Islamic Politics and the Military: Algeria 1962–2008
Algeria, with its population of some 35 million people, is a global player on the energy markets for oil and gas. The political development of the country after independence illustrates how religion may collide with a major secular force in many Muslim countries, namely the military. When such a collision occurs, then the prospects for democracy are slim indeed. The Islamic movement in Algeria before the confrontations with the army began in the 1970s and was mainly reform-oriented (Al-Ahnaf et al., 1991). The “Association of Reform Ulemas” worked for decolonisation, the Arab language and Islam. The ulemas had been supporting the FLN (National Liberation Front) in its struggle against France and the French community in Algeria, but at Independence Day in 1962 they were not willing to endorse Ben Bella’s victorious formula: “Islamic Socialism”. The association “Al Quiyam” proclaimed that nationalism should be combined with an Islamic society, built upon Sharia Law. Thus, the Algerian problem – ulemas contra military strongmen – emerged early and became quite conspicuous when army leader Boumedienne removed Ben Bella in a coup, promising to introduce a socialist economy in Algeria. The concern among older ulemas was private property, and the landowners started to support religious causes, attempting to halt the “agrarian revolution”.