05/11/2020, 17.28
ALGERIA - ISLAM
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Boualem Djouhr, 'enlightened' imam in the crosshairs of the extremist Islamist horde

by Kamel Abderrahmani

The director of religious affairs in Bejaïa paid tribute to the famous Amazigh (Berber) singer Idir. For this reason, he was attacked by extremist Islamist leaders and groups. Leading political, cultural, religious and NGO figures have expressed their solidarity towards him. Under the sway of religious extremists, Algerian authorities are indifferent to individual freedoms.

Paris (AsiaNews) – The death of Idir – the famous Kabyle singer, defender of the Amazigh (Berber) identity around the world and author of the famous song "A Vava Inouva” – has touched a lot of people, in the arts and cultural scene.

As soon as his death was announced on 2 May, tributes poured in. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune expressed his "immense sadness," tweeting “With his disappearance, Algeria loses one of her monuments.”

Among the many beautiful tributes, there is that of Boualem Djouhri, university lecturer, imam and director of religious affairs in Bejaïa Wilaya (province). In a video posted on his Facebook page, Djouhri (pictured left) hums ‘Amimi,’ one of Idir's songs.

Boualem Djouhri is an imam who has always stood out for his tolerance, his humanism and his attachment to Amazigh culture. In his books, he tackles questions related to Amazigh and Kabyle identity, language, poetry, literature and Berber songs.

He is an imam who has defended universal human values in his speeches and sermons. For example, during a conference held in January 2018 in Canada, on the first anniversary of the murderous attack perpetrated on 27 January 2017 against the Grand Mosque of Quebec, Imam Djouhri delivered a memorable speech on “Living together with our differences”.

The extremists who attack this imam on social media went a little too far, using virulent and vulgar language, calling for his dismissal from his post, which he has occupied since October 2016.

One of the leaders of this Islamist horde, Abdelkader Dehbi, a follower of the Islamic Salvation Front, wrote on his Facebook page: “When the exercise of a public service rhymes with unapologetically accepted crap... This" moron " who cries in Kabyle dialect for his idol, "the apostate" Idir ... is supposed to be the Director of Religious Affairs in Bejaïa!” No wonder, they can go further. Do these obscurantists and preachers of hate realise that they are less knowledgeable with respect to Islam than the imam they hate?

Certainly, for them paying tribute to a Muslim artist is not “haram” (banned); what for them is blasphemous and should be banned is the fact that the late singer criticised and refused the idea that Islam should be the state religion; hence for them he was a renegade, an apostate.

The fact that an imam of Boualem Djouhri’s calibre, someone who is very well known among Algeria’s religious leaders, pays homage in his own way to a pillar of the Amazigh fight makes them furious.

 For Islamists, this Imam puts his Amazighness before his Islamness, because, beyond the "haram" or the "hallal", they especially have this hatred for all things Amazigh. However, Boualem Djouhri, the lover of Berber poetry, art and culture, sees things differently: “I am very proud of my Algerianness, of my religion, but also of my Berber origins. No one can deny my right to my identity,” he told the French-language Algerian newspaper Liberté.

Faced with attacks and insults towards an imam who lectures at university, renowned for his open and non-violent sermons, several leading figures in politics, culture, religion, university and associations as well as some bloggers have come out in support of Boualem Djouhri and have openly and forcefully expressed their solidarity towards him.

Thus, faced in light of such a hateful campaign, will the Algerian justice system react? Especially since the government has just passed a new law against discrimination and hate speech? G=For how long will government institutions remain passive vis-à-vis this widespread phenomenon in Algeria, that of infringement of individual freedoms?

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