Algerian officials have confirmed the setup of an
organization to represent the Jewish minority in the country.
According to El Khabar, Algeria's widest circulation
Arabic newspaper, the decision could lead to "violent
reactions" by fringe extremists.
Religious Affairs Ministry Spokesman Mohammad Falahi
announced that the new organization would be headed by Roger
Siyad, a veteran attorney who is not a rabbi, but is "a
religious and cultured figure who will take part in numerous
events in Algeria."
The organization was set up based on a 2006 law requiring
members of religious minorities to form an association that
would help them preserve their religious customs and request
permission to hold ceremonies at locations approved in
advance. The law includes stiff penalties for encouraging
Muslims to convert, apparently referring to Christian
The new organization will work in cooperation with the
Religious Affairs Ministry on the issue of renovating Jewish
cemeteries in Constantine (in the east), Blida and Tlemcen
(in the west).
Senior government minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem told a Qatari
newspaper that the activity of Jewish associations in his
country does not indicate the start of normalization between
Algeria and Israel. He confirmed his government recently
approved the setup of religious representation for Jews in
Algeria, but noted they are entitled to these rights as
Some observers see the move as a further sign of positive
developments by the Algerian government towards its Jewish
population. Jews of Algerian origin who recently traveled to
the country for a visit said they were well received by the
authorities and noted renovation and preservation work
carried out at the country's Jewish cemeteries.