Interview with SHEIKH ABBASI MADANI (Qadaya Dawliyah, August 1990)

The following interview was conducted by Qadaya Dawliyahl and municipal elections in June and was translated into English for the Message International By Omar Abu-Namous, an Arabic translator at the United Nations.

Q: What is your perception of the next stage and of future situation in Algeria in the light of the results of the provincial municipal elections?

Madani: If we didn't have believe and have faith in Allah and the future, we would not enter a field of mines in a country that experiences a political, economic, social, cultural and civilizational crises. We are aware of the bad situation, but we are also aware that the Algerian people with help and guidance of Allah, have reached the level where they will positively respond to us and go forward towards the safe shores, with the permission of Allah.

Q: What is the program of action of F.I.S for the next stage -- your steps on a practical level.

M: Our program is broad and I cannot set it out in this brief moment.

Q: It was reported that there were contacts between F.I.S and the Algerian government for the purpose of making preparations for parliamentarian elections.

M: Who told you that? ... I do not know where this news come from.

Q: So, you do not have any contacts with the government?

M: Not yet.

Q: Is there a date for you to meet with President Chadli Benjedid?

M: There is no such date, but there may be one at some time in the future.

Q: So, you are open for any dialogue, on your part?

M: How can I not be?

Q: In case the regime does not accept the call of F.I.S for parliamentarian election, what will your response be?

M: The regime in Algeria is unlike the regimes in other Arab countries. It yields to the majority and respects the will of its people and will not place itself in confrontation with the people.

Q: Do you fear that the army may take some action?

M: I don't believe it will. The army is our army, how can it be against us? The Algerian army has abandoned politics and has limited itself to the task of defending the homeland. It is an army on the hoped-for level, if Allah so wills.

Q: There is fear that the Algerian experience might be an exact copy of the Iranian experience?

M: Those who have such fear are pessimist. And a pessimist thinks with his emotions, not with his mind. Time will prove to them quite the contrary of what they believe. The Islamic state in Algeria does not start today. It is more than 14 centuries old. Those people want to deny the past. He who denies the past denies the existence of the nation. Those people have no logic in so far as history is concerned and have no consciousness in so far as politic is concerned. Those who lack political logic and consciousness do not have the right to institute themselves as analysts or arbitrators of such issues. Those pessimists who think with emotions rather than their minds are not entitled to decide questions of destiny at the level of the destiny of a nation or nations. What data do they rely on? Is Islam limited to the Iranian experiment, because if it has negative aspects it also has positive aspects. The experience of the Muslim nation is now more than 14 centuries old, and it is a missionary, civilizational, political and educational experience. How can we deny all those assets and dwarf them and limit them to one point in time and place? Such behavior is denial of a fact that is as evident as the sun at midday.

Q: You once said that Algiers is not Teheran. What are the negative aspects of the Iranian experience that you reject and the positive aspects that you want to copy?

M: I am not here to evaluate other regimes, sir. But I am quite certain that Teheran is situated in Iran and that the Algerian capital is in Algeria, this is in Africa, and that is in Asia. Is that not true? Or am I mistaken?

Q: The difference is not only geographical, it is also religious and political?

M: If you don't deny the geographical difference, how can you deny the difference in other aspects? The geographical difference is a real one. Only look at France. If you were in Calais and looked through a telescope, you would see Dover (in the U.K), but the narrow English Channel which divides the U.K. and France has made Britain different from France. The geographical difference is as important one, brother.

Q : Since we are speaking of geography, what is the position of the Algerian experiences as it stands today in the Maghreb Area and what is its attitude towards acclimatization to the Maghreb realities?

M: Sir, we are brothers and we are obligated to observe good neighborliness. We shall leave every country to make its own choice. Why are walls and windows set up? They are set up so that everyone will settle where he is settling. We are not not guardians of other people, and we don't claim that we are an ideal example for others to follow and we do not claim that we are a leadership for others Our size is smaller than you think, we are humble, sir. We have no ambition farther than the development of our country, let him come he will be most welcome. He who needs us in our country. But it is not part of our ethics to go out to other countries and meddle with what is not our business.

Q: But are there any contacts with the other fundamentalist movements?

M: We do not have any contacts. We are a recognized official political party, and there is no other recognized political party that can invite us or whom we can invite. Come and have a look at the border police in case we hosted anybody. We challenge anyone who alleges that we have contacts with fundamentalist movement abroad. If people come to Algeria to visit people other than us and we receive them and feel happy with our talk with them, that does not mean that we have any political relationship with them.

Q: In case the Algerian regime continued to ignore the new reality, will the F.I.S. call on the Algerian people to take to the streets?

M: There is no need for taking to the streets. It is rather the regime that will take to the streets now. After the majority has expressed its will, the regime must listen to the majority. The Algerian regime is not like other regimes. It is the child of Algeria, and must listen to Algeria. If it does not listen to it and does not take the streets, who is it then?

Q: But there is some fear that there might be violence if peaceful means fail?

M: If you mean violence by our army, I rule this out, because our army will not strike at us. If violence is from other quarters, do you mean it may come from abroad?

Q; Do you consider the success of the democratic option, as chosen by President Bendjedid, one of the positive development? And do you think this option has the chance to continue?

M: It is positive, and since it is positive it will continue until things settle down and became stable. There should be no fear because the Algerian people have switched on its train and set out.

Q: But what the next station for that train? M: The infinity.

Q: Since the train has started, what direction will take?

M: The direction of the good of the people, the country, humanity and civilization.

Q: What is your assessment of the opposition of the National Liberation Front, which has kept silent since the appearance of voting results?

M: The National Liberation Front is a party and as such it is responding to the results. I think its position is a reasonable response. One day is for you, another is against you. It has ruled, and its rule has come to an end. Now others must rule, and their rule will come to an end, then others will follow.

Q: Is the F.I.S. ready to take over power today or tomorrow?

M: The issue of power belongs to the Algerian people. Even if we are not ready, we or any other party, the regime must be changed.

Q: The way to effect the change is through elections, there is no other way?

M: Yes, the way is the election; it is the way for all those who wish to yield to the will of the people. There is no other way at the present moment. All other ways have been obstructed, by the will of Allah. Therefore, the way to power is elections which are decided through the will of the people.

Q: Is there a certain date set by F.I.S for elections? M: Let time express its reality.

Q: It is said that there is a distribution of roles within F.I.S., and that Sheikh Abbasi Madani is but the moderate face of a current that is more stubborn at the bottom.

M: Not at all. There is diversity in the F.I.S. but it is united. It is united in objectives, in policies, in approach and in attitude. Anyone who says other than this is mistaken, sir.

Q: To leave the problems of the Arab Maghrib aside, how do you view the questions of the Arab East, the question of Palestine and the question of Lebanon?

M: The question of Lebanon represents a peace of cake on which foreign eaters have converged. The sons of Lebanon, if Lebanon has sons at all, have contributed to what has happened.

Q: Will explain this point of view? M: You can explain it because you are the commentator.

Q: What about the Palestine question?

M: Palestine in relation to the Arabs and in relation to the Jews... Arab Palestine is afflicted with disasters but the Palestinian people have risen to demand their right will win sooner or later. As for the Jews, they are miserable because they have placed themselves in a furnace that will not be extinguished over the centuries. Were they wise when they chose that spot which is surround by an Arab and Islamic world? They looked for a place to live in, in the world, but the only place they found was the crater of a volcano whose fire will burn them throughout the ages. The Jews are the victims of their own blunder. They did not understand the language of neocolonialism used to confront us with its own sons. So if we struck at it and if it struck at us, we used to die and its sons used to die. Things are different today. The Americans and the Europeans have thrown the Jews into that furnace. So the Westerners are comfortable and enjoy peace of mind while Jews and Arabs die there.

Q: How do you view the future relationship with France, especially as some voices have spoken aloud expressing fear and concern following the treats that were voiced by some leaders of the F.I.S.?

M: In point of fact, I view France as a kettle boiling without fire.

Q: What about the future of the Algerian community in France?

M: The presence of the Algerian community in France is in the interest of France.

Q: How do you view Islamic movements in other Arab countries, such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the Sudan, and Syria, and what is the reality of the relationship with them and how will it be in the future?

M: They are our brothers in sentiment... We cannot benefit them anything further than sentiments until now because we are weak. If one lacks something one cannot give it to others. We have nothing to give them except prayers. And they have nothing to give us except prayers.

Q: But it is said that external aid reaches you from certain countries and organizations.

M: Such reports are falls and untrue. We do not want to rely on supplies provided by others lest our hunger should last long. In the ancient time it was said that he who relied on food supplied by others, his hunger would last long.

Q: Do you consider that the Algerian hunger will last long?

M: We are no hungry, sir. Our hunger is not a hunger of bellies, it is rather an intellectual hunger, it is hunger for "iman". Our minds are hungry. It is not a shame for our bellies to be hungry, but it is a shame for our minds to be hungry. Mental hunger takes place when the light of truth is lacking, and the hunger of conscience when the virtuous values are lacking. Allah has endowed us with the Quran. Therefore,our minds are enlightened and our conscience is alive. He whose heart is full of "iman" and whose mind is lit with the light of guidance and whose conscience is saturated with the values of "There is no God but Allah" will be neither hungry nor lost.

Q: Is there any message that you wish to convey to the Arab world in its East or West?

M: We would like to say, "Congratulations to you on what has taken place in Algeria, in terms of gains achieved by the Algerian people, the living part body of the Arab and Islamic nation". We say to our beloved, "Congratulations to you" and we say to the others, "Congratulations to you," because the good thing that has been achieved is for all, and the triumph conferred by ALLAH is in the interest of everyone.

Q: I wish to thank you.

M: No thanks should be rendered for fulfilling an obligation.


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