Founder of Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front Abbasi Madani dies in Qatar
Veteran Algerian Islamist leader Abbasi Madani has passed away in Qatar. He was 88 years old. Madani was the leader of the outlawed Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which won the first round of democratic parliamentary elections in 1991 before the elections were annulled by the Algerian military.
Born in 1931 in Diyar Ben Issa in eastern Algeria, Madani took part in the first battles of the Algerian War of Independence against the French colonial authorities in November 1954, only to be arrested by the French in that month and imprisoned until Algeria became independent in 1962.
Madani completed a doctorate in educational psychology in London in 1978 and then became a professor of educational sciences at the University of Algiers. He became known for his opposition to Algerian President Chadli Benjedid, who ruled the country from 1978 to 1992 and his socialist policies. He advocated for free markets, Arabisation and Islamisation of education, and legislation based on the Islamic sharia.
In 1989, following massive demonstrations against Benjedid and the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN), opposition parties were allowed to be formed. Together with Ali Belhadj and other Islamist leaders, Madani founded the Islamic Salvation Front, leading it to victory in the 1990 municipal elections.
While he was considered a moderate within the FIS, he remained unwavering in his opposition to Benjedid and following the passing of a new electoral law favouring the FLN, he was arrested in 1991 after publishing an advertisement in a newspaper which the government considered a call to rebellion.
In 1992, after the military’s annulment of the Algerian parliamentary elections, Algeria descended into a bloody civil war which would last for five years. Madani spent this entire period in prison. The Algerian government tried to persuade him to call for an end to violence, but he refused to engage in any dialogue before being released.
In 1997, Madani was released from prison but placed under house arrest and forbidden to take part in politics. He was not released until 2003, when he went into exile in Qatar.
His funeral prayers took place on Thursday and were attended by the Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.