Ballot-Box Victories In Algeria

The growing political power of Islam in newly democratic African and Middle Eastern nations was demonstrated last December by a victory of Islamic fundamentalists in Algeria. Islamic candidates there won apparent control of Algeria’s 430-seat National Assembly after winning 188 seats in the nation’s first free parliamentary elections. Candidates of the Islamic Salvation Front (ISA) said their goal was a total revamping of the nation’s secular constitution to create a fundamentalist, Islamic state.

The victories prompted the resignation of the nation’s president, Chadli Benjedid, who was replaced by a military-backed ruling council. The council outraged Islamic leaders by calling off a second round of elections, scheduled for mid-January, which was sure to give the ISA a majority.

More than 200,000 Algerians demonstrated against the ISA on January 2. But the ISA’s posturing as champion of the poor has made it increasingly popular in an economically troubled nation.

The fundamentalists’ victory in Algeria worries many in neighboring Morocco and Tunisia, where Islam enjoys strong appeal among the poor masses.

Indonesian Government Courts Muslims

Christians have been facing discrimination in recent months since Indonesian President Suharto began courting Muslim support to counter waning support among his military, according to National & International Religion Report.

The government recently banned Christian meetings in hundreds of house churches around Djakarta until after the June election. Among other actions, courses on Christianity also have been removed from public schools, despite their high demand.

Suharto and his Catholic wife recently made a pilgrimage to Mecca, and reports indicate that ...

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