Is Algeria a religious country?


Macrosocial structure

The Algerian population with currently approx. 37 million inhabitants (depending on the source and annual reference, slightly different numbers are used) is structured very heterogeneously. The proportion of Arabs is given as 70% and that of the Berber Kabyls as 30%, but the original population is non-Arab and the current structure is the result of an intermingling process. The contrasts in consciousness and self-awareness are considerable. The Kabyls perceive themselves to be very different from the Algerian Arabs in terms of their culture and identity, but are also differentiated in themselves, which also applies to the Algerian Arabs. The Mzab region is inhabited by the Mozabites, who are neither Kabyle nor Arabic, but rather belong to a particular Islamic movement (Kharijites).

Not only, but especially in this region, there have been massive unrest in recent times due to the conflicts between Algerians of Arab origin and Mozabite Algerians, which reflect the social and ethnic heterogeneity of Algeria and make its future appear uncertain, which has led to great nervousness in the political establishment has led to allegations of conspiracy against foreign powers.

The population of Algeria is expected to grow to 50 million by 2050. The distribution of the population shows strong regional differences. Over 90% of the population is located in northern Algeria. The average population density in mid-2001 was 12.9 inhabitants / km². The average life expectancy in 2010 was 70.3 years (2000: 68.5), 68.8 years for men and 71.8 years for women (depending on the source and annual reference, these figures differ slightly, according to the CIA factbook life expectancy is currently almost 75 years).

Population growth was 1.82% in 2014. A decrease (of growth) to 0.9% is expected by 2030. Almost 70% of the population are younger than 30 years. For the year 2000 the number of households was given as 4.7 million, the average number of people per household as 6.47. If you take this figure as a basis for the current population of 37 million people, you currently get over 5 million households. An increase to 12.5 million households with an average of 3.6 people each is expected for 2030.

Although there is neither hunger nor immediate need in Algeria, the situation is often perceived as lead and hopeless. Esp. the quadrupling of the population since 1962 from 10 to over 40 million means that the prospects for the next generation are deteriorating. Therefore, now and in the future, significant refugee and migration movements are to be expected. Although Algeria has agreed to take back Algerian citizens who pretended to be Syrians in Germany, it is unclear to what extent this intention has been implemented or whether the country is really interested in it. A significant part of the next generation will therefore look for and use migration opportunities for the foreseeable future.

Regions and regional disparities

Algeria can be divided into four main regions: East, Center, West and South. Over 90% of the population live in the de facto northern regions of East, Center and West. The south is the largest geographically, but the smallest in terms of population. Therefore, the south of Algeria - south of Ghardaia, about 500 km from Algiers to the south - is almost deserted. To the southern border in the direction of Mali and Niger it is at least 1500 km from there, which are largely uninhabited and are mainly used economically for oil and gas production or, to a limited extent, for desert tourism.

In the extreme south of Algeria, within reach of the borders with Mali and Niger, lies the southern metropolis of Tamarasset at an altitude of 1,400 meters in a pleasantly dry climate, whose population has grown from 50,000 to approx. 100,000 in the last 20 years. Tamanrasset is now an important logistics center for the Trans-Saharan traffic between Algeria and Niger. The city lies on the Transsahara route Algiers-In Salah-Tamanrasset-Agadez, part of the Algiers-Lagos Highway, which is part of the Trans-African Highways. The city has the best supply options in the region, several workshops for repairing motor vehicles and an airport. Sahara tourism is also of great importance for the city. It is a popular starting point for excursions to the neighboring Ahaggar Mountains, where e.g. the Hermitage of the murdered Christian martyr Charles de Foucauld is popular.

The Touaregs living in the south of Algeria, unlike the Kabyls, are mostly not a noticeable foreign body in the Algerian state, but have come to terms with the Bouteflika regime without any particular enthusiasm. By building schools, medical facilities, electricity and water supply as well as tourism and smuggling, the worst deficiencies were eliminated and certain sources of income - including prosperity - created. However, there is sympathy for the Touareg rebellion in Mali and Niger; Individual Algerian Touaregs from the ranks of the Algerian army have switched to the side of the Malian rebels or support Salafist terror groups in order to weaken the central power and increase their own weight.

Social classes and strata

In contrast to Tunisia, there is no broad, economically independent and politically self-confident middle class in Algeria, but a diffuse, difficult-to-understand group of beneficiaries of the current confusion. The "upper class" consists of the former independence fighters ("Moudjahedine") or clans who, after the victory in the war of liberation, acquired key positions in the state, economy and society.

  • The army sees itself as the guardian of Algerian sovereignty and claims to have not only liberated the country from French colonial rule, but also saved it from the threat of the Islamist takeover.
  • the state bureaucracy was built up in the Boumedienne era by the former unity party FLN and provided its members with lucrative posts and positions. A large number of bureaucratic rules, regulations and laws ensure that undesirable initiatives can be blocked at any time with reference to the principle of legality.
  • In the Algerian economy, firms were originally state owned and as part of the state bureaucracy they were state controlled; Management positions were not awarded on the basis of performance, but on the basis of relationships, loyalty and belonging to the strata that supported the regime and the state.

This network of dependencies and relationships has survived to this day and represents the greatest pillar of the regime and the Algerian upper class, supplemented by elements that rose from the Islamist camp to the establishment after the civil war. Privileges, items, import and export licenses are allocated or withdrawn within this "warehouse".

In contrast, there is the traditional Kabyle upper class, which has inevitably come to terms with the regime, but as an "autochthonous aristocracy" is in a tense relationship with it. Your figurehead is the industrialist Issad Rabrab, the president of the agro-industrial group CEVITAL and other Algerian companies, representative of the private sector, who points out that Algeria will face even more enormous labor market problems in view of a population of 50 million expected in 2025 than it is currently. CEVITAL is the second largest company in Algeria after Sonatrach, the state-owned company for the oil and natural gas business (comparable to the Russian GASPROM), a non-transparent entity that is haunted by the smell of corruption.

Gender ratio

The war of independence against France had called the gender roles into question, as women were also heavily involved - the common goal of independence pushed the traditional religious differences between the sexes into the background. With the rise of Islamism, however, the legal and actual situation of women deteriorated again.

In the course of the emergence of Islamization, the Algerian parliament passed the "Code da la famille" (also known by some as the "code de l'infamie", law of vulgarity) in an act of almost hasty obedience to the Islamists on June 9, 1984 assigns a subordinate position to women. It is stipulated therein

  • that the husband can divorce his wife at any time and cast her away without having to justify himself
  • that he neither has to pay for the rejected woman nor for the children they have together and that he has to look after them (if he does not want to keep the children, otherwise they will fall to him) and the common domicile belongs to him, so the woman has to leave and possibly become homeless
  • that he has the right to polygamy, according to Islamic interpretation up to 4 women
  • that the wife may only leave the Algerian territory with the written permission of the husband ("autorisation de sortie")

In 2005 the code was slightly modified. Polygamy remained permitted, but formally it depended on the consent of the first wife. The children together stayed with their mother and the husband was obliged to look after them. In addition, the validity of a marriage depended on the approval of the Wali (provincial governor).

After protests and an intensive public discussion, further modifications were added: Polygamy was further restricted and now depends on the sterility of the first (or second) wife. In addition, the husband also needs a judicial authorization after hearing the first wife. This means that polygamy is reduced to an exceptional status in the case of childlessness, but the Islamists can formally claim the validity of the Sharia. A permit from the husband for the wife to travel abroad is no longer necessary.

Other discriminatory regulations remained in force, e.g. that an unbelieving descendant of a devout Muslim parent (regardless of whether man or woman) is not entitled to inheritance (to prevent children from converting to a religion other than Islam). In addition, the children of a non-religious widow (foreigner), whose husband was a religious Muslim, are not clearly Muslim themselves and may therefore be disinherited, so that the non-Muslim widow must convert to Islam as soon as possible in order not to endanger the inheritance claims of their children.

According to some lawyers, the "code de la famille" could also be unconstitutional in its entirety ("anticonstitutionalité").


Since independence, literacy has increased massively; 70% can now read and write. The enforcement of compulsory schooling for boys and girls must be seen as one of the achievements of independence. At least in the cities, compulsory schooling seems to be generally enforced and accepted (in the morning the streets are filled with children on their way to school). Algeria currently spends 4.5% of its budget on education (Tunisia: 7.1%)

However, a decrease in quality in favor of quantity is noted. This seems plausible in view of the massive expansion of schooling since independence and in view of the strong population growth. In the 1960s, teaching staff were also "imported" from Egypt, who - often members of the Muslim Brotherhood - were "disposed of" and sent to Algeria as an unpleasant Islamist potential. This happened in the course of the Arabization of society, an undertaking that was understandable after decolonization, but which ultimately led to the fact that often neither the knowledge and command of the French nor the Arabic language is guaranteed and the danger of a "double illiteracy" exists.

Arabic is spoken, written and taught in primary school. In higher education, however, it is necessary to master French in addition to Arabic, since the development of the natural and human sciences (provided they were not influenced by Arabic knowledge and Arabic scholars) in modern times has largely bypassed Arabic and the majority of the terms and Terms first have to be translated into Arabic or complicated to paraphrase.

The Algerian education system is strongly based on the French model, i.e., in contrast to the German model, formal over vocational training takes precedence. If successful, the school child must be taken to the Abitur (baccalaureat, bac) and then sent to university (bac +). This system has produced a large number of high school and college graduates who can no longer be offered a proper place in the development of society. This is even more the case for the low-skilled without a formal educational qualification.

The qualifications conveyed in the system of formal education are little in demand on the labor market. A reform of the education system is therefore necessary with the aim of better quality in the sense of more practical professional relevance, be it through improvements in formal education (e.g. universities of applied sciences) or through the upgrading of vocational training. The massive rise in unemployment among young professionals since the structural adjustments under pressure from the IMF in the mid-1990s also brought about a crisis in social values, as there seem to be no prospects with or without formal school-leaving qualifications.

Health and social affairs

Medical care in Algeria has been free and guaranteed by the state since the Boumedienne era. In principle, nothing has changed in that regard. It is financed through social security contributions, which are shared between employer and employee (the greater part, currently 12.5%, is paid by the employer, much less 1.5% of the employees) and state grants from the budget of the Ministry of Health. For self-employed or non-permanent employees, the contributions are based on the annual income. Official statistics suggest a slow improvement in the number of medical staff and facilities available, but that says little about the quality of care.

Algeria spends 7.21% of its GDP (2014) on health care (Germany: 11.3%). The supply of standard drugs (painkillers, antibiotics, cardiovascular drugs), at least in the cities, is guaranteed by the pharmacies. However, special surgical interventions that go beyond basic care are only carried out after a long waiting period. Very wealthy families, like the President himself, like to be treated in France. There is no infrastructure for emergencies, e.g. emergency calls (except for traffic accidents); it is up to those affected to organize help.

In addition, there is now a system of expensive private polyclinics in the cities (e.g. the Clinique El Azar), the equipment of which is significantly better than the public ones.

Pension and retirement benefits

The pension is regulated by a state pension insurance and in many cases represents a basic security. In many cases, the recipients of state pensions still have a secondary job to supplement their pension. The retirement age is 60 years, or you only need 32 years of contributions - or less if you reach a certain age threshold. The pension contribution rate is currently 17.75% (employer contribution: 11%, employees: 6.75), compared to 18.7% - overall - currently in Germany.

Public spending on pensions is 3.2% of the state budget (Tunisia: 4.3%). Since January 2012 the minimum pension is 15,000 dinars (approx. 140 euros), also for non-contributors ("non-salarieés"). In May 2013 and again in 2014 there was another increase of approx. 12%. In 2015, pensions were only increased by 5% due to the reduced budgetary leeway, which is likely to have reduced the purchasing power of pension recipients overall in view of the rise in food imports. In 2016, on the other hand, pensions only increased by 2.5%.


Ethnic diversity and heterogeneity

The diversity of Algerian culture is due to the various ethnic groups that have left their mark from the past to the present. Algeria is also a country of immigration and emigration.

Perhaps 4 main cultural trends can be named:

  • an Arab-Islamic "leading culture", which is expressed in everyday behavior, clothing, the legal system, the state and administration and religion, among other things. The dominant culture tends to dominate, exclude and displace other cultures
  • a culture influenced by the west (French-language literature, painting, classical and modern music, general openness instead of exclusivity)
  • the traditional Amazight culture of the Kabyle with its own language as well as other traditional cultures (e.g. Mozabites)
  • the Tuareg culture in the south (music, linguistic peculiarities, clothing, religious differences to the majority Islam)

The Ministry of Culture represents the official cultural system in Algeria. It was run until May 2014 by the militant and controversial former feminist Khalida Toumi. During her tenure since 2001, festivals have been organized, museums opened and neglected cultural monuments and traditional buildings renovated and renovated.


The French-language Algerian literature is shaped by the recently deceased author Assia Djebar, who received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade in 2000. She particularly addresses the situation of Arab women after independence and advocates an image of women in Islam that is linked to progressive tendencies in the origins of Islam.

The author Yasmina Khadra, a former army officer, experienced a broad international reception. He is primarily shaped by the experience of violence and terrorism during the Algerian civil war and approaches it more descriptively than explanatory (even if his novels are not always set in Algeria).

The author Malika Mokkadem describes the life of women in Algeria after independence from the perspective of women who live their own lives, decide for themselves and want to discover the world and have to cross borders to do so.

While the first three authors named live abroad, primarily for security reasons, the Kabyle writer Boualam Sansal still resides in Algeria. Like Assia Djebar, Sansal also received the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Sansal, however, is less interested in the origins of Islam or the image of women, but as a Kabyle writer addresses the political power of religion in his books.

Film and cinema

Algerian filmmaking after independence was initially very productive and produced numerous works, some of which also gained international recognition. However, not all films about Algeria are made by Algerians and produced in Algeria, starting with the film portrayal of the FLN uprising in Algiers 1954-57 "La bataille d'Alger" (Algerian co-produced).

In 1975 Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina won the Golden Palm in Cannes with "chronique des années de braise". The Algerian films mostly dealt with the struggle for independence or addressed its consequences, referring to it.

During the years of civil war and terror, Algerian film production came to a standstill. More recently there have been productions that are more contemporary, e.g. "Three Women in Algiers", in which the fate of three women during the time of terrorism is shown.


After national music production came to a standstill during the civil war (music is not allowed for the Islamists because it distracts from turning to God and is too this-sided), there is again an Algerian music scene.

The national symphony orchestra has also survived, and it occasionally appears in the national theater in Algiers, which is well worth seeing in the center of the city, or at other performance venues, and is well worth a listen. Algerian music is better known for the popular music "Rai", which is a mixture of Arabic singing and rock rhythms. Less known, but no less impressive, is Gnawa music (originally Moroccan), which sounds like a mixture of Afro-American blues elements and black African music.


Despite the Islamic ban on images, painting was and is very productive in Algeria. However, it leads a niche existence, after all, the "Musée des Arts Modernes" (MAMA) has been reopened in the center of Algiers. There are also smaller galleries and art exhibitions, e.g. in the old town, where interesting vernissages and exhibitions occasionally take place.


Legal situation

Unlike in the West, religion is firmly rooted in both Arab and Algerian identities - it evidently represents an anchor of identity; the "desacralization" of public life in Western Europe is often criticized and criticized.

In Algeria, Islam is the state religion, i.e. the constitution defines Algeria as an Islamic country and the religion claims that government power is based on it. This means, among other things, that, among other things, the president must be of Muslim faith. There are legal restrictions for non-Muslims, e.g. in inheritance law. Non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims or can only inherit them to a limited extent (and cannot or only to a limited extent inheritance, e.g. a non-Muslim woman in the event of the death of her Muslim husband), so they are legally discriminated against.

The proportion of Muslims in the total population is 99%; they belong to the Sunni faith; Shiites are not known in Algeria. In the area of ​​Ghardaia live Ibadite Kharijites (Mozabites), who are regarded as the "fifth" denomination of Islam, but whose Islamic identity is not in doubt.

The Islam of the Kabyle and the Touaregs differs somewhat from the Arab practice and is more open, e.g. alcohol is not uncommon in Kabylia, and it is unusual for the Touareg to veil women.

Other religions, especially the approx. 40,000 Christians, are legally tolerated, but must adhere to certain rules that can be interpreted restrictively. According to a law of August 28, 2006 (the so-called anti-mission law), Christian worship services may only take place at registered and registered locations, and the organizations carrying out the services must also be registered, which currently only applies to the Catholic Church. Protestant denominations are therefore illegal and are currently not recognized. In principle, it is possible to convert from Islam to another religion. However, any attempt to persuade a person of Muslim faith to quit Islam is punishable. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BaMF), the situation of non-Muslims, especially Christians, has become more difficult as a result of this legislation. Leaving Islam constitutes an offense of persecution and, according to a judgment of the VG Freiburg dated November 26, 2009, constitutes a reason for asylum in Germany (quoted from the BaMF report, see above).

Political and social importance

Since the end of the civil war in 2001, the role of Islam and religion has not become weaker, but stronger. According to a bon mot, the Islamists lost the war, but won dominion over society. Numerous important positions in the state bureaucracy, in the judiciary or in science are taken up by Islamists in the course of "national reconciliation".

This manifests itself, among other things, in the increase in veiling, which was not very widespread after independence, and in the penetration and regulation of everyday life with religious regulations, e.g. with respect for breaks in prayer during work and the compulsory washing several times a day in order to pray correctly can. The top of the state is itself close to Islamism, unless it is openly terrorist. Islamism, the state bureaucracy and the army have formed a tacit alliance against democracy, transparency and political modernization.

Another indication: numerous alcohol outlets have had to close or are threatened with closure. Restaurants that have a license to sell alcohol are at risk of having it withdrawn.
The fasting requirement during Ramadan is interpreted increasingly strictly, so that during the summer months, for example, bathing in the sea is taboo during the day, as there is a risk of swallowing seawater and thereby breaking the fast.



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