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Algerian Govt. Looks to Nation’s Imams for Help against Protests

Algerian Govt. Looks to Nation’s Imams for Help against Protests

Friday, 22 February, 2019 - 10:15
Algerian doctors shout slogans during a sit-in protest in Algiers, Algeria, February 12, 2018. (Reuters)
Algiers - Boualem Goumrassa
Algeria’s union for imams called on thousands of the nation’s mosque custodians to preach against the millions planning to march against President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s running for a fifth term.

Abdelmalek Sellal, a former prime minister who is managing Bouteflika’s election campaign, has also voiced the government’s discontent with the opposition being rallied against the head of the National Liberation Front party candidate.

Head of the union, Jalul Hajimi condemned the calls for protests, saying the key role played by any cleric is establishing peace, stability and harmony. He also noted the religious duty in raising awareness on all dangers facing the nation

He called for disassociating mosques and religious platforms from any mobilization, which he said would lead the country towards the “unknown”.

He instead suggested forming a committee that would review the demands put forth by protesters and relay them to specialized decision-making bodies.

He stressed that mosques remain a place for worship, truth, wisdom, justice and tranquility and they must not become a platform for recklessness or incitement.

“Imams and preachers should call upon all groups of society to renounce violence and undertake responsibility to stand up for national unity and to deal with issues in a lawful manner which upholds stability. They must derive a lesson from the past and address national hardships with wisdom and insight,” Hajimi said.

During the 1990s, 150,000 Algerians were killed in clashes between security forces and extremists. Since then, authorities have warned against the recurrence of this national tragedy. The clashes had paved the way for change and saw Bouteflika come to power.

According to insider sources, speaking under the conditions of anonymity, Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Aïssa ordered religious affairs directors across the nation to hold urgent meetings with clerics and inform them of the need to deliver Friday sermons that sway the public away from the anti-Bouteflika marches.

This reflects, according to observers, the extent of the authorities' fear of unrest in the country, especially in the capital.

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