In Algeria, women ‘imams’ battle Islamist radicalisation

AFP | Mar 02, 2015 | 22:42

Mourshidates, female religious guides appointed by the Algerian religious affairs ministry to spread the good word of Islam and a message of tolerance, read the Koran, Islam’s holy book, at the Ennidal Mosque in the Algerian capital, Algiers, on February 22 (AFP photo)

ALGIERS — Hundreds of female religious guides have been at the forefront of Algeria’s battle against Islamic radicalisation since the civil war that devastated the North African country in the 1990s.

Their aim is to steer women away from false preachers promoting radical forms of Islam.

The surge of Daesh terror group in Syria and Iraq, and even in Libya next door, as well as the growing influence of Al-Qaeda-linked militants and Salafists, has them working around the clock.

Known as “mourshidates,” their goal is to spread the good word of Islam and a message of tolerance, helping those who have strayed from it.

“Killing is a capital sin, so how is it that people can kill innocent ones in the name of Islam,” asks Fatma Zohra, who is in her mid-40s, her hair and neck concealed under a matching purple veil and a hijab.

Like the other 300 mourshidates appointed by the religious affairs ministry, Zohra holds a degree in Islam and has learned the Koran by heart.

She said she was “motivated to know Islam better in order to teach the religion” following the traditionally moderate Muslim country’s civil war in the 1990s, which killed at least 200,000 people.

The war erupted after authorities cancelled the 1991 elections, Algeria’s first democratic vote, which the Islamic Action Front was poised to win.

Zohra, who was a student at the time, recalled bitterly as she met a group of women in a mosque, that “Algerians killed Algerians in the name of Islam”.

For the past 17 years she has been “listening to women, advising them and referring them to specialists” when their problems are not directly linked to religion.

The mourshidates use skills borrowed from psychology and sociology, working in mosques, prisons, youth centres, hospitals and schools. Unlike imams, who are men, they are not allowed to lead prayers.

‘Vigilance’ needed 

When the first mourshida was licensed in 1993 to teach and guide women, only housewives showed up, but the audience has grown over the years to include university students and professionals.

“Imams are good but it is much better to confide in a woman,” says Aisha, in her 60s.

Meriem, a high school mathematics teacher, said the rise of “fake prophets”, who seek to indoctrinate young people, persuaded her to attend meetings with the likes of Zohra only a few months ago.

“I wanted to learn the true Islam,” she said.

Samia, another mourshida who decline to give her surname, says she has been working for the past 15 years in a region of Algeria where youths, both boys and girls, have been increasingly radicalised.

“Their mothers suffer to see them become radicalised and confide in me so that together, and with the help of others, we can de-radicalise them,” she said.

Samia warns that Algerians must be alert.

“Even if very few Algerians have joined the ranks of Daesh group, vigilance is necessary because radicalisation takes many forms,” she said.

“Pseudo-imams, who know nothing about the teachings of the Koran,” are trying to indoctrinate people through television programmes and the Internet, she said.

“Adolescents in particular must be monitored because they are impressionable and can easily be swayed.”

She recalls how she worked hard to help save a 17-year-old girl after her parents complained that she had begun adopting radical Islamist behaviour.

The girl’s mother told Samia her daughter “had been indoctrinated and had begun wearing the full Islamic veil” and would admonish the family about attending weddings or watching television.

“For months we counselled the girl and listened to what she had to say. Finally she went back to school and resumed her normal life,” Samia said.

Like Samia, many mourshidates say they are proud to have contributed to help youths from falling into the grips of radical Islamists.

“It is the biggest reward of our work,” one of them said.


Categories: Africa, Algeria

2 replies

  1. Published on Mar 7, 2015
    Pakistani Jurist Mujeeb-ur-Rahman spoke at the University of California – Irvine on “ISIS or Islam”? The lecture was delivered on October 30, 2014.

    Mujeeb-ur-Rahman’s lecture on “ISIS or Islam”?
    MTA USA Studios

    The Nobel Quran
    Chapter 111,Al-Lahub, the Flame

    أعوذ بالله من الشيطان

    I seek refuge with Allah from the satan the accursed
    بِسْمِ اللَّهِ الرَّحْمَٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ {1}
    In the name of Allah the Gracious The Merciful
    تَبَّتْ يَدَا أَبِي لَهَبٍ وَتَبَّ {
    [Shakir 111:1] Perdition overtake both hands of Abu Lahab, and he will perish.
    [Pickthal 111:1] The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish.
    [Yusufali 111:1] Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he!
    [Pooya/Ali Commentary 111:1]
    Abu Lahab, literally “the father of flame”, was the nickname of Abul Uzza, an uncle of the Holy Prophet, and a bitter and fiery opponent of Islam and the Holy Prophet. Refer to the commentary of Ali Imran: 52 and 53 for

    dawat dhil ashira in which he flared up and shouted at the Holy Prophet, saying: “Perdition to you”. He made it his business to torment the Holy Prophet; and his wife, Umm Jumail, sister of Abu Sufyan, took pleasure in carrying thorny bushes and strewing them in the sand where she knew that the Holy Prophet was sure to walk

    barefooted, because of which she is referred to as the bearer of the wood. Abu Lahab used to persuade the people to throw stones at the Holy Prophet, whenever he passed the streets of Makka, by telling them that he was a mad man. The two hands he used to throw stones at the Holy Prophet are cursed. The two hands of Abu Lahab may also refer to the evil deeds he had sent forth which condemns him to suffer severest punishment till eternity. Neither his wealth nor his supporters will be able to save him from the blazing fire.

    A week after the battle of Badr, Abu Lahab perished, consumed with grief and his own fiery passions. The angel of death strangled his wife with the rope she used to wear around her neck. On the day of judgement the fire of punishment like a rope of iron strongly twisted will be put on her neck.

    Aqa Mahdi Puya says:

    No relationship whatsoever, even with the Holy Prophet, can be of any advantage to the disbeliever. Abu Lahab, an uncle of the Holy Prophet, will burn in the blazing fire. On the contrary, it is noticeable, that Salman, a Persian outsider, through his faith and submission to Allah, the Holy Prophet and his Ahl ul Bayt achieved the highest distinction of being included in the Ahl ul Bayt.

    مَا أَغْنَىٰ عَنْهُ مَالُهُ وَمَا كَسَبَ {2}
    [Shakir 111:2] His wealth and what he earns will not avail him.
    [Pickthal 111:2] His wealth and gains will not exempt him.
    [Yusufali 111:2] No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains!
    [Pooya/Ali Commentary 111:2] (see commentary for verse 1)
    سَيَصْلَىٰ نَارًا ذَاتَ لَهَبٍ {3}
    [Shakir 111:3] He shall soon burn in fire that flames,
    [Pickthal 111:3] He will be plunged in flaming Fire,
    [Yusufali 111:3] Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of Blazing Flame!
    [Pooya/Ali Commentary 111:3] (see commentary for verse 1)
    وَامْرَأَتُهُ حَمَّالَةَ الْحَطَبِ {4}
    [Shakir 111:4] And his wife, the bearer of fuel,
    [Pickthal 111:4] And his wife, the wood-carrier,
    [Yusufali 111:4] His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood – As fuel!-
    [Pooya/Ali Commentary 111:4] (see commentary for verse 1)
    فِي جِيدِهَا حَبْلٌ مِنْ مَسَدٍ {5}
    [Shakir 111:5] Upon her neck a halter of strongly twisted rope.
    [Pickthal 111:5] Will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre.
    [Yusufali 111:5] A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck!
    The First Talk
    Verse (16:98) – English Translation
    slamic Phrases And It’s Arabic Translation

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