Omar Dakhane is a pro-American, Arab blogger. Writing from his home-country of Algeria, Omar examines the rise of Islamic extremism throughout the Arab-world and the West. This month, Jpost Blogs is featuring a mini-series of Omar''s writing. The first two entries of this series cover the troubling relationship between the far left and Islamists and the problem of anti-West indocrtination in the Arab educational system. This week, we are pleased to present part-three of Omar''s mini series, an account of the battle between secularism and Islamism in Algeria.
In the last decade of the 20th Century, Algeria was center stage of a dark decade of terrorism and extremism when more than 150,000 Algerians were killed for rejecting the Islamic state the Islamists were trying to establish in Algeria. This experience has made Algeria one of the most experienced countries in dealing with terrorist groups thanks to the professionalism and expertise of the secular Army leaders who stood against the Islamists.
In October of 2011, the Swiss authorities arrested and questioned General Khaled Nezzar, former Minister of Defense and Algerian army leader, and probably the most important figure in countering the Islamists and terrorism in Algeria, for alleged human rights abuses. He was also one of the generals who cancelled the fraudulent election that the Islamists via the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party were attempting to use to reach power.
The modern Islamist ideology we see in Algeria has its roots in the Muslim Brotherhood. Their attempt to obtain power via elections is a farce. They do not believe in democracy (unless it can guarantee their place in a position of power) and have no problem resorting to violence to achieve their goals. In Algeria, we have two types of Islamists. The first type claims to be independent from the main leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (Like the FIS). The second type openly admits to being part of the International Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (which is now strong and secure in its position in Egypt since the ousting of Mubarak) and working under their leadership. Both types of Islamists agree on the necessity of building a theocratic state and the removal of the current democratic republic system in Algeria, whether through confrontation or infiltration.
The military intervention to cancel the 1992 election was the only way to save the current democratic republic system in Algeria from the Islamists and to make sure what occurred in Iran and Afghanistan did not repeat itself in Algeria. The Islamists were poised to win that election through unsavory tactics and the Algerian army had very little choice other than to cancel the elections. The Algerian army plays a major role in fighting the Islamists and is currently the single most important institution we have in maintaining a semi-secular society in Algeria.
After the army scrapped the election, most of the leaders in the Islamist party (FIS) turned to terrorism and broke out the weapons they’d been storing since before the election, which demonstrates their intentions to change Algeria’s political system using any means necessary. They began committing terror acts upon the Algerian people and the Algerian government. It’s obvious why they attacked the government since it very boldly stood against the Islamists. However, they attacked the people because they thought the people gave up on them and turned against them by not also confronting the government.
In response, the Algerian army intensified its campaign against the Islamists. The terrorists fled Algeria once they realized that it would be impossible to establish an Islamic state here. The majority of those who stayed in Algeria were either killed in armed confrontations with the army or arrested and housed in special camps in the desert. These are the same terrorists we see today in Europe calling for the establishment of an Islamic state in Europe after their failed attempt in Algeria.
As I’ve written in previous posts, we again see that the Islamists are mostly backed, both directly and indirectly, by certain human rights organizations that portray them as victims and heroes in the media. These groups attempt to stop anyone who tries to limit the dangers the Islamists pose, even if those fighting the Islamists happen to also be Muslim. These organizations ignore the ideology these extremists hold dear and assist them in fighting their perceived oppressors by using lawsuits, aka lawfare. This lawfare is being used to prop up these terrorists as victims of those who stood against their attempted coup, including politicians and military leaders, liberal and secular Arabs, and other factions. They claim they are the victims of injustice.
It’s a real shame that someone like General Khaled Nezzar is being hunted down while traveling in Europe just because he stood against the Islamists and defended his country and its people from them. It’s even more shameful that those doing the hunting on behalf of the Islamists are Western human rights organizations such as T.R.I.A.L. (Tracking Impunity Always) that claim to stand against extremism and human rights violations, while supporting people and groups that don’t believe in human rights.
These human rights groups are standing against secular people who performed their duty to their country by stopping the Islamists’ repeated attempts to turn Algeria into another Iran or Afghanistan. Keeping terrorists at bay is not always pretty, especially when they’re in your own country and attempting a takeover using the democracy that they despise and that is already in place. We saw how well that worked with Hamas and we’re seeing the precursor to that in Egypt.
We saw something similar to what happened to General Khaled with Israeli Kadima party member Tzipi Livni. This woman, who is considered a liberal by Israelis and the world-at-large, was threatened with arrest for war crimes for the Israeli campaign against Hamas in Gaza in 2005 by Great Britain. In fact, she was unable to make her trip because of the threat of arrest.
For these human rights organizations and Western countries to make the leap from defending the victims to defending the terrorists shows how much the Islamists have infiltrated many human rights organizations. If you closely observe the activities of such organizations in recent times, you will notice the difference. For example, we see that the criticism by human rights organizations of the United States and Israel is disproportionately larger than the criticism al Qaeda and Hamas receive.
All human rights and humanitarian organizations that fight hatred and extremism must start striving to understand the difference between fighting the Islamists and Islamic extremism and protecting one’s national security, and fighting those who hate Arabs and Muslims. This perceived inability to understand the difference on the part of human rights organizations has led to more terrorism and more extremism. It’s time for human rights organizations to stand up and assist Muslims in fighting extremism within our societies via education. Perhaps when that occurs, things will not reach a point where the army has to combat civilian terrorists to maintain secularism. Perhaps then the people as a whole will reject these groups that promote extremism while masquerading as champions of democracy and human rights. The human rights organizations do not have to live with the consequences of their flawed campaigns, but we, the Muslims living in the Middle East and North Africa, do.
What seems to be either extreme naiveté or a veiled agenda displayed by human rights groups and those who support them and their missions leads me to believe that it is possible that these groups do not realize the damage they are causing in my part of the world. Perhaps their attitudes are based on a personal fear of what might happen to them if they criticize the Islamists. It’s always been an easier path to criticize those who will not murder or dismember you for having a difference of opinion. They are using the Western trends of lawsuits and arrests for human rights violations to protect and defend those who would just as soon slit their throats for speaking in opposition.
Human rights organizations must review their concepts and fix them. They are rapidly losing support of the Muslim and Arab liberals who live within Muslim and Arab countries. General Khaled Nezzar isn’t going to be the last secular Arab leader targeted unless such organizations stop helping the Islamists and start helping the liberal and moderate Muslims who seek to end extremism within their societies.