Imams and sheikhs in Algeria have issued warnings about a suspicious cult that has appeared in the North African country. “Karakaria,” they insist, “is based on superstition and has nothing to do with the Maliki School of Islamic thought as generally practiced in Algeria.” Some scholars are saying that the cult is based upon supposedly Sufi doctrines but is in reality an invention of foreign intelligence agencies aiming to spread division and chaos within Muslim communities.
Echourouk has investigated the Karakaria cult. Speaking to local elders and officials in the town of Hadjadj near the coastal city of Mostaganem, the Algerian daily was told that they had no knowledge of the group. However, imams in the area appeared to know what it involves and warned people against following it because it threatens their beliefs and the Sunnah (example) of Prophet Muhammad. It appears to be popular in Morocco, where it has its headquarters in the country town of Temsamane.
That is where Musa Belghith claims that he “saw the light” and was taught the secrets of the Divine by his “sheikh”. After he posted details of his experience on social media, the thoughts and ideas behind the cult appeared to spread amongst other young people. Followers of the group apparently roam around wearing a “uniform” of a cloak of different colours.
Photographs of members of the Karakaria community at the shrine of Sidi Lakhdar Ben Khloof in Mostaganem created a great debate on social networks. It is this which has driven regional elders and scholars to take urgent action and demand an end to the repeated targeting of the national religious authority by foreign forces. They insist that the cult should be listed alongside the Shia and Ahmediyya sects as a threat to mainstream Sunni thought, especially as practiced in Algeria.
However, Abu Abdullah Gholamullah, the former minister of religious affairs and head of the Supreme Islamic Council, has justified the shrine visit on the basis of “religious tourism”. Such sites, he insisted, are open to everyone, and are neither affected by nor affect their visitors. He pointed out that Sidi Lakhdar Ben Khloof was a poet and a historical figure who is not affiliated with Sufism.
According to Sheikh Hassani Hassan of the Qadiriyya Sufi fraternity, foreign intrusions in Algeria take many forms. He explained that Sufi doctrines have been targeted unreasonably and expressed his concerns about the origins of Karakaria. He added that he also has concerns about the attitude of the Ministry of Religious Affairs toward such issues.
The sheikh said that the purpose of foreign interference is to sow confusion among the people and change their prevailing beliefs and practices. He added a warning about “internet sheikhs” because Algerian law does not protect the Sufi and Maliki schools of thought.
A senior official of the Association of Muslim Scholars suggested that the targeting of Algeria by such groups is very apparent. Every time unusual topics are raised, he explained, there is an ethical issue intended to distort and destabilise society by various means. He said that the latest events require the Ministry of Religious Affairs to strengthen the formation of clerics and imams in order to stand against the sectarian threat to the fabric of Algerian society.