Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 11/2008

Salafism and Radical Politics in Postconflict Algeria

Amel Boubekeur

September 2008

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Since the civil war of the 1990s, Algeria's government has given moderate Islamist parties only a superficial role in politics. Consequently, support for Algerian Salafism, which rejects the country's political system, has increased, creating for its followers a separate Islamic way of life without engagement in politics or confrontation with the army.  In a new paper, Amel Boubekeur examines how the rise of Salafism indicates the need for Algeria to increase political transparency and participation and engage its citizens, particularly the young, to discourage radicalization outside the political system.

Violence continues to plague the country despite security measures, enacted at the expense of civil liberties. By cancelling elections and outlawing the radical Islamist party Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) in 1992, the Algerian government effectively pushed radicals out of the political system. In turn, many turned to terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to advance their agenda, while others joined movements rejecting participatory politics and preserving radicalism, such as Da'wa Salafism. 

Key Conclusions:

Boubekeur concludes:   "Social stability and national cohesion are challenged because the Algerian people still do not have real opportunities to engage in a process of dialogue uniting civil, political, and military actors. With their own relationship to the state, Algerian forms of Salafism reveal the deep need to switch from the security-oriented politics that has been in force for sixteen years to new modes of participatory politics."   Amel Boubekeur is the head of the Islam and Europe programme at the Centre for European Policy Studies, Brussels and a research fellow at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris. Her research focuses on North African politics, Euro-Arab relations, and Islam in Europe.