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"Algeria, my love" raises questions that need to be dug up

By Razika Adnani, philosopher and specialist in questions related to Islam, member of the Orientation Council of the Fondation de l'Islam de France, of the CEFR Scientific Council and of the JFC Conseil analysis group.




"Algeria, my love" raises questions that need to be dug up
In the documentary film "Algeria, my love" directed by Mustapha Kessous, Anis, Mehdi, Sonia, Athmane and Hania expressed the political and social problems of Algerian society as they lived and thought them. It is up to the Algerians to delve into the subjects addressed, to go deeper into the questions asked and ask other questions or, if they wish, to ask them differently and give other opinions.

But the Algerians preferred to pretend that young people did not represent them.  And yet the problems they addressed we all know them. They did not invent them. Those who don't drink can't pretend that they don't know that there are men and women who drink in Algeria. According to the newspaper TSA, Algerians consumed 270 million litres of alcohol in 2017.

Men cannot deny that the family code is unfair and humiliating for women. What is dramatic is that Algeria becomes hysterical when the problem of the family code is addressed. However, either she (holds Algeria is a woman) repeals this code and she will be able to be modern, or she maintains it and will remain archaic. Either Algerians accept equality between men and women and they will take a first step towards a fairer society, or they will live forever crushed by injustice. Sonia in the film expressed very well the paradoxical situation of Algerian society: Algerians call for the support of women, half of the population, to get rid of an unjust power that oppresses them, but do not want to hear them denounce the family code and talk about the injustice and oppression that they themselves inflict on them.

 

No revolution is solely political

Nor can Algerians be unaware of how deeply sexual frustration undermines their society. Sexual assault is a social scourge that ranges from the words you hear on every street corner to the obscene looks when it is not outright rape. No matter how the young people expressed themselves, the important thing is to open up the debate on such sensitive and fundamental issues.

As for the question of freedom, it is enough to be attentive to what Algerians say to realise that they all complain about a society that oppresses them and does not leave them the space for individual freedom that is indispensable for their development. Algerians love freedom and they want to be free, but freedom frightens them, especially when it is claimed by others.
The error of those who accuse the director of having distorted the Algerian popular movement stems from a false conception of the revolution. They think that it boils down to politics. Thus for them, apart from democracy, the right to express political opinion, political prisoners, no other subject can have a place in their movement. They believe that the freedom that the people are demanding can only be political. Outside, it is libertinism, unbelief and disobedience. This is the meaning of freedom in their traditional culture.

No revolution is solely political. No real change can be possible if it does not affect both aspects of society, that of politics which concerns the state and its relationship with the individual and that of society which concerns the relationship of the individual with the other and with his or her environment. The one does not go without the other.

Young people have broken the taboos of a society that lies to itself

As with all films, books or works of art, Algerians do not have to like, or love everything in a documentary. Criticism is even indispensable to deepen debates and allow other ideas to emerge, provided it is healthy and constructive. Insults, violence and defamation ruin any possibility of exchange and debate.
Unfortunately, what this polemic reveals is that the people who have always been denied the right to speak, who have been tirelessly repeated: "you don't know what's going on, you're being manipulated by foreigners", use exactly the same phrases and accusations: "the director is in the service of France and young people don't know how to speak or have been manipulated". This is the scene of the father abusing his child, because his own father abused him as a child.

When Boumediene was in power, all those who had a different opinion from his were the "enemies of the revolution" and a foreign hand manipulated them. For a long time, Algerians mocked the state, which took refuge behind this phrase in order not to recognise the social, economic, political and cultural difficulties in which the people were struggling. Today, it is the people who are using the same means not to listen to the opinion of the other, their way of seeing and analysing the situation or their demands.

As for the vehemence and invective of the reactions, they can be explained by the fact that consciously or unconsciously the young people said that in the end the problem in Algeria was not only politics but also society. Society suffocates the individual (lack of freedom) and is also unjust (the family code). For some Algerians to acknowledge such a reality is to betray the popular movement. It is being on the side of the oppressor. But by refusing to listen to the word of the other, they themselves become oppressors.

Young people have broken the taboos of a society that lies to itself. This explains the sentence: "They do not represent me" which means: "I am virtuous, chaste, I do not drink alcohol, I am a good Muslim and I speak Arabic". Everybody knows very well that this is not the reality, but it doesn't matter, the main thing is not to say it. This is what the Algerian state has always done. For it, Algeria is Arab and only Muslim. This is what the Doctors of Islam have always recommended. The Lebanese Mohamed Hassan al-Amine affirms in this respect that "atheism is not punished by the Sharia, what is punished is the fact of expressing it".

Algeria cannot emerge from the crisis in which it has been fighting since independence, nor can it cure its ills without looking its problems in the eye, without analysing, discussing and trying to explain them. This is the first step towards serious reflection on the solutions to be envisaged.


 

Razika Adnani, philosopher and specialist in questions related to Islam


Tuesday, June 2nd 2020



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