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October 01, 2006
Totten on Algeria

Posted by Bill

On Glenn and Helen Reynolds' latest podcast, globetrotting blogger Michael Totten reveals "the biggest underreported story in the Arab world:"

Algeria is a place where Islamism is finished. Fifteen years ago, Islamism was fairly popular in Algeria, and the Islamists actually won an election. And the military voided the election, which instigated unspeakable civil war where about 150,000 people were killed. They were homegrown, domestic salafists, as they call themselves, which are basically the Wahhabis of North Africa ... and their hit list was long and gruesome. I mean, it was impossible for a normal kind of person to be in the type of category in Algerian society that was not on the Islamists' hit list. Basically the Islamists look at a very complicated Mediterranean country that was part of France for 150 years, and they said you are either just like us, you are gonna be extreme Islamists like us, or we're going to kill you.
...
That war is finally over ... [Islamism is] dead. It's dead for two reasons: one because the military beat it, and the other reason is because after people had to live through this ordeal for fifteen years, those who voted in the Islamists, very naively, I think, realized that it wasn't such a great idea after all; these people are complete lunatics. And they didn't even take over the country and still managed to kill this many people. And so, Algerian culture has done a huge shift from being either Islamist or naively pro-Islamist, to being much, much, much more liberal and democratic than it was. The women are taking off the headscarf and they're reorienting themselves towards Europe ... it is very hopeful, and yeah, getting there, well, it was pretty bad.

This is a difficult example of the first scenario described in my summary of Zakaria's book.

Totten goes on to compare Algeria to Iran, where the popularity of Islamism has also waned, as well as discuss the depressing challenges of societies learning these lessons the long, hard way. If you download the file, the Algerian discussion begins at 26:11. The rest of the interview includes his first-hand perspective on Israel, Libya and Lebanon. Check it out.

Posted by Bill at October 1, 2006 10:30 AM | TrackBack (6)

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Comments

Islam has been in power in Iran long enough to have a generation that has been brainwashed, or at least doesn't know any different. As the clock ticks, an overthrow in Iran seems less and less likely.

Posted by: jpm100 at October 1, 2006 01:50 PM

The women are the key - or perhaps more accurately, a critical key - to the defeat of Islamism.

We need to help empower (ugh, hate that word) them somehow.

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at October 1, 2006 02:32 PM

Islam has been in power in Iran long enough to have a generation that has been brainwashed, or at least doesn't know any different.

You aren't talking about the young generation, are you? Because if you are, you've got it backwards ...

Posted by: Bill from INDC at October 1, 2006 03:30 PM

Democracy at work.

The surest way to discredit an ideology is to put it in practice and have everyone see it fail.

Iran isn't quite ruthless or insular enough to brainwash its people. North Koreans may grow up believing their failed, murderous state is the greatest country in the world (and reports are most do), but Iranians have too much contact with the outside world and too much freedom to disagree for that to sell.

Posted by: TallDave at October 1, 2006 08:19 PM

Posted by: karel at October 13, 2006 10:14 PM

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