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Abou Abdullah Ghlamallah on Algeria's Imam Bill

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  • Abou Abdullah Ghlamallah on Algeria's Imam Bill

    The Religious Affairs Ministry is planning to elaborate the Imam Bill, which will ban Imam membership of political parties and from standing for elections, Religious Affairs Minister, Mr. Abou Abdullah Ghlamallah stated yesterday. He stressed that the mosque is a worship place in which political practice is not allowed.

    As for Salafist Imams appointed by the Religious Affairs ministry, a matter that conflicts with the Maliki trend, and which is interpreted by some people as an opened door for Salafist ideas that fuels terrorism, the minister replied: “Algeria is a Maliki country this is unquestionable! The criteria of recruitment of Imams are based on the right of each Algerian citizen to work whatever his trend may be. Regarding those Imams, they have all been influenced by ideas they discovered when in the university, we debated this matter, and we excluded those who refused to abide by the ministry directives and give Friday sermon."

    As regards sectarianism, that is growing strikingly, after the discovery of a Chi’a and a Salafist sect, the minister pointed out that the authorities are responsible for defining the range of the sectarianism threat not the ministry, the intervention of the latter is restricted to cases of abuses within mosques. He stressed that the presence of a Chi’a community in Algeria is an erroneous approach.

    About the affiliation of the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat – GSPC - to al-Qaeda, the Religious Affairs minister underscored that “terrorism is the creation of the parties who backed it first”.

    Regarding the leaks that took place during the international book fair in terms of extremist publications, as well as the role of the ministry committee in charge of monitoring, the Minister recognized the existence of this kind of leak, and wondered about their sources and how could they penetrate. He said that the most dangerous books are those spreading fatwa not in line with Algerian society as they designed for other societies with other specificities.

  • #2
    A new government bill barring imams from engaging in politics has triggered controversy in Algeria as the country prepares for parliamentary elections. In a statement Tuesday (March 13th) to Algerian daily El Khabar, Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdallah Ghlamallah stated that "those who wish to be involved in politics have only to give up their calling as imams and leave the mosque, since the latter is built for prayers, not the practice of politics."

    The minister added that he proposed the bill in 1990 while serving as secretary-general of the ministry, but his proposal was dismissed at a time when mosques were free from state regulation and served as political courts for groups such as the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS or Islamic Salvation Front, now dissolved), Hamas (now the Society of Peace Movement) and the Ennahda movement. The minister said the bill will soon be made law, but did not specify when.

    The minister’s decision has already elicited a range of reactions from both Islamist and pro-government circles. Even imams themselves are divided on the issue. Those who advocate moderate Islam, such as Cheikh Mokhtar, are in favour. "The mosque should remain a place of worship for everyone and must not become embroiled once again in the political struggles we saw in the 1990s".

    However, this view is not shared by Imam Omar, who has just rethought his position after spending a decade in the terrorist movement. Having benefited from the provisions of the Charter for Peace and National Reconciliation, he believes the bill represents "an attack on freedom of expression. On top of that, the ministry is telling us to resign if we want to stand for election. If we have to do that, all other ministries ought to make their employees do the same thing."

    But it is political parties who are likely to offer the most resistance, as happened when a 2004 bill on the regulation of mosques came before Parliament. Fateh Guerd, a deputy from the Society of Peace Movement, asks why there is such "determination to crackdown on imams while the constitution is clear on the issue: Islam is the state religion." In his view, the government "should also stop practising politics in mosques. Imams are not obliged to read out speeches written by people from the Ministry of Religious Affairs."

    In the run-up to the legislative elections scheduled for May 17th, political parties are seizing on any issue likely to win them votes. The Ennahda Movement is campaigning against the initiative taken by 13 Algerian companies to petition for an amendment to the Family Code, which they believe currently belittles women.

    Ennahda believes that the demands of Algerian women "run contrary to religious laws (Sharia), some articles of the Algerian Constitution and the heritage of our civilisation and culture." It may be recalled that Islamist campaigners from the Society of Peace Movement launched a similar move in 2004 to block an amendment to the Family Code.

    According to the Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD), never before have calls for secularism received so much support despite fierce opposition from Islamist parties. Tarik Mira, a former deputy and member of RCD leadership, insists that his party will continue to fight alongside other democratic parties for a society where religion is kept separate from politics.


    • #3
      Algiers, 20 March (AKI) - Muslim clerics in Algeria will be allowed to run for parliament but they will not be able to take office as MPs if they win a seat as their role as religious leaders is incompatible with that of lawmakers, Algeria's minister for religious affairs Abu Abdullah Ghulamallah was quoted as saying on Tuesday by London-based Arabic daily al-Quds al-Arabi. Legislative elections are scheduled to take place in Algeria on 17 May.

      "If, as has been announced, a member of the Algerian National Front [a parliamentary party] who is also an imam wants to run, he will be allowed to do so but will have to step down as religious leader before the start of the electoral campaign and will not be able to preach as imam during the [five-year] legislature if he is elected," said the minister.

      The 1996 Algerian constitution bans religious parties although it does not mention whether imams can be MPs. The constitution allows clerics to be active in politics outside the mosque.

      An Algerian Islamic insurgency started in 1992 after authorities cancelled elections an Islamist party was poised to win. The country was subsequently wracked by a decade-long brutal civil war in which an estimated 200,000 people died.


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