October 15, 2011

The Arab Spring Hasn’t Yet Begun

The winner of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2011, Boualem Sansal, is an Algerian engineer, an internationally acclaimed author, and a straightforward man. “Our choice this year”—said Gottfried Honnefelder, chairman of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, at the start of the 2011 Buchtage Berlin (Berlin Book Days)—“is intended as a signal of encouragement for democracy movements in North Africa.” Yet, Boualem Sansal is not, as one might first think, a supporter of the Arab Spring, and this for the simple reason that, in his opinion, unfortunately the Arab Spring hasn’t yet begun. Here is what he told the Italian Corriere della Sera newspaper (English translation: mine):

The Arab Spring hasn’t yet begun. The big problems are still unsettled. It’s not only about dictators, who of course must disappear. No, there is also the question of culture and that of Islamism.
In studying the Third Reich, I saw that, over there, there were the same ingredients that I recognize in my own country and in the other Arab regimes. And they are: single-party system, militarization of the country, brainwashing, falsification of history, assertion of the existence of a conspiracy (the main culprits are Israel and America), glorification of the martyrs and of the supreme leader of the country, omnipresence of the police, huge mass meeting, pharaonic public works projects. When, and only when, Algerians, Tunisians, Egyptians, Libyans will get rid of this castle of lies, then the Arab Spring will can start. That’s why I stay in Algeria.

The idea that we have to analyze National Socialism if we are to keep Islamism in check is not new, but what is surprising is that this time it comes from the other side of the fence, and the frankness with which it is expressed. Here is how he put it in a May 6, 2010 interview:

There are enormous similarities [between Nazis and Jihadists] - the concept of conquering: of souls, but also of territories. And there is the idea of extermination - of all those who do not submit to the ideology of Islamism.

But then again, Boualem Sansal is first and foremost the author of the first Arabic novel about the Holocaust, a book originally written in French—like the author’s other works—and published in the U.S. as The German Mujahid and in the U.K. as An Unfinished Business. It tells the story of a German nazi who goes into hiding after the war as a member of the Algerian forces fighting for independence from France. The German Mujahid was honored with multiple international prizes and translations but, as was to be expected, it was banned in Algeria, a country which, according to Sansal himself, is becoming a bastion of Islamic extremism and where the Holocaust is not currently acknowledged.

It has to be noted that, whilst Boualem Sansal publicly and sternly denounces the worldwide rise of Islamic extremism, the mood in the U.S. and other Western countries is generally so anti-anti-Islam that politicians run for cover whenever Islam is raised as an issue. Let’s hope the once-lonely fight of Boualem Sansal serves as an inspiration and a wake-up call.

The Peace Prize award ceremony will take place tomorrow, October 16, 2011 in the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt.


  1. Thanks for sharin this, Rob! It's just what I've always thought, but this time the source is a little more reliable....