Algerians jailed for eating lunch

“The speed with which Algeria has gone from symbol of revolutionary socialism to Islamic battleground has confounded most observers,” states the blurb for The Call From Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam by Robert Malley (UC, 1996). Remember when Black Panthers like Eldridge Cleaver fled there, and the Algerian revolution’s theorist and chronicler Frantz Fanon—who rejected religion as the opiate of the oppressed—was a global icon of anti-colonial struggle? A generation later, the country has embraced a degree of mandatory piety that would make Jerry Falwell blush—largely in response to the jihadi threat. From BBC, Nov. 1:

Algerians jailed for eating lunch

An Algerian court has sent four men to jail for eating lunch in a restaurant during the holy month of Ramadan. During this period, practising Muslims are meant to observe a fast between the hours of dawn and dusk.

The three offenders were picked up in the town of Bejaia, some 260km east of Algiers and were found guilty of conspicuous contempt of religion. The restaurant manager was given six months in prison. The others were sentenced to three months each.

The BBC’s Mohammed Areski Himeur in Algiers says this is the first time in Algeria that anyone has actually been tried and condemned for not observing the fast during Ramadan.

One of their lawyers argued that his clients did not show any public contempt of religion, since they were eating in a restaurant. “Had these people been eating outdoors, then there would have been public contempt, but that was not the case,” the lawyer said. Other clients eating in the same restaurant at the same time were not arrested, the lawyer added.

A petition has been circulated in the region to ask for the immediate release of the men. Meanwhile, a newspaper denounced the case as a form of inquisition by the state.

Just before Ramadan started last month, security agents had warned bar and restaurant managers in Kabylia, not to serve food or drinks in day time during the holy month, saying that offenders would be brought to justice.

See our last report on Algeria.