01/27/2020, 14.14
ISLAM – ALGERIA
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Freedom of expression is dying under the blows of the Islamist Inquisition

by Kamel Abderrahmani

Kamel Abderrahmani looks at the pressures put on those who criticise the ideologies that rule the Muslim world. In Islamic countries, “legal jihad” goes after intellectuals, researchers and even scholars of Islam who dare take a critical look at the religion.

Paris (AsiaNews) – Silencing any criticism of Islamist thought, especially in matters of religion, is the aim of “legal jihad”, this according to Kamel Abderrahmani. This form of jihad varies according to location, whether in the West or countries where Islam is the state religion. In Algeria, reformist Islam specialist Saïd Djabelkhir has become one of its victims. Here are the thoughts of a young Muslim scholar. (Translation by AsiaNews).

Freedom of expression is dying in the Muslim world. No one can express themselves freely if what they think transcends the framework of a single majority mindset. When it comes to religion, the pressure increases, intensifies, and any discussion becomes almost impossible. In other words, muzzling the voice of critical thinking about religion is an action akin to “judicial jihad”, which means bringing to justice anyone whose words, humour and opinions unmask, criticise and demystify the violent nature of the followers of a religion that claims, despite everything, to be a religion of peace, and yet seeks to muzzle, silence, and suppress critics.

To that end, "judicial jihad" operates under different mechanisms when it is carried out in the West as opposed to countries with Islam as the state religion. That is to say, the way it is done depends on location and the nature of the political system. For example, in the West, we hide behind groups – generally the work of the Muslim Brotherhood – aimed at fighting racism or “Islamophobia”, so that intellectuals are prosecuted just because they consider Islam as a dangerous religion in their writings.

In Muslim countries, "judicial jihad" targets intellectuals, researchers and even Islam specialists who dare take a critical look at the religion, providing critical readings of Islam and interpreting religious texts differently from official and dominant views. They are often prosecuted for “contempt of Islam and the prophet” or “attacking the perceptions of Islam and sowing discord in society”. Given such a situation, how can we reform this religion if we attack, prosecute and ban freedom of thought and expression? How can we pretend to be against Islamist terrorism whilst enacting repressive laws? How can we revolutionise Islam if intellectuals are muzzled, their thoughts subjected to an ideology and legal threats?

In the past five years, Said Djabelkhir has become one of the intellectuals who are often targeted in Algeria. As one of most controversial scholars of Islam, he has received several death threats on his Facebook page. Despite complaints against "electronic jihadists", Algerian authorities have done nothing and his complaints have been dismissed.

Lately, and not for the first time, he himself has become the subject of a complaint following a row over the celebration of Yennayer, the Berber New Year, considered a pagan festival and illegal by Salafist Mufti Mohamed Ali Ferkous. This Salafist guru issued a fatwa to ban the celebration from Algerian customs and traditions. His decree is not that different from those issued by Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia who consider all celebrations as heretical, except for two Sunni festivals, Eid El-Fitr and EId Al-Adha, and the birthday of the prophet.

Given this Salafi trend – which consists somehow in classifying Algerians according to their religion – and the silence of the Minister of Religious Affairs, Said Djabelkhir took a stand and via his Facebook page said that this holiday has no religious connotations for it to be banned in the name of Islam and that the latter incorporates certain pagan practices such as the pilgrimage and the sacrifice of sheep on Eid.

Said Djabelkhir’s views are solid and well argued, which is why he drew the wrath of the Minister of Religious Affairs, who, in a statement at a conference on national unity in the Berber heritage, called for action to stop those, like Djabelkhir, “who take advantage of Algeria’s cultural diversity to sow discord in society.” Such an attitudes raises a question: Who really is really dividing Algerians? Who is defending their pluralism? Who wants to classify them according to their religion?

For their part, the coordination of imams, Islamist lawmakers as well as certain Islamists want to put Djabelkhir on trial for "attacking the perceptions of Islam and sowing discord in Algerian society". Concretely, such threats took shape following a complaint filed with the court in Sidi M'hamed, Algiers, by a nefarious professor at Djilali Liabes University in Sidi Bel Abbès under Article 144 bis 02 of the Algerian Penal Code, a repressive code that shows the hybrid character of the Algerian regime, a mixture of dictatorship and religion. On the basis of the former, the scholar of Islam is charged with mocking the sciences of religion and Islamic rites and harming the prophet Muhammad, which constitutes the offence of blasphemy. In order to turn his action into reality, the plaintiff, funded by the Islamist monster, hired three lawyers.

Conversely, Said Djabelkhir can rest assured. What he said is not fortuitous but the result of years of research and work in the field. His positions are all justified by religious texts that Sunni scholars try to hide from Muslims. In short, as an Islam specialist, Said Djabelkhir represents a danger for the obscurantist mindset Islamists use to keep society under their control.

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