The Islamist Challenge in Algeria: A Political History

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Overview

In recent years, Algeria has been rocked by social upheaval, protest, and spasmodic violence. Like many countries caught between the tides of fundamentalist religion and secular culture, the very fiber of the nation seems to be fraying.

Michael Willis here charts the meteoric rise of one of the largest and most powerful Islamist movements in the Muslim world. Tracing its origins to the French colonial domination in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Islamism has always played a defining role in both the national struggle against the French and in the newly independent Algerian state.

The primary focus of Willis's book is on Algeria since 1988, when unprecedented social unrest led to political changes that allowed Algeria's Islamists to form political parties and compete in multi- party elections. The largest Islamist party, the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS), after rousing victories in local and national elections in 1990 and 1991, was subsequently crushed by the military regime.

Since then, despite the Rome Accord of January 1995, over 50,000 lives have been lost in an increasingly bloody conflict that threatens to spiral out of control. Banned by the army, the FIS splintered, with various factions arming themselves, leading to the current, ominous state of disarray.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"What [Willis does], and what he does extremely well, is explain how it all came about...he carefully traces the rise of Algerian Islamism from its early days during the 132 years of French colonial rule, its short moment of glory when it seemed about to take power in the late 1980s, and its subsequent crash...well-written, skillfully presented, and illuminating."

-New York Review of Books,

"Integrates a wealth of diverse historical and contemporary data to provide as full an understanding as one can have about political Islam's severe challenge to state and society in Algeria."

-John P. Entelis,author of Sate and Society in Algeria

"A very readable and even-handed interpretation of a complex and controversial topic. The author integrates a wealth of diverse historical and contemporary data to provide as full an understanding as one can have about political Islam's severe challenge to state and society in Algeria . . . Highly recommended."

-John P. Entelis,author of State and Society in Algeria

"An informed and balanced political chronology that is of great utility to any analyst seeking to formulate his or her own interpretation of the Algerian tragedy. Willis has gathered together a wide range of sources allowing him to construct a political chronology that traces how a nation, endowed with political, cultural, and economic assets and moving toward democracy at the end of the 1980s, devolved into chaos through much of the 1990s. The book's careful documentation, multiple perspectives, and thoughtful refelctions willl challenge simplistic explanations of Algeria's latest tragedy."

-Journal of World History,

Booknews
In the last decade, Algeria has been transformed from a stable state to one torn apart by armed conflict. Willis Middle Eastern studies, U. of Durham draws on academic studies, media reports, and books to provide an account of the rise of Algeria's Islamists. Focusing on political dynamics, Willis charts the history of the Islamist movement during French colonial rule and the new Algerian state. He then discusses the Front Islamique du Salut in terms of its ideology, bases of support, influence, and relations with the Algerian regime. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
New York Review of Books
What [Willis does], and what he does extremely well, is explain how it all came about...he carefully traces the rise of Algerian Islamism from its early days during the 132 years of French colonial rule, its short moment of glory when it seemed about to take power in the late 1980s, and its subsequent crash...well-written, skillfully presented, and illuminating.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814793282
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/1997
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.65 (h) x 1.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Willis obtained his doctorate from the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the University of Durham, where he is currently an Honorary Research Associate.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
Abbreviations
Glossary
Introduction
1 Origins: Resistance, Reformism and Nationalism, 1830-1962 1
2 Islam in the New State, 1962-1978 35
3 The Rise of Islamism, 1979-1988 69
4 The Emergence of the FIS, 1988-1990 107
5 Islamism and the FIS Centre Stage, 1990-1991 157
6 The Brink of Power: The FIS and the Legislative Elections, 1991-1992 213
7 The Descent into Conflict, 1992-1993 259
8 The Search for a Solution, 1993-1996 307
Conclusion 385
App Election Results 393
Bibliography 397
Index 407
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