The Battle for Algiers

 

Hello sweeties! Urbndervish here. I think that a few updates are in order. If you hadn’t known, both eternitysojourner and I are separated! No, I don’t mean “separated” in the sense of irreconcilable differences that cause us to live apart for a while. I mean we are geographically separated; at least temporarily. Yeah, I got a teaching job in Algiers, Algeria and arrived here almost four weeks ago. Unfortunately, the wife was not able to come with me because of some bureaucratic rule regarding here age and a work visa! Consequently, the plan was that I was to come here first, get a temporary residency, and file for eternitysojourner to get a spouse visa. We pray that the process won’t take too long, inshaAllah (God willing).

My time here in Algeria has been eventful. Since I landed in the Algiers airport, I was able to witness the wellknown hospitality of the Algerian people. Everyone here has shown me great manners and have bent over backwards to ensure my comfort! I was invited to stay with a complete stranger until I was able to secure an apartment for myself. He said that I could stay over his place even after I get an apartment! Great hospitality! I have since secured an apartment and have been staying there for a couple of weeks now. It was just as I wanted: inexpensive, safe, and clean. It was also completely empty! Which means that it had no fridge, water heater, stove/burner, etc. I was told that this was typical of apartments in Algeria. I’m adjusting to it. I AM glad that I came here before my wife so that I am able to take most of the brunt of the adjustment. By the time she arrives, things should be a lot easier for her, inshaAllah.

I have the chance to talk to many Algerians about the current têteàtête that is going on between Algeria and Egypt. For those of you who do not know, Algeria and Egypt were involved in the soccer qualifiers to enter the World Cup. That is to say that whoever wins will enter the World Cup. Tensions were high! As a matter of fact, tensions were too high! The second to the last game between the two North African countries ended controversially. The results were rioting and violence. Some of the Egyptians here have been assaulted and Egyptianbased businesses have been pillaged. I spoke to a brother about it and he said that an Egyptian friend of his here was attacked, and his home was looted by some Algerian ne’erdowells. He and I lamented the fact that both North African countries whose populations boast a Muslim majority, are behaving against one another in such an aggressive way. If anything, both countries should be cooperating for the betterment of Africa. But, once again, as I said before: “There is a thin line between nationalism and insanity!

Algeria defeated Egypt in their last game and Algerians have been celebrating since! Fortunately, the celebration doesn’t entail drinking, drunken brawls, and the like. Besides Algerians driving around in their cars honking, singing, waving flags, and the like, the celebration would be mild in comparison to countries where alcohol is permitted! This brings us to the main topic of this entry, “The Battle for Algiers.

Those of you who recognized the title of this entry, know that “The Battle for Algiers” was a movie that highlighted Algeria’s bloody struggle for independence. Many Algerians are proud of the fact that Algeria was one of the only North African nations that didn’t demand independence from France, they took it! It was a hardfought, wellearned revolution that pitted the colonized against the colonizer. The Algerian forces consisted of the Nationalists and the Religious. The Nationalists were fueled by issues of collective identity and protosocialist ideals. The religious element was fueled by the apparent contradiction between Islamic governance and nonMuslim, imperialist design. Both sides of the coin were different in their ideological backing but the same in their objective. This line between the two groups was blurred by the amalgamation of Nationalist/Islamic struggle. The Nationalists took advantage of this by sending the religious mujahideen forward against the French forces while they sat back, took the glory, and planned the takeover. It was a scene that was to be reenacted by most independence movements in majorityMuslim countries. The result of the battle was massacred Algerian victors; the war was won but at the cost of an innumerable amount of Algerians. The next war that was to take place for the next series of decades was the war between the Nationalists and warworn religious. This war was very bloody as well. However, these days, this war is more of a ideological battle of sorts.

I would say that the majority of the people are religiously observant. The mosques are generally wellattended for each of the daily prayers. You see more women in hijab (headscarf) than without. The language of the people still contains Islamic allusions, such as inshaAllah, alhamdulillah, etc., whether the individual considers him/herself religious or not. The youths here are very connected to the religion. For example, you can find a young man with a fauxhawk and tight jeans correcting another person in his Qur’anic recitation! You don’t get the sense that Islam is tolerated here; rather, you get the idea that it is accepted. This is more than I can say for the other North African, majority Muslim countries where the headscarf is banned in official settings, and the Gestapo takes official tallies of men who faithfully attend the mosque for daily prayers! Nevertheless, the nationalist element has taken root as well. This became even more evident during the game, as I mentioned above. The Algerian identity has not separated their nationalist identification from their religious identification. Nor has it sought the need to do so. Much like other young nations, it has an important task ahead of it. Once they have created Algeria, they must now create Algerians. We know that the Algerian populace consists of a hodgepodge of various ethnicities and even the local dialect reflects the diverse past of Algeria. The dialect combines elements of Arabic, Berber, Turkish, French, and a hint of Spanish. Although the Algerian people are classified as such, the long road ahead is to create and maintain an identity that is consistent with its history but mindful of its future.

Just last night, I was talking with an older teacher here and he said that the process of Algerian selfidentification may take a while, but the process is necessary. After all, he said, it took a couple of centuries from the American Revolution to create an American. The Algerian Revolution is only almost half a century old. He also said that it must be remembered that Algeria is an African nation, not a Middle Eastern country. That withstanding, in addition to the arduous selfidentification process, this young nation must also find its way despite a fairly recent past of European colonial domination. Most of the Middle Eastern countries had the privilege to invite the imperialists in. The nations of Africa were not given that privilege. Recovering from exploitation is also a job in itself! Just ask those Latin American and Caribbean countries who are trying to maintain their dignity despite utter poverty at the hands of their “former” oppressors! Nevertheless, Algeria is not here to whine about it. They are here to get a piece of what they can get while upholding the principles of their stance. This has not gone unnoticed by those “developed” nations that see enormous potential hereespecially due to the fact that Algeria was one of the places that was least affected by the economic crisis that shook the world. Foreign investors are brushing the dust off of their mapsspecifically, the dust that has accumulated over the image of this North African nation. We just had better hope that Algeria is ready for the world, because the world is ready for Algeria!

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