Boudjemaa Ayad, one of Islamist movement founders in Algeria talks about details on conflict between Abdellah Djaballah and Mahfoud Nahnah because of The Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership in Algeria. Abbassi Madani hindered the Islamist movement from maintain his position at the FIS head, Ayad told Echorouk in an interview.
Did Bouslimani lead the group’s activities while Nahnah was in prison?
Three months before I had been freed and a year before Nahnah’s release, Cheikh Bouslimani started coordinating activities.
Did you tell Nahnah about Shia, preaching and organization-related issues?
All the activities were carried out in coordination with Nahnah. We informed him about preaching actions while he was in a prison in Chlef. In a meeting at Bouslimani’s house, there were Mohamed Kerar, Mustapha Boualem, Abdelkrim Rais, Cheikh Said Morsi, Cheikh Djaballah and me. Djaballah criticized Nahnah for joining the Muslim Brotherhood by himself. Yet, Bouslimani denied that, saying: “in the next visit to Cheikh Nahnah, I will ask him if he joined the Muslim Brotherhood or not. If he did that, I will quit the group.”
Two days later, Cheikh Bouslimani visited Nahnah and told him what happened in the meeting.
Were there conflicts in your meetings?
We had different points of view. Yet, the conflict ended by the end of the debate. Most of the decisions were made after consultation. Individual decisions caused troubles to us.
Were there individual decisions?
Yes, there were. Sometimes, humans do the right thing and sometimes, they make mistakes.
Which groups you coordinated with?
Between 1985 and 1986, Djaballah and I agreed on forming two commissions working on common activities between the two groups. We held about three meetings but they were not successful because the two sides were stubborn. In 1987, there was another attempt to hold a meeting with the Muslim Brotherhood in Mecca. Yet, the meeting was not successful as well. Another meeting was scheduled in 1989 in my home but Cheikh Nahnah was late. Because of that, it was not a successful attempt.
In 1990, we agreed to be unified and led by the Muslim Brotherhood’s former guide Mustapha Machhour. Yet, the group of the east was against that.
Why were all those attempts unsuccessful?
The attempts were unsuccessful because each one wanted to be the leader of the Islamist movement. The Muslim Brotherhood fuelled the conflicts in absence of clear prerogatives, missions, rights and duties.
What were the reasons behind the October events?
The conflict between the FLN’s members was among the factors behind the events. The second reason was oil price fall and its consequences on people’s daily life. Islamist wave was also one of the reasons behind the events. Yet, the main reason was the attempts to hit Islamic actions and regional conflicts. Islamists were not behind the events.
You said Islamists were not behind the events. So, why did Abbassi Madani react?
Actually, the events started by protests in Algiers. They touched public and some private institutions. Unfortunately, security forces were absent. Abbassi seized the opportunity and called for facing the national army. He urged people to enter in clashes with soldiers. Clashes took place in the area of Bab El Oued between the army and protesters and people were killed.
Abbassi and his followers entered in clashes with the army in the area of Belcourt. The Islamic Preaching League led by Cheikh Ahmed Sahnouni prevented protesters of carrying out violent acts.
When was the league created and what for?
The main reason behind the league’s creation was the absence of Islamic reference among Algerians. There was a need for unifying Islamists to face challenges at that time.
The league started operating in 1986. It worked on guiding people to the right thing and reducing clashes with authorities. It achieved a large part of those objectives.
What about convictions among leading members of the FIS that the league was the core of the dissolved party?
The league existed before all the parties. It could not be the core of any party.
What were the reasons behind the conflict between you and Abbassi?
We tried to reduce clashes between people and authorities. We agreed on forming a joint commission. We worked together in many meetings. Our last meeting was at Bouslimani’s home. We were assigned to make decisions. We managed to unify efforts politically. The FIS representing delegation said it could not be part of the decision because some of their leaders were in Saudi Arabia to perform pilgrimage. We agreed on announcing the decision in a forthcoming meeting in presence of all the league’s members. Yet, Abbassi said: “you are not allowed to form a block inside the FIS.”
You mean that Abbassi wanted to hinder the Muslim Brotherhood.
We made another attempt with a large number of the FIS consultation council’s members and some of the Muslim Brotherhood. The last meeting was held in my home before protests led by the FIS.
How did the Muslim Brotherhood react to the October 1988’s events?
The events pushed the Muslim Brotherhood in Algeria to announce their presence publically. It was a gradual appearance. It started by Cheikh Nahnah, Bouslimani, Abdelhamid Medaoud, Said Morsi, Boudjemaa Ayad and Abdelhadi Sayeh. They created Irshad and Islah association. The rest did not appear in order to keep the organization secret.
The first procedures were to reorganize the group starting by an assessment session. A number of decisions were made including the determination of prerogatives.
We also decided to bring new elements to the secret executive office from the capital, eastern and western Algiers, the Algerian east, the south and the west.
After those groups joined the executive office, a new tendency appeared inside the group. Some of the members asked for compensation while they were supposed to work as volunteers. Unfortunately, some of them had become ministers, deputies and senators.
Do you mean that those elements were intruders?
Some businessmen got into the group. Some of them were working for authorities. They influenced decisions and caused conflicts between members. Of course, they did that in return for something.
In return for what?
It is known. Society knows those people. They had an impact on the call for a referendum on the Constitution in 1988. They counterfeited Cheikh Sahnoune and Mekki’s signatures. They also issued a release to call on the US to “occupy” Algeria.