The Islamist Factor
Islam in Algeria is part of the political tradition dating back before independence, when the revolutionary rhetoric of the FLN drew upon the unifying force of Islam to strengthen national cohesion and opposition to colonial rule. In the postindependence period, the government, recognizing the mobilizing potential of Islam as a political force, tried to bring activist Islamist groups under its control. Despite these efforts, an independent Islamist movement eventually emerged that would form the basis for the most significant opposition party to the government in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Whereas more than fifty independent parties and more than one Islamist organization emerged in the months following the legalization of parties, the FIS emerged as the only national contender to the hegemony of the FLN. Although not the only Islamic party, the FIS could attract a large percentage of the electorate. The FIS presented the only viable and comprehensive alternative program to that of the existing regime and offered a social and religious focus as well.
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