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Algeria Using Sufism to Stem Jihadist Ideology | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Algiers, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Algerian authorities have been trying to propagate Sufism in Algeria to contain a strong Salafi movement in the country, espoused by most members of the armed Islamist groups.

An event was officially launched last Saturday, organized by the Zaouia [religious confraternity] Alaouia, with the participation of 5,000 people from 34 countries. the event featured lectures and seminars calling for moderation and shunning hardline behavior, and Sufi chants.

As part of a fierce war that has been going on with the extremist Islamist groups since the early nineties of last century, the authorities have found a different way of stemming the influence of the Salafi jihadist ideology which is espoused by the armed hardliners. This new approach consists of propagating the Sufi thought through bodies that have thousands of followers inside and outside Algeria. In this respect, the Mostaganem Governorate, 250 km to the west of Algiers, has been the scene of festivals commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Allaoui religious confraternity, under the slogan: “Let us sow the seeds of hope in the minds of people.”

The organizers of this week-long event say that it is aimed at “encouraging people to return to traditional Islam, the Islam of tolerance and open-mindedness.” Its aim is also to “revive the spiritual and cultural heritage.” The event’s launching ceremony was marked by a parade of folklore troupes, with the participation of scout groups from several countries. The Algerian news agency said that 5,000 people would be watching the planned spiritual activities, including 2,200 coming from 34 countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Jordan, some European countries, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Japan and Indonesia.

According to the event’s program, the week-long lectures and seminars will go beyond broaching the spiritual aspects of Islam to include discussions on current world issues such as the environment and communication technology. This will be in parallel with lectures on “revelation,” “Sufi spiritualism,” and “awareness-raising education.”

For their part, the organizers of the event say that the Alaouia-Dargaria-Chadhilia religious confraternity dates back to the time of the descendants of Prophet Muhammad, God’s prayers and peace be upon him, and is strongly inspired by the ideas of the man who revived it early in the 20th century, namely Cheikh Allaoui. The latter succeeded his master, Cheikh El Bouzidi, in 1909. The Cheikh Allaoui confraternity is known for associating traditions to modernity in Islam, and its current Cheikh is called Adlan Khaled Ben Tounis. He is a writer and lecturer on Sufism and Islam.

These celebrations are sponsored by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika personally, and call for brotherhood, tolerance, fighting hatred and spreading the values of tolerance. They are keenly used by the Algerian authorities to confront the activity of the propagators of Salafia jihadi ideology, which is infiltrating society through mosques, books and compact discs distributed to the young in various places, including schools. The Salafia jihadist ideology is also propagated through films inciting combat, which are shown on the Internet. Investigations indicate that a large number of armed groups’ members have espoused this ideology as a result of the propagation of a discourse calling for war against the state.

Moreover, the Algerian gendarmerie announced over the weekend that border gendarmes had seized four tons of drugs, two weapons, ammunition, and a mobile telephone in the small town of Oued Ritma, Bechar Governorate, 965 km to the south west of the Algerian capital Algiers.

In this respect, an Algerian source stated that border guards in Oued Ritma ambushed and opened fire on a convoy composed of four vehicles belonging to drug smugglers; the gendarmes arrested four and seized 4,060 kg of treated drugs and an automatic weapon.