Thursday, August 13, 2009

Algerian Sufism

The Jamestown Foundation reports that Algeria is promoting Sufism as a counterweight to Salafism:
"This turnaround in the official approach to Islam in Algeria was highly visible in a week-long Alawi Sufi festival held in Mostaganem in July (Mostaganem is 250 km west of Algiers, well distant from the strongholds of the Salafist militants in eastern Algeria). Organizers said the event was dedicated to “encouraging people to return to traditional Islam, the Islam of tolerance and open-mindedness” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, July 28). One speaker noted that there are more than 170 verses in the Quran that describe the strategic value of tolerance and reconciliation for Muslims. Some 5,000 Alawi adherents from Europe, North Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East assembled at the gathering, which enjoyed the personal sponsorship of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika."

The piece states that Algeria has only 1.5 million Sufis, but Islamic mysticism could be easily blended with Algerian nationalism. 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza'iri, who led the resistance against the French during the 1830's, operated politically largely through a Sufi order, and was a devotee of the ideas of Ibn 'Arabi.



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