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Comments on J Kiser’s article

Anne-Marie Gustavson

Here are my comments on your article.

First a precision: Pierre Claverie was my brother. He was the last one of the Catholic religious who died in Algeria during the 90’s, and his death came four months after the monks of Tibhirine’s disappearance.

I have trouble imagining Pierre using the expression Islamo-Fascist. I am not even sure what this might mean. Pierre was not fond of sweeping statement or labels. You might want to consult Jean-Jacques Pérennès, who wrote his biography and know him and his work well. He could tell you more precisely Pierre’s thoughts on such a matter.

I agree with the fact that extremists in both camps want a global civilizational war. However, a great number of ISIS followers have joined for political and materialistic reasons, not religious ones, and once they are faced with the reality of the caliphate, especially now that money does not flow as much as it used to, many become disenchanted.

You are so right about the need to educate people about the world in general and Islam and the Muslims in particular. It is a formidable task since Islam does not form a harmonious whole but consists of many trends and sects. But, a concrete project like the one on Abd el Kader is exactly what will set (young) people ‘s mind on the right track and bodes well for the future. My brother talked often about and created what he called “plates-formes de rencontre”, concrete spaces where people from all walks of life meet, work, study, enjoy each other’s company in an atmosphere of cooperation. He believed that we did not have the words (and we still don’t) to talk about our faiths. We must start with the tangible before we can discuss our commonalities and differences.

As for Algeria, which most people here confuse with Nigeria and cannot place on a map (hence the importance of education!), I would like to stress the fact that Pierre was equally critical of the Algerian government, which was corrupt and did not live up to the expectations of Independence in the 50’s and 60’s. A lot of what happened in the 90’s is due to the military government as well as to the GIA who recruited easily among the young people whom the economy never helped. Another important factor comes to mind: to switch from French to Arabic in education, the Algerian government appealed to Saudi Arabia which sent teachers of Arabic steeped in Wahabism. Hence several generations were radicalized. Also, the reintegration of the GIA combatants by the government meant that it could also sweep under the rug its own crimes. As you know, no one has come up with a satisfactory answer as far as my brothers’ death is concerned, and the circumstances of the monks’ death remains murky. Who was responsible: military and government? Jihadists leaders? Rogue groups within the military or the jihadists? No one knows for sure.

I believe that if there has not been an Arab Spring in Algeria, it is in part because of a fear that the 90’s might come back to haunt the people. The black decade exhausted them.

Thanks again John, and may the Abd el Kader project continue to thrive.

Anne-Marie Gustavson