According to free lance journalist Michael Totten, Algeria is on the mends, opening itself up to the West and to moderation after their long disasterous Islamist war. He was interviewed on the Glenn and Helen Reynold’s show, for podcast click here.
Totten:”Algeria is a place where Islamism is finished. Fifteen years ago, Islamism was fairly popular in Algeria, and the Islamists actually won an election. And the military voided the election, which instigated unspeakable civil war where about 150,000 people were killed. They were homegrown, domestic salafists, as they call themselves, which are basically the Wahhabis of North Africa … and their hit list was long and gruesome. I mean, it was impossible for a normal kind of person to be in the type of category in Algerian society that was not on the Islamists’ hit list. Basically the Islamists look at a very complicated Mediterranean country that was part of France for 150 years, and they said you are either just like us, you are gonna be extreme Islamists like us, or we’re going to kill you….
That war is finally over … [Islamism is] dead. It’s dead for two reasons: one because the military beat it, and the other reason is because after people had to live through this ordeal for fifteen years, those who voted in the Islamists, very naively, I think, realized that it wasn’t such a great idea after all; these people are complete lunatics. And they didn’t even take over the country and still managed to kill this many people. And so, Algerian culture has done a huge shift from being either Islamist or naively pro-Islamist, to being much, much, much more liberal and democratic than it was. The women are taking off the headscarf and they’re reorienting themselves towards Europe … it is very hopeful, and yeah, getting there, well, it was pretty bad.”
Totten also speaks about his time in Lybia, which is still locked in a Romanian styled socialist command economy that offers absolutely nothing but misery for its citizens. Eygpt faces the same struggle as Algeria, with almost 50% of its citizens giving their support to the Islamists. An Egyptian friend of Totten’s fears that the Islamists have learned from the Algerian and Iranian experiences, and will not press for too much, too soon, but the end reuslt will be the same, a stifling and deeply restrictive society. That it took Algeria 25 years to shake off their own Islamist threat, offers him no comfort, seeing the Egyptian period of Islamism lasting even longer. KGS