Islamism and the Recolonization of Algeria

By Lazreg, Marnia | Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Spring 1998 | Go to article overview

Islamism and the Recolonization of Algeria


Lazreg, Marnia, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ)


In November 1988, during a visit to Sidi Abderrahmane's shrine, a popular sufi and guardian of the old city of Algiers, I noticed two apparently "mad" people (or as they are called in colloquial Arabic madroubin, meaning "stricken," a young woman dressed in a hijab and a man in his late thirties, dressed in Western clothes. They were unrelated but their presence in the small terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, and their delirium brought them close to each other. She spoke to herself about God and His wrath, he spoke to the few visitors about injustices perpetrated by an unspecified "them," of history that will be remade. Addressing me, he also asked a rhetorical question about the meaning of women's "oppression" (or hogra) without seeming to see the young woman walking to and fro, absorbed in her soliloquy. In many ways he was a throwback to the North African tradition of the illuminated man who speaks his mind about the powers that be in a more or less metaphorical fashion. She was brought to the saint's mausoleum to regain her sanity and stop mumbling about the divine. In June 1991, as I was waiting for the bus at a stop on the heights of Algiers, in Hydra square, a middle-aged woman wearing a hijab stood next to me. She appeared to speak to herself, in a low voice, unintelligible words interspersed with a recitation of the shahada. I had noticed in the cab that had taken me to Hydra that the driver played a cassette of an imam who broke into loud sobs in the middle of his khutba, moved by his own words.

I began to ponder the meaning of these unrelated episodes in the context of the emergence of the Islamist opposition and the rise of a new religiosity. Radio and television were replete with religious news and messages. The loudspeakers in every neighborhood that, as is customary, announced the time for the regular five prayers seemed to blast warnings of an impending doom rather than reminders of one's duty toward God. I wrote in my diary, "Algeria has become saturated with religious symbols." I meant to remind myself of the official as well as the individual references to God, the sudden concern among friends and acquaintances for the validity of their daily activities measured against this or that Tradition. Algerians have been Muslims since the seventh century - whence comes, then, this ostentatious display of religiosity and the delirium it seemed to provoke? Algerians have traditionally considered their attitude toward religion a private matter that could not be legislated by any group or man. Now it is not only a public matter, but judging by the violence that has erupted since 1992, it is coercive. The political discourse has turned into a religious discourse, and personal expression can only occur in the delirium mode.

I would like to take the case of the nameless young woman at Sidi Abderrhamane as a metaphor for the Algerian crisis since 1992. Algeria can only be apprehended as a society in a state of delirium politically and culturally. The nature of the violence whereby children, women and men have been hacked by power saws, swords, axes, and double-edged knives has a haunting, nightmarish, delirious quality to it. Social delirium or the loss of control over the ability to reason accompanied by discursive excesses marked by an obsession with selective historical experiences such as colonialism, results in actions that are meant to redress mythical rather than real grievances. For example, civilians are massacred today for not conforming to the myth of the ideal Muslim or for being part of a society that is deemed un-Islamic, thrown into a state of jahiliya (or ignorance), an equally mythical concept, by a government deemed heretic.

Colonialism looms large in the Islamist discourse of deconstruction of Algeria's culture and politics. It too has acquired mythical proportions referring to all that does not conform to a religion-based model of behavior. It is a constructed standard against which to measure happiness, justice and change.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Islamism and the Recolonization of Algeria
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.