Islamic Studies Islamic Salvation Front (FIS)
Allen Fromherz
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0215


The Islamic Salvation Front, best known by its French name, Front islamique du salut (FIS), is a banned political and religious organization in Algeria. Founded after a brief opening for elections in the late 1980s, the organization was brutally suppressed by the Algerian army. Even more of a threat to the FIS, however, were rival Islamist organizations. Although still an important base of opposition in Algeria, the FIS has been sidelined by continued economic concerns and urban revolts against the ruling class in Algeria. There is in the early 21st century an orchestrated attempt by the government to suppress accounts and memories of the civil wars and conflicts of the 1990s, of which FIS was an important part.

General Overviews

Most studies of the FIS are focused on efforts at peacekeeping and dialogue. By attempting to bring the FIS to the table, these studies (e.g., Pierre and Quandt 1996) demonstrate the basic demands of the FIS and the ultimate flexibility of its so-called Islamist ideology. Many studies, including Roberts 1994 (cited under Origins), have emphasized the role of the state in manipulating the FIS and other Islamist groups by pitting them against one another. The few scholarly, book-length studies, including Willis 1996 and Willis 1998, similarly focus on the constantly problematic relationship between the FIS and the Algerian state/army apparatus as well as with other Islamist parties, such as the Al-Nahda. Other scholars have contextualized the FIS and its interactions with the state as part of a wider political pattern of state, religion, and society in North Africa, as seen in Entelis 1994 and Entelis 1997. Bouamama 2000 provides an overview of the roots of Islamism in Algeria, and Rouadjia 1990 reviews the early years of the movement. Malley 1996 offers a policy analysis of the political evolution of Algeria and the FIS and presents Algeria as a case study of “Third Worldism.” Finally, the FIS produced its own magazines, including the periodical Al-Munqidh, published, in Arabic, between October 1989 and February 1992.

  • Bouamama, Saïd. Algerie: Les racines de l‘intégrisme. Anvers, Belgium: Editions EPO, 2000.

    This study surveys the rise of Islamism and the advent of Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

  • Entelis, John P. “Islam, Democracy, and the State: The Reemergence of Authoritarian Politics in Algeria.” In Islamism and Secularism in North Africa. Edited by John Ruedy, 219–251. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

    Authoritarianism and Islamist politics are rivals but also self-reinforcing, because each uses the other as a foil for ideological and political advantage.

  • Entelis, John P. Islam, Democracy, and the State in North Africa. Indiana Series in Arab and Islamic Studies. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997.

    Entelis demonstrates the relationship between Islam and democracy in Algeria and in North Africa more generally.

  • Malley, Robert. The Call from Algeria: Third Worldism, Revolution, and the Turn to Islam. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.

    Malley examines Algeria as part of the larger trend of Third World politics, while linking the rise of the FIS to specific political and religious conditions in North Africa.

  • Pierre, Andrew J., and William B. Quandt. The Algerian Crisis: Policy Options for the West. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1996.

    Pierre and Quandt attempt to outline the origins of the crisis and possible, limited avenues for reconciliation.

  • Rouadjia, Ahmed. Les frères et la mosquée: Enquête sur le mouvement islamiste en Algérie. Les Afriques. Paris: Karthala, 1990.

    This work studies the earliest beginnings of the movement and its initial development.

  • Willis, Michael. The Islamist Challenge in Algeria: A Political History. Berkshire, UK: Ithaca Press, 1996.

    A full-length, well-researched tome outlining the history of the FIS, in the context of Islamist politics.

  • Willis, Michael. “Algeria’s Other Islamists: Abdallah Djaballah and the Ennahda Movement.” Journal of North African Studies 3.3 (1998): 46–70.

    DOI: 10.1080/13629389808718337

    This article shows that the FIS was one of several Islamist movements and demonstrates the relationships among them. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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