How Fundamentalism Produced a Terrorism Without Precedent

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Originally published by El Watan (, Algiers, No. 1244, 6 November 1994

Part One

The nature of the crimes of Algerian fundamentalist terrorism

Recently, a fundamentalist terrorist who had been filmed during his interrogation recounted with graphic realism how he had cut the throat of an innocent fellow citizen: “We tied his hands. We put dirt in his mouth to keep him from screaming. The Emir[1] gave me the “boussaâdi” (knife) and ordered me to slit his throat(!)” The face of this fundamentalist executioner displayed no regret, no repentance, no pity. He related the facts just like someone who had sacrificed a sheep for the Eïd.

We had the impression of being in the presence of Frankenstein’s monster, of being in the presence of a machine made to kill and to destroy. Even so, our fundamentalist monster invoked the Holy War (“jihad”) against the tyrant (“taghout”) state and the citizens it had led astray to justify his transgressions. For him, the aims of these odious crimes – the instauration of an Islamic state and the re-Islamization of Algerians – allowed for the use of any means to attain his objectives. In other words, the ends justify the means.

Since the declaration of Holy War against Algerian society, inaugurated by the massacre of ten soldiers[2] of the National Popular Army (APN) in Guemmar on 25 November [1991], one month before the legislative elections of 26 December of the same year, countless other throat-slittings, decapitations, and assassinations carried out with firearms and knives, have been perpetrated against Algerian civilians and against foreigners. The slaughter of 12 Bosnians and Croats in Tamezguida on 14 December 1993 demonstrated the savagery of Algerian fundamentalist terrorism. A journalist of the El Watan [The Nation] newspaper who visited the site of that mass murder described the carnage in these terms: “Around 8:30 PM, an armed terrorist group, made up of 30-60 men occupied the site (where the citizens of the former Yugoslavia were in the process of digging a tunnel along with Algerian workers so as to facilitate communication between the North and the South of the country)… The hostages were taken about 100 metres downwards to a riverbed… Each one of them was tied up, their hands behind their backs, then taken one-by-one to a dark corner of the bank of the dried up riverbed… One-by-one, the 12 Bosnians and Croats had their throats cut. Their screams were lost in the dark night in this lost corner of the Blidean range of the Atlas Mountains.”

Moreover, nine days before this carnage, on 5 December of the same year, seven citizens were found mutilated, with their heads chopped off. On 24 December [1993], the security services discovered the head of Smaïn Ramdani, without his body, as well as a body that has not yet been identified from which the head was removed. On the 25th, the head of Mazari Boualem was found on the sidewalk in the center of the city of Médéa. On the 27th, the security services found an unidentified body from which the head had been cut.

This cruelty was justified by a fatwa issued by a fundamentalist who was a self-proclaimed sheikh [religious scholar]. According to one of the perpetrators of these brutal atrocities “the more the victim screams with cries of despair, the wider God opens the door of paradise to him.” This may explain, in part, why the number of victims does not stop growing, day by day, and why the level of brutality of Algerian fundamentalist terrorism continues to increase. In addition to the 70 billion dinars worth of property damage caused, the number of victims of terrorism has reached more than 6000 persons who have been assassinated - treacherously stabbed in the back, decapitated, or who have had their throats cut, often in front of their own families! As of July 1994, the wounded are estimated at 4000.

The nature of this kind of fundamentalist terrorism has greatly concerned me both in my capacity as an anthropologist, and as a citizen. A member of our family, a second lieutenant of the APN, who was of peasant origin and non-literate, and had served for more than 32 years, a father of 9 children - who ranged in age from 5 to 24 years-old - was killed on the eve of Eïd El-Kebir (1994) in Haouch El-Mékhfi, near Algiers, in front of his entire family. Once he was on the ground, riddled with bullets and lying in a pool of his own blood, the fundamentalist terrorist hordes finished him off by disfiguring him with blows from large stones and cinder blocks. His 7 year-old daughter, her young body trembling with anger, threw herself on his corpse, and was covered in the blood of her own massacred father. This scene traumatized her profoundly, and gave her a psychological shock from which she may never recover.

A neighbor who courageously came to offer assistance and called for help was shot on the spot even before the targeted victim had himself been executed. The second lieutenant was buried without honors, and in the absence of any representatives of the state. The National Popular Army was only represented by four officers in civilian clothes, two captains and two lieutenants who attended solely in their personal capacity as friends.

This is but one case among countless others, many even more horrific than this one. This tragic event, which affected those very near to me, demonstrates the dramatic consequences of the reign of warlords. They have induced a part of the popular classes to think that the Algerian state, which was created after an 8 year war [of national liberation], is impious, and its head-of-state is a taghout (tyrant) and the majority of its citizens are infidels who must be re-Islamized by terror. The partisans of re-Islamization by force - who believe in terror as a justified means to take power and keep it indefinitely – interpret and perceive every concession or peaceful opening as a sign of weakness, and thus as a sign of encouragement. This explains why all the overtures made by the government toward them, under external pressure, seem to achieve the opposite result to that which is sought: an increase in terrorism.

Unilateral concessions to fundamentalist gurus: terrorist escalation

Because they were not neutralized in time, that is to say before they had brought fire and blood to the country, the terrorist gangs of the GIA (Armed Islamic Group) decided a few weeks before the start of the 1994-95 academic year and the resumption of the dialogue between the government and five political parties (among them two “moderate” Islamist parties) to radicalize even further their war against Algerian society.

Their self-proclaimed emirs threatened to kill “all students or teachers who continue to go to schools or universities in Algeria.” The intensification of their jihad against nearly 7.5 million university students, pupils and trainee teachers, and about 360,000 teachers and trainers - roughly one quarter of the Algerian population - started with the assassination of Professor Stambouli [a professor of Sociology and Islamic Studies] and the burning of innumerable schools in the space of just a few days. This brought the number of assassinated teachers to more than 50 and the number of destroyed schools to more than 538 (40% of them destroyed completely) since the carnage of Guemmar [in November 1991].[3]

The number of assassinated teachers – female and male – and of burned schools has increased infinitely, each and every day from the start of the school year until now. This terror against the academy has forced many of the best university professors to flee Algeria. In fact, by the summer of 1994, 1400 professors and lecturers who provided the best training available in our universities - representing 10% of all teachers and academics – had already fled Algeria. They were hunted and chased away by fundamentalist terrorism.

Given the attempt to put to death the intelligentsia of an entire society (which is located a mere two hour flight from Paris, a 2.5 hour flight from London, less than an hour from Rome and Madrid…) denunciations alone have become entirely insufficient. How can one be merely a passive witness, or even indifferent, faced with the demolition of schools where children first learn how to read and write?

Must we remind the perpetrators of these crimes that are committed in the name of Islam, that the first verse of the Qur’an enjoins Muslims to read?

Based on what I know as an anthropologist and historian, no matter how nihilistic it was nor how cruel, and whatever its ideological tendency was, no terrorist movement in modern times has systematically attacked the teaching profession or deliberately destroyed all schools and universities, which have been considered in all civilizations since the invention of writing, and even more so since the advent of formal education, to be sacred temples, sites of the acquisition and transmission… of knowledge.

It is this universally sacred regard for learning that inspired the celebrated verse from the prince of modern Arab poets[4]: “Qoum lilmouallimi ouaffihi tabdjilah kada el moualimou anyakouna rassoulah.” (Stand up and pay your respects to the teacher, for he is like a Prophet.)

These murderous attacks focused on teachers and the educational infrastructure were accompanied by the assassinations of other categories of people such as doctors, journalists (22 killed and more than 170 in exile), writers, people of the theatre, heads of state companies, trade unionists, activists and leaders of political parties, members and heads of professional and athletic associations, lawyers, judges, foreign residents of Algeria, especially Europeans, artists and popular singers…

And still the terrorist escalation accelerates every single day. Its victims multiply ceaselessly in the face of a sort of indifference on the part of the Algerian government, of political parties like the FLN [National Liberation Front] of Mehri[5], the MDA [Mouvement pour la démocratie en Algérie] of Ben Bella[6], Ennahda of Djaballa[7], and, at the international level, of a certain sector of the press, of foreign governments, political parties and even academics. Despite the death toll, many [foreign] journalists, specialists, Euro-American newspapers and journals continue to carry on campaigns of disinformation, even falsifying the facts, to the benefit of the “Islamists.” While denouncing the violations committed by the security services, they maintain a complicit silence about the crimes against humanity committed by the Islamist terrorists, even as the latter intensify their terror campaign against innocent victims – both foreigners and citizens of Algeria.

Determined to asphyxiate the national economy, and to humiliate and destroy the post-independence Algerian state, the fundamentalist terrorists decided last year to attack all citizens of foreign countries who live and work in Algeria, without distinction as to sex. Their latest victim of foreign origin was Roger Germain Merle, a French national who was assassinated on 10 October 1994 at 8 AM in the industrial zone of Oued Smar, east of Algiers. His assassination came 48 hours after the decapitated cadaver of a French engineer who had been kidnaped six days earlier in Meftah was found in Hammadi, Réghaia. In less than a year, more than 60 foreigners – including 19 French nationals – have been killed by fundamentalist terrorists.

Since the assassination of President Boudiaf [in June 1992], we have experienced the manipulations of politicians, and the prevarications, shilly-shallying, lack of resolution and of conviction shown by a mediocre leadership. Moreover, the absence of political, economic and social perspectives after the ouster of Belaïd Abdeslam [former Prime Minister] in August 1993, and the abandonment of his program and strategy for resolving the crisis, has plunged the country into complete disarray and into a despair that can only intensify the terror and the devastation.

The 28 September 1994 assassination of the idol of young Algerians, Cheb Hasni, one of the major stars of Raï music, was due in part to the ineffectiveness, the carelessness and the lack of political strategy for rescuing the country from its current impasse. This crime upset everyone, except for the fundamentalists who, in silencing forever the voice of the singer of love, wanted to kill love itself: “Cheb Hasni, the crowning jewel of a generation of singers who carried far and wide one aspect of the genius of our people, will never again thrill the thousands and thousands of youth, and the less young, of whose joys, sufferings, loves and hopes he sang. This was decided by the proclaimed enemies of culture, of science and of progress.”[8]

Thus, Oran, the second city of the country -that had only a few months before buried Abdelkader Alloula, one of the greatest playwrights of independent Algeria, who was assassinated by fundamentalists terrorists - lost two of its brilliant sons in one week alone: the star of Raï, Cheb Hasni, and Professor Fardeheb, an eminent economist.. “Culture,” concluded [the newspaper] Le Matin “is itself being assassinated in an official silence and met with the indifference of the political class which favors “dialogue”, and whose only worry is the “koursi” (power) and how to rehabilitate the Godfathers of organized crime as quickly as possible.”

As events continue to worsen, the Algerian fundamentalist terrorists recently dared try to exterminate the entire family of a retired gendarme whose wife was pregnant. One of the children of this retired man, who was left for dead, in fact survived, with only one part of his throat mutilated. He can recount this infernal tragedy to those who would listen. During the month of September 1994, a terrorist group also invaded the home of a gendarme still in service. Luckily for him, he was not with his family at the time. But to extract their vengeance against him, the terrorist band killed his sister and her 14 month-old baby, in the name of the jihad carried out against Algerian society with the goal of re-Islamizing it!

Part Two (Excerpted)

Originally Published in El Watan (, No. 1245, 7 November 1994

What are the factors that have determined the savage nature of this Algerian fundamentalist terrorism?

How could a son of Algeria, who was carried in the womb of an Algerian mother, nursed and raised by her, and born into a family immersed in both Muslim and universal values, become a killing machine who destroys, pillages and rapes…? We must ask ourselves the question: is he simply the product of violence inherent in Algerian society and culture, as claimed by [some], or the product of a brain-washing to which he was subjected by fundamentalist groups whose goal was to create a “homo islamicus fundamentalensis”?

…[In fact,] the nucleus of the terrorist groups is estimated to be made up of between 600 to 900 men who fought in Afghanistan and have gone through extraordinary military training, made available by the US army at the request and under the control of the CIA, in Pakistan and in Afghanistan. In addition, this terrorism has also been shaped by a kind of thorough mental clean out accompanied by a propaganda campaign of the members of countless Islamist groups. This indoctrination rests on ideas developed by the founders of Muslim fundamentalism like Sayed Kotb and his successive disciples, whose historical roots go all the way back to the 12th century when a wave of fundamentalism swept across the Muslim world. It resulted in a substitution of faith and belief for knowledge and Averroesian rationalism.

The historical roots of fundamentalism

“From the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean, the fundamentalist sheikhs proceeded to destroy systematically the works of Muslim philosophers and scientists. While science and philosophical research succumbed at the beginning of the 12th century in the Mashrek, they would be denounced, condemned and banished at the end of that same century in the Maghreb, especially in Andalusia and at the beginning of the 13th century in Egypt. In the Middle East, the works of Ibn Sina [Avicenna][9] and Al Farabi[10] were burned. In Syria, mystical philosopher Sohrawardi[11] was executed. In Cordoba, they destroyed manuscripts that had been collected in the great libraries established by the Omayyad Caliphs.”[12]

In 1192, they burned the library of a great doctor in Cordoba who was accused of atheism. A sheikh publicly presided over this rampage. After a fiery sermon against philosophy and science, he rallied the crowd of onlookers to join in the destruction by distributing the books to be thrown onto the pyre, and by commenting on each book. A witness described the scene in these terms: “I saw in the ‘sheikh’s’ hand an extremely rare work of astronomy by Ibn El Haythem[13] which depicts the circle the author used to represent the celestial globe. The sheikh exclaimed: ‘Here is a huge disaster,’ and as he said that he ripped up the book and threw it into the fire.”

Even the great scholar Ibn Rushd [Averroes] was a victim of triumphant fundamentalism in the 12th century. The prediction that a hurricane would wipe out all of humanity had become widespread across Muslim lands. Terrorized, the populace even contemplated taking refuge in caves. The Sultan of Cordoba gathered all the scientists and theologian-philosophers to seek their advice about this matter. Ibn Rushd expressed his doubts and said that they should examine this prediction in the light of physics and the natural sciences. A sheikh shouted a question at him: “Do you not believe in the destruction of the tribe of Ad by a hurricane as was related in the Qur’an?” The philosopher replied that it was only a myth. This answer was used by the sheikhs of the day to accuse the greatest thinker of the era of heresy. They forced him to appear before an actual inquisition which condemned him to exile and to the burning of his books. The most fanatical of them incited the crowds to persecute him.

Arriving in Marrakech, Ibn Rushd owed his life solely to his medical knowledge which was unrivaled in his day. The Sultan took him as his personal doctor, but confined him in the palace where he was forbidden to pursue his research or to publish it. Some sources report that he was even forbidden from reading! According to the great Iranian historian and writer Hoveyda: “Overcome by a veritable anti-intellectual fury which was encouraged by the authorities and theologians (fundamentalist) from one end of their world to another, Muslims hastened to throw their own scientific and philosophical achievements into the rubbish bins. The religious fanatics shouted, ‘the Qur’an contains all the truth necessary to guide believers in this world and to open the doors of paradise for them.’”[14]

This fundamentalist frenzy led to the decline of the Arabo-Muslim world, which made it vulnerable, and in the long run colonizable.

The role of fundamentalism in the decline and colonization of the Muslim World

From the 12th century onward, the Muslim World, closed to all new influences and stripped of its intellectual and scientific riches, did not stop regressing, with rare exceptions such as [the work of] Ibn Nafis[15] in the 13th century and Ibn Khaldun[16] in the 14th – who was not understood by his co-religionists until after his 19th century discovery by the Europeans. The fundamentalists, in alliance with despots, pushed [the Muslim World] into an intellectual hara kiri. “Never before had we seen the people of a civilization reject all their own advances achieved over four centuries. While the party (of endogenous purity or fundamentalism) savored its victory, science and philosophy flourished in Europe, where they would lead to the most tremendous scientific and technical revolutions. In the Middle East and North Africa, on the other hand, underdevelopment took hold of the societies and pushed them backwards. We witnessed a true brain drain” (a pattern of flight that recurs with each new rise of fundamentalism).[17] Indeed, the fundamentalist victory of the 12th century contributed to the flight of both books and brains from the Muslim world to Europe. “The books in Latin that were saved from the autodafés by Jews and Mozarabs[18] of Spain were sent in secret, hidden from Muslim and Christian authorities, to Western Universities.”[19]

Between the 12th century and the advent of national liberation movements in the 20th century - who tried in vain to achieve a beneficial synthesis of faith and belief with science and technology, in other words the realization of the Averroesian philosophy whose results were at the root of the Western renaissance – and under the negative influence of fundamentalism, Muslims largely gave up the search for the truth and for knowledge, and both artistic and scientific creation. They lived for seven centuries preoccupied exclusively with the hereafter. Thus, the triumph of fundamentalism reduced the Muslim world to an easy prey, and one that would be the victim of the spirit of enterprise, the worship of knowledge and the wild accumulation of capital by the West. Hoveyda was correct to underscore that: “Carefully examining the history of the Muslim world and of the West, we come to the same conclusion: progress does not happen except in liberty and if accompanied by respect for freedom of opinion and respect for the men (and especially for the women) who carry it forward.”

Since the decolonization of Muslim majority countries, the founders of post-colonial fundamentalism concentrated their theorizing toward the goal of refuting the Averroesian synthesis that has been enriched and perfected by the great Western thinkers and scientists. According to Sheikh Sahnoun, one of the founders of Algerian fundamentalism, and a disciple of Hasan El Banna[20] and Sayyed Kotb, “our Arabo-Muslim heritage (with its rationalist elements as represented by El-Kindi[21], Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd truncated, of course…) is good enough for us.” Some have gone so far as to reject Western science and to suggest that we should only keep its “Islamic” aspects!, sometimes with the encouragement of certain Westerners themselves (Maurice Bucaille, Le Coran et la Science – the Qur’an and Science) who supported intellectual inertia and torpor among Muslims.

The obsession with protecting endogenous purity against all exogenous subversion is a shared feature of all religious fundamentalisms: Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu… Thus, like Calvin, the theoretician of fundamentalist Protestantism who believed that Ottoman conquest of certain European countries was at the origin of the corruption and defiling of Christian Europe in the 16th century,[22] the supporters of contemporary Muslim fundamentalism ascribe sin and debauchery – which in their eyes is widespread in the post-independence states of Muslim majority countries - to colonialism and a cultural invasion. They attribute the root of [this] evil to the influence of foreign cultures and institutions. For the Muslim fundamentalists, the curse of Muslims and their problems are, in part, produced and nourished by the materialist and secular West, as well as by a Zionism they consider satanic and subversive. They believe that Muslim maladies are due to the values introduced through infrastructural and super-structural modernization in the Muslim world, a world that was awakened from its centuries’ old lethargy by the destructurations and restructurations that went along with the exploitation and humiliation inflicted on it by imperialism.

At its root, the rejection of modernization and Westernization is nothing more than a continuity of the refusal of the Averroesian synthesis that reconciled faith and religious belief with reason and scientific logic.

Part Three

Originally published in El Watan (, 8 November 1994, No. 1246

The nature of the crimes of Algerian fundamentalist terrorism

In the Arabo-Muslim world, fundamentalism represents the negation of the very idea of the post-independence nation-state. For the followers of fundamentalism, that state represents development, rationalism and secularization. This explains why they want - at any cost - to substitute for it an Islamic state.

Indeed, for the “Islamists” there is a basic difference between a Muslim nation state and an “Islamic state.” A Muslim state is any state governed by modernist Muslims. An Islamic state, on the other hand, is “one which chooses to run its affairs in accordance with the revealed orders of Islam and accepts the sovereignty of God and the supremacy of his law.”[23] Contradicting Sunni orthodoxy, this idea is instead derived from the theologian Ibn Taymiya. The latter incited Muslims to declare jihad against the Mongols despite their conversion to Islam.[24] However, even the most rigorous jurisconsult, Ibn Hanbal, rejected this interpretation.

In spite of this, the fundamentalists have continued to preach and advocate that it is insufficient for a society to be made up of Muslims. Rather, it is imperative that it is Islamic in its religious foundations, its practices, its workings, and in its socio-political structure. Such ideas, as developed by Kotb in Nasserist Egypt, were a reaction to the developments undertaken by President Gamal Abdel Nasser during the 50s and 60s. After returning from a stay in the USA, Kotb decided not only to criticize the nature of the nationalist, socialist and progressive Nasserist state, but also to develop an Islamist doctrine that would politicize Islam.

The transformation of Egyptian society initiated by the state, with the goal of integrating and developing the Egyptian economy, society and culture, seemed to him to be an even more menacing interference than that of the colonial state. Instead of adapting Egyptian society to meet the requirements of the 20th century, he proposed to Muslims a return to the age of the Prophet and the first four Caliphs. The developmentalist, centralizing and integrating post-independence state seemed to him a diabolical driving force, led by a taghout (tyrant) or Pharoah. The notion of tyrant or taghout applies to those who worship idols as opposed to venerating God, the all-powerful. The arbitrary power of the state, as represented by the Pharoah, was invoked to suggest that the head of state of an Arabo-Muslim nation wantonly tramples on divine laws.

From this point of view, the conflict between Pharoah and Moses (Moussa) is transposed to that which exists between the post-independence head of state who does not apply Islamic laws, and the fundamentalists who owe no allegiance or submission except to God. Thus, their mission is to seize the power which has been usurped by the tyrant and return it to its true Master: God. This implies the destruction of the Pharaoh and the established order.

The power of the State and the social order, “nidham el hokum,” demands loyalty of citizens, the loyalty they are supposed to offer exclusively to God. Moreover, for Kotb, the state and its leadership constituted a glorification of human needs and desires which were made into objects of idol-worship.[25]

For this fundamentalist theorist, Muslim countries would have great difficulties in filling the development gap that exists between them and the West. Even with Herculean efforts, it would take them considerable time to reach the level of the more developed countries. Because they could not achieve such material power, they must find another way, that of faith, so as to become leaders of the world!

His conception of a political, activist Islam led him to try, along with his disciples, to overthrow the established order. Accused of plotting against the Egyptian state and of conspiring with Western intelligence services, notably the CIA, Kotb was condemned to death and executed in 1966. This execution created a martyr and a symbol for the fundamentalists whose numbers were increasing after the humiliating defeat of the Arabs by the Israeli Army in 1967.

According to them, this defeat was largely due to secularization, which they equated with infrastructural and super-structural modernization of Arab economies and societies. The solution seemed simple to them: the application of the true Islam, through a process of re-Islamizing Muslims who had gone astray. In short, Muslim societies of the 20th century were… assimilated to the society of the jahiliya [pre-Islamic era], characterized by the worship of idols and by ignorance. This [situation] required that “real Muslims” and the fundamentalists must declare Holy War against Muslim society.

Holy War against the impious state and misguided Muslims

Consequently, the true Islam - as conceived by the successive disciples of Kotb – demands of believers more than just ritual acts. They must undertake jihad (fi sabil Allah) (in the path of God), under order from God. Muslims who do not obey God in this specific domain are, according to them, giving their allegiance to idols, and through them to the tyrant (taghout). As for those who follow the orders of the taghout (tyrant), they are to be considered apostates or unbelievers against whom one must wage jihad.[26] The meaning of jihad is thus truncated. While in the beginning jihad referred to defensive actions taken under certain conditions against non-Muslims, it was henceforth re-oriented and aimed against Muslims themselves.

It must be recalled that no Muslim can assume for himself the right to declare another Muslim an apostate or unbeliever, however serious his sins may be, as this would exclude him from the Muslim community or Umma. Indeed, Islam does not allow for intermediaries between believers and their Creator. It is to Him alone that they must give accounting on the last day of judgment. Moreover, because Islam recognizes monotheistic religions, it allows for the peaceful coexistence within the Umma of different Muslim sects, as well as the Ahl El Kitab (people of the book) (Christians and Jews), etc…

What is very worrying is that some fundamentalist groups have called into question the function and the role played by the Ulema [clergy] since (Asr Attadwint) the time of the transcription of the Qur’an, of the Hadith and of the traditions, initiated in the year 143 of the Hegira by the Abbassid Caliphs, and in particular at the instigation of El Mansour.[27] The Ulema, who constituted the third principal social force in all Muslim states since this date, held symbolic power and the monopoly over the process of exegesis by virtue of their recognized expertise, which was not contested by either the political rulers or the community. Their dismissal opened the door to charlatans who rapidly declared themselves sheikhs and appropriated, de facto, the roles and function that had been filled until then by the Ulema, without possessing either their competence, their experience or their wisdom, and certainly without their methods of interpretation.

In Islam, the word “Alim” or learned person is a concept which is “sublime of God and a divine attribute.” The absolute science of God is at the same time knowledge (Ilm), power (Koudra) and wisdom (Hikma).[28] This conception of science is derived from at least a hundred Qur’anic verses that evoke science. One of them says: “Those who fear God are scholars” (Qur’an).

Fundamentalist theoreticians and activists reject all decisions taken traditionally by Ijmâa (consensus) as well as Qiyas (analogical reasoning). Some fundamentalists went so far as to declare null and void the juridical doctrines elaborated by the four imams, because these closed the door of ijtihad (independent interpretation). Their doctrines were likened by the fundamentalists to idols (asnam) objects of pagan worship. For them, because the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic it is, by consequence, clear and comprehensible. To understand a number of words (or Qur’anic concepts), you simply need a good dictionary. This kind of calling into question amounts to saying that only the members of fundamentalist groups are good or real Muslims. The rest are submitting (aslamou) to the taghout (tyrant) who does not rule with divine laws. Islam is not just a religion of orthopraxis, that is to say the reciting of the profession of faith (shahada) but also determination (iqrar) and actions/deeds (A’mal).[29]

This doctrine, or fundamentalist bidaâ (innovation), led Kotb’s successors to consider that only the Prophet and his companions were able to build a real community of believers, and all those who came afterwards were perceived as having departed from the right road. Thus, the duty of true Muslims (meaning the fundamentalists) is to destroy the post-independence nation-states in Arabo-Muslim countries and institute Islamic states in their place. The realization of this goal requires the indoctrination, training and organization of mujahidine (holy warriors) so as to wage Holy War against the Muslims who have gone astray.

Algerian fundamentalist terrorism is the result of brain-washing

Feeling themselves at war against Muslim societies, fundamentalist movements - deeming that only their followers possess the truth and practice the true Islam - have actually resorted to organizational, political and religious innovations in order to mobilize their supporters. These innovations allowed them to bring their members closer together, and to prepare them, both ideologically and psychologically, for carrying out their struggle.

This merciless will to achieve their objectives has pushed them to engage in true brainwashing after which their disciples have lost their basic loyalties - to the State, to their friends and to the family.[30] Put in other terms, the fundamentalist groups subject them to a quasi-surgical operation aiming to change their behavior and their values, to re-educate them by inculcating their own (fundamentalist) values. This process of mental clean-out and re-training allows the disciples to break with their pasts so as to focus all their energy on the ultimate goal: the instauration of a new order. To prevent their followers from developing friendly relations amongst themselves… the gurus who serve as spiritual advisors require them to confess so as to admit their weaknesses. The admission of weakness in front of the group is intended to permit the group to guide them, to aid them in resisting temptation and to overcome the thoughts and contradictions that trouble them. Moreover, all the active members are submitted to the obligation of spying on each other and spying on the members of their own families, and friends, etc…

Thus, at the end of this process, we have a new homo islamicus fondamentalensis, devoted -body and soul - to the extermination and/or re-islamization of his deviant co-religionists. This implies blind faith and unshakeable certainties, a complete submission and an absolute obedience to the new heretical sect, whose major preoccupation is to prepare us for the hereafter.

The making of this homo islamicus fondamentalensis has led Algerian Islamist gurus to take control of sports clubs, especially those involved in martial arts, to organize seminars in mosques and outdoors, as well as camping trips on beaches and in the countryside for young boys. The fundamentalist gurus gave them a theoretical and practical (military) training. They also sent countless disciples to Pakistan and Afghanistan to complete their initiation into fundamentalist doctrine and military arts.

Official laxity was a great help to them in preparing and organizing themselves to seize power – either by the ballot or by the sword - whenever an opportune moment comes.

This indoctrination and this military training enabled the emirs of Algerian terrorist groups to justify throat-cutting, decapitation, rapes, “temporary marriages” (zaouedj el moutâa), destruction of public and private property such as factories, transportation, schools, and the premises of public services, etc…

When a Lebanese journalist asked one of them why they attacked the basic infrastructure of Algerian society - which should be preserved regardless of the ideological character of the political regime because it meets the fundamental needs of the population - the emir who was asked this question replied to the journalist as follows: “You are a victim of Euro-centrism and capitalism which privilege the material aspects of human existence. For us, what matters is spiritual life and the belief in God, the all-powerful.” Such words are in complete contradiction with the spirit and the letter of Islam as it was revealed by God to the Prophet, and understood and practiced by Muslims for centuries.

We are in the presence of a radical break with the true Islam as it was lived by our ancestors, even during the seven centuries of decline. This study shows that the fundamentalist terrorism that ravages and brings grief to the country on a daily basis is driven by new and foreign values that have been manufactured by fundamentalist gurus and have nothing to do with the claimed cultural continuity…

Instead of Islamizing the Algerian Muslims whom they considered apostates, the fundamentalist network has replaced the taghout (tyrant) with throat-slitting emirs and violators of the most sacred laws of Islam. Thus, the re-Islamization brought about by Abassi Madani[31], Ali Benhadj[32] and their followers has resulted instead in the de-Islamization of the terrorists who trampled Islam itself underfoot, in the name of jihad. They resemble Frankenstein. Their greed for power has pushed them to create a bloodthirsty monster that ended up trying not only to destroy the nation-state established by the Revolution of November[33] - which they deem impious - and to dethrone its predatory leaders, but also to devour all of Algerian society.

The question before us today is the following one: Can we dialogue, debate, argue, discuss, persuade, co-exist, pray and work with this homo islamicus fundamentalensis that is determined to either exterminate us or “re-Islamize” us?

By Dr. Mahfoud Bennoune ( (9 April 1936 - 17 May 2004)

Translated by Karima Bennoune (

[1] Translator’s Note: The leaders of Algeria’s fundamentalist armed groups, and sometimes even of sub-groups within them, took the title of Emir.

[2] Translator’s Note: These were all young conscripts.

[3] Translator’s note: This jihad against education foreshadows the later targeting of education by the Taliban in South Asia, and by Boko Haram (whose very name means “Western education is a sin”) in Nigeria.

[4] Translator’s note: Egyptian poet Ahmed Chawqui.

[5] Translator’s Note: Abdelhamid Mehri, a former cabinet minister, served from 1988-1996 as Secretary General of the FLN (Front de Libération Nationale), the political party which bears the name of the nationalist movement.

[6] Translator’s Note: Ahmed Ben Bella was the first president of independent Algeria, and was ousted in a coup d’état in 1965, later becoming an opposition politician in exile.

[7] Translator’s Note: Abdallah Djaballah was a founder and leader of Ennahda, the Movement of the Islamic Renaissance, an Algerian political party which attempted to distinguish itself from the more radical discourse and the violence of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

[8] Le Matin, No. 840 of 30 September-1st October 1994. “While the youth,” wrote the newspaper, “along with the population of Oran, gathered in memory of the victim, we note that the attack was not condemned officially….”

[9] Translator’s Note: Ibn Sina (980-1037) was a metaphysical philosopher and physician from Central Asia.

[10] Translator’s Note: A scientist, philosopher and musician, Al Farabi (Alpharabius) (approx. 870-950 AD) was born in Turkestan and died in what later would become Syria. He was known as “the second teacher”, after Aristotle (“the first teacher”).

[11]Translator’s Note: Perisian philosopher, Sohrawardi (approx. 1155-1191 AD) was executed for heresy in Aleppo at age 36.

[12] F. Hoveyda, L’islam bloqué, Laffon, Paris, 1992, p. 89.

[13] Translator’s Note: Ibn El Haythem (965-1040 AD) was an Arab astronomer, mathematician and philosopher who was born in Basra and died in Cairo.

[14] Hoveyda, p. 74.

[15] Translator’s Note: Ibn Nafis (1213-1288 AD) was an Arab physician who first described the pulmonary circulation of the blood.

[16] Translator’s Note: North African scholar Ibn Khaldun was among the founders of both sociology and historiography.

[17] Hoveyda, p. 74.

[18] Translator’s Note: Iberian Christians living under Muslim rule in Andalusia.

[19] Hoveyda, p. 96.

[20] Translator’s Note: Founder of the Muslim Brotherhood.

[21] Translator’s Note: An Iraqi philosopher, mathematician and physician, El Kindi was born in Basra in 801 AD and died in Baghdad in 873.

[22] See the excellent work of E. Goldberg, Smashing Idols and the State: The Protestant Ethic and Egyptian Sunni Radicalism, published in Comparing Muslim Society, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1992, Ed. Cole, p. 217.

[23] K. Ahmed, Preface to the book of A. Maududi, a fundamentalist theoretician from Pakistan, The Islamic Law and Constitution, Lahore, Islamic Publication, 1980, p. 6.

[24] E. Sivan, Ibn Taymiya, Father of the Islamic Revolution, Encounter, May 1983.

[25] See Sayed Kotb, Fi dhilal el Quran, Dar El Chourouk, Beirut, 1974.

[26] See Jama’at el djihad, El Faridah el gha’ibah, Dar Thabit, Cairo, 1983. This is the group that killed Sadat in 1981.

[27] Doctor A. Aroua, L’islam et la Science, ENAL, Algiers, 1984, p. 51. Translator’s Note: El Mansour (754-778 AD) was the second Caliph of the Abbassid dynasty.

[28] See N.A. Al Jabiri, Taquin al aql al arabi, Marqez dirassat al Arabiya, Beirut, 1984, p.p. 62-64.

[29] See A. Abu Al Khayr, Dhikrayati ma’a jama’at al muslimin (al takfir wa al hijra), Dar al Buhuth al limiya, Kuwait, 1980, pp. 9-10.

[30] Jamal Al Banna, Al Faridah, Jihad al sayf aou djiahd al aql, Cairo, 1983, p. 228.

[31] Translator’s Note: Madani was a founder and former president of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS).

[32] Translator’s Note: Firebrand Ali Benhadj was the FIS second-in-command, known for declaring, “One should kill these unbelievers.” He also famously asked, “If we have the law of God, why should we need the law of the people?”

[33] Translator’s Note: Algeria’s war of national liberation which was launched on November 1, 1954 by the FLN.

“How Fundamentalism Produced a Terrorism Without Precedent” by Bud Parr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.