Despite the considerable attention in recent years to Islamist movements in the Middle East and North Africa, the situation in Algeria often goes overlooked. This oversight is perhaps due to a persistent focus on Algeria’s high politics as well as the chiefly terror/counter-terror lens through which Algeria has been understood since the end of its civil war (1991-2002). Moreover, to many it appeared the 2010-11 “Arab Spring” uprisings did not profoundly alter the country’s political landscape. Because of these analytical biases, Algeria’s Islamism, the country’s parties, civil society, and its contentious politics at-large have not been adequately explored.
Algeria’s Islamist politics are often presumed dead. Indeed, most discussions on the subject begin and end with the “first” Arab uprisings that took place twenty years ago. These reference the rise and fall of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) party between 1988 and 1992, Algeria’s descent into a harrowing civil war (sometimes called the “Black Decade”) after they were stripped of power, lessons to be drawn from the FIS’s demise, and the lingering effects of the war on North African security and terror. Algeria’s armed groups and terrorist organizations exist mostly on society’s margins. And while they are central to understanding the country’s geopolitics, foreign policy, and the ruling political-military machine, they are arguably less important to understanding current dynamics and trends in the country’s domestic religious and social scene.