Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 04/2009

Salafism and Radical Politics in Postconflict Algeria

Amel Boubekeur

October 2008

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace


Despite the repression of radical Islamist movements since 1992 and the promulgation of a National Reconciliation law in 1999 aimed at encouraging the repentance of jihadi fi ghters, Algeria is still subject to regular terrorist attacks. Rather than follow the 1990s model of Islamist parties that believed in politics, expressed themselves within the system, discussed the concept of democracy, and had the goal of building an Islamic State, the radical anti-state rhetoric in Algeria today finds its expression in movements that do not believe in working within the political system. These movements are Salafi st in nature and include Jihadi Salafi sm, personified by the recently formed al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), and Da’wa Salafism, inspired by Saudi Wahhabism. These apolitical or anti-political Salafi trends are the result of the marginalization of political Salafists, mainly during the 1990s. They reveal the failure of participationist strategies among the moderate Islamist parties and their difficulties in mobilizing their base, a growing depoliticization among the new young Islamist generation, and the urgent need to reinvent pluralistic politics in a post-confl ict Algeria.