Arabization of education in Algeria started to grow which gave the
rise to a frustrated Arabic speaking population that suffered from the lack of
job opportunities for them which was a sort of discrimination against those who
cannot speak or write French in a country that is a member of the Arab