Like in almost all other Arab states, the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood group also thrived in Algeria. The group had an Algerian branch that embraced the vision of Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna.
The universities were fertile grounds for the Brotherhood of Algeria to promote its ideas. It spread its ideas in the universities by bringing professors affiliated to it together with students in a long series of religious lectures and sessions.
In the 1960s, an Islamic group popped up in the North African state. Called Al-Mohad, the new group was led by Mahfoud Nahnah and Mohamed Bouslimani.
The public appearance of this group coincided with the approval of the Agricultural Wealth Act in 1976 by then-Algerian president Houari Boumediene. The group considered the act a conspiracy against poor families and the middle-class.
Some Algerian citizens were influenced by the group’s rhetoric on the same issue.
The fledgling group then declared rebellion against the Boumediene regime. It rejected the 1976 constitution. The group then issued a statement in which it called for the application of Islamic law and incited Algerians against the new constitution.
Mutiny and Rivalry
Rifts started to appear within Al-Mohad. Some group members stood up for amendments proposed to the constitution after talks with the government. Other members opposed the amendments and took sides with Nahnah, who joined the Muslim Brotherhood group in 1976, and Bouslimani. The two of them were imprisoned until 1980 on charges of resorting to violence and vandalism.
Following Nahnah’s release from prison, the work of Islamists started to be more organized than ever before. The International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood took sides with Nahnah in his struggle for leadership of the branch of the Brotherhood in Algeria.
The leadership struggle was restricted to Nahnah and Sheikh Abdullah Jaballah, the head of the Justice and Development Front later. Both men claimed to be the legitimate leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Algeria.
Nahnah’s appointment as Muslim Brotherhood head in Algeria by Brotherhood leaders in Egypt caused divisions within the Islamic movement in the 1980s.
The Algerian regime recognized the Islamic Salvation Front as a Salafist front in 1989. The front was headed by Sheikh Abbassi Madani and had Ali Belhadj as its deputy head. It also formed an Islamic party that fielded candidates in the legislative elections of December 26, 1991. Party candidates won a supermajority of seats, turning into the main decision-making force in the Algerian parliament during the rule of Algerian President Chazli Bennid (1979-1992).
Al-Mohad changed its name in the early 1990s. Group called itself the Movement of Society for Peace. It also gave itself the name “Hamas”.
In January 1992, the Algerian army forced the president to step down to spare his country the rise of the Islamists to decision-making positions. Bennid bowed to the desire of the generals. This led to the cancellation of the results of the legislative elections. The Islamic Front then won the subsequent elections, which was why the electoral process was halted indefinitely.
The Salvation Front viewed these developments as a “military coup”. However, the Brotherhood had another point of view. Nahnah took sides with the army. This opened the door for fighting between the front and the government and among the Islamists. Battles in this regard left a staggering 200,000 people dead.
Having accused the leader of Hamas of backing the regime in abusing the leaders of the Islamic Salvation Front, Mahfoud said he wanted to protect the Algerian state from collapse.
Rifts widened between the leaders of Algeria’s Brotherhood, especially between the junior and senior members of Hamas movement. After the death of Nahnah in 2003, Abu Jarrah Soltani, one of the founders of the Islamic Movement in Algeria in the 1970s, was declared the head of the movement. He was succeeded by Abdel Razek Makri, a close associate of the founder of the movement Nahnah Mahfoud. Makri introduced major change to the policy of the movement. He turned it into an opposition group.
This change was caused by the dissidence of several Hamas leaders and the creation of other parties and movements that followed in the footsteps of the Brotherhood.