Since the overwhelming electoral victory of Algeria's main Islamist party, the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS), in 1990 and 1991, the annulment of the elections by the Algerian army in 1992, and a decade of apparently random killings that followed throughout the country, religion has been at stake in most contemporary debates on Algeria. Algeria has thereby entered the field of larger debates within the Western world about radical Islam, the rise of religion, the rejection of “Western models,” and other expressions of the putative “clash of civilizations.” At the same time, relatively little has been said about what “Islam” actually means in the Algerian context, even by more perspicacious authors and analysts who are keen to stress the economic and social causes for the success of political Islam in Algeria (e.g., Burgat 1988; 1995; Charef 1994; Martinez 1998). This is not to say that the variety of religious practices in Algeria has attracted no attention from researchers. Rather, it means that those writers who focus on ‘local’ religion, such as Andezian (1993; 2001) and Hadibi (1999; 2002), tend to produce local accounts of the veneration of saints and pilgrimages, without referring to broader cultural dynamics and political struggles, and without attempting to link their findings in more than superficial ways to the emergence of modern Islamism.
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