Algeria: when the reform of the Constitution arouses identity controversies

The “debates” around the constitutional reform submitted to referendum in Algeria on 1er next November should not mark the domestic political news. The project was following its course and a rather bland media campaign tries to convince people to vote “yes” to the amendments to the Constitution. This fall torpor has been shaken by Islamist and conservative currents which express reservations and criticisms vis-à-vis the proposed version.

Read also Algeria: debates and issues of the constitutional referendum of 1er November

The “niet” of the Brothers

The Mouvement de la société de la paix (MSP, Muslim Brotherhood trend), for example, called on its troops to vote against the proposed constitutional revision. At the end of September, its president, Abderrazak Makri, criticized the inscription of the Amazigh language as an intangible principle, that is to say that its status as a national and official language cannot be called into question in the future in the event of new amendments to the fundamental law. Makri even called for recognizing Tamazight, a national and official language since 2018, only in “its Arab-Islamic framework”, a way of calling for an Arabic transcription of this language while the debate on this issue has not yet been discussed. sliced ​​in Algeria. Islamists and Algerian conservatives refuse to transcribe Tamazight into Latin or Berber characters.

Another wing of the Islamist movement, the Front de la justice et du développement (FJD, or El Adala), has also called for rejecting the constitutional reform project “highlighting in particular the danger that the recognition of a another language for national unity ”. The President of El Adala, Abdallah Djaballah, even claimed that no country in the world has two official languages! “The same untruth was opposed by former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, in a speech delivered in Constantine in 2005, to those who demanded the status of official language for Tamazight which had just been promoted two years earlier to the national language. », Recalls the TSA news site.

Read also Algeria: the referendum on the new Constitution set for 1er November

Haro on the “secular current”

“Djaballah considered that the constitutionalization of Tamazight is a maneuver to” break the Arabic language “and render service to the French language”, according to local media. Another Islamist party, El Binaa, also lambasted Article 4 devoted to the Amazigh language, its president, Abdelkader Bengrina, declaring that “there will be no second language in Algeria for objective and constitutional reasons […]. Algeria and the Algerian nation are one and united with its history, its destiny, its borders, its flag, its religion and its language, the language of the Koran ”. But El Binaa, unlike the MSP, participated in the parliamentary vote on the revision project. “We have introduced 145 proposals for amendments and remarks concerning important points which affect the religion of this people, their identity, their history, their culture and their civilization”, announced Mr. Djaballah in a video on the his party’s Facebook page.

“This Constitution really only serves the eradicating secular current which adopts secularism in its French acceptance which is worse than Anglo-Saxon”, he fulminated during a conference in early October in Skikda in the east of country. The term “eradicator” refers to the political polarity of the country in the 1990s when parties and currents were divided between “reconcilers” favorable to a political solution to the Islamist insurgency and “eradicators” followers of the security solution. Djaballah joins Makri, who, moderating a press conference on September 28, explained that voting “no” aims to “reject this dominant secular current …”. For its part, the very conservative Association of Algerian Ulemas qualifies, for its part, articles of the constitutional revision project as “time bombs threatening national identity and the place of Islam”, which “was not considered as a source of legislation ”.

The calculation of Islamist parties

“The Association of Ulemas also evokes ambiguity of the article relating to freedom of worship or the neutrality of educational institutions in relation to ideological influences which, according to the same source, will remove the school from its identity », Specifies the daily El Watan. “Islamist ideology is generally still opposed to identity and cultural diversity”, concludes El Watan.

It should be noted that the rebellious Islamist parties, while calling for a vote “no”, did not call on their supporters to boycott the referendum of 1er November. “By moving away from the boycott option, these parties are also seeking to remain in the good graces of power in the perspective of the next elections. Because, otherwise, they would simply have called for a boycott of this referendum, ”analyzes the site Patriotic Algeria. “This approach of the Brothers [musulmans] relies on a certain consistency. By participating in the referendum, the Brothers are in fact aiming for the continuation, with the expected deadlines for legislative and local elections. They hope for a recognition of power, and a return of the lift, which would guarantee them a place in the emerging chessboard, ”said political scientist Abed Charef. “These trainings are all in the process of the Muslim Brotherhood internationally: participation in the political game, displayed moderation, Islamization of society and political life”, he continues.

Unbridled hate speech

But beyond the political calculation, these outcasts question the state of opinions in Algeria. As several media point out, these skin reactions were not part of the language of Islamists or conservatives when Tamazight was formalized in 2016. “The difference today is certainly linked to the appearance of a certain discourse. racist, advocated mainly by supporters of what is commonly called the badissia novembria, who hoped for a step back in relation to the question of identity. A speech uninhibited by the attitude of the authorities towards the bearers of the Amazigh flag during the hirak demonstrations, but also by the inaction of the justice vis-à-vis certain well-known personalities who have continued to develop racist theses », Analysis El Watan.

The “badissia novembria” refers to electronic trolls guided by semi-official pharmacies and activists claiming to be part of the Muslim Ulema movement (founded by Abdelhamid Ben Badis in 1931) and the nationalism of the Revolution of the 1er November 1954. These currents attempted to parasitize the hirak by imposing false identity polemics, in particular by opposing Amazighity to the Arabism of Algerians. The political crisis of 2019 has exacerbated, on social networks and via some media excited, these false controversies, often hateful. In April 2020, the authorities promulgated a “law on the prevention and fight against discrimination and hate speech”.

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