|Volume 2, No 1, Winter 1992|
The military leaders in Algeria put an end to the election process to deprive the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) of the fruits of its landslide victory during the recent elections. They arrested Abdelkader Hachani, the acting leader of FIS, and banned all gatherings outside of mosques. FIS had captured 188 out of 231 seats decided in the first round of parliamentary elections and needed only 28 more out of 201 remaining seats in the second round to gain a clear majority.
Algeria was the first Muslim state to achieve independence through armed struggle (1954-1962). Its war of independence was a bitter and bloody affair fought under the banner of Islam. However, in the final stages of "victory" negotiations, the French managed to impose on the National Liberation Front (FLN) a secular leadership. Ultimately those who formed the FLN government in Algiers were not the same who had fought and died for Islamic Algeria. The dictatorship of the "socialist" FLN since 1962 has been a continuation of French rule by other means.
The FIS is the successor to the Islamic leadership of the FLN, that was ruthlessly eliminated in 1962 by Ben Bella and later by Boumedienne. As such the FIS must in turn eliminate the legacy of Ben Bella, Boumedienne, Benjedid and the French colonial system before its victory at the polls will have any meaning.
In the last six months the Benjedid regime, no doubt advised by French and CIA "experts," had changed the electoral "laws" in such a way as to make a victory for the the FIS next to impossible. New parties, some "Islamic," were created to divide the anti-FLN vote and give the "protest" voters choices other than the FIS. From the one-party state that Algeria had been since independence, an attempt was made to dangle the carrot of a multi-party democracy. In the end all western manipulations of their own system to save the FLN have failed.
Secular forces in the Arab and western worlds have joined forces to stop the FIS in its attempt to establish an Islamic State in Algeria. Whether or not they succeed, the contribution of the FIS and the Algerian electorate to the cause of Islam worldwide cannot be undone. The immediate significance of the vote result resides in the fact that the overwhelming psychological supremacy which the west has achieved in the so-called "new world order" has been disrupted and the bankruptcy of the Algerian secular establishment has been exposed.
FIS is not a militant revolutionary group that has emerged on the fringe of Algerian society; it is a mainstream, reformist party that has used constitutional and legal methods to achieve its Islamic and political goals. It shuns violence and advocates a policy of peaceful transition. FIS is the most effectively organized and well-disciplined religious movement with a solid widespread popular support in Algeria. It has become popular because it has offered an authentic Islamic cultural identity during an acute identity crisis in an Algerian society still dominated by the cultural legacies of French colonialism. It has also effectively articulated in Islamic idioms the socioeconomic and political concerns of Algerian social strata that were devastated by the FLN's mismanagement of economy. Removing such a popular political force from the political process calls for disaster and civil war.
The state department's reaction to the Algerian coup is so mild that it amounts to giving tacit consent. It is a hypocrisy of the highest order to uphold the banner of democracy and free elections in Eastern Europe and in the former Soviet republics and approve the restabilization of military dictatorships and monarchies in the Muslim world.