Angola has denied recent claims it “banned” the practice of Islam soon after the country allegedly shut down most mosques and led a campaign against veiled Muslim women, according to human rights activists.
On Monday, the Angolan Embassy in Washington issued a statement refuting the claims. “The Republic of Angola… it’s a country that does not interfere in religion. We have a lot of religions there. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people,” read the statement.
However, the Guardian reported that, under Angolan law, Islam has yet to receive legal recognition, explaining that in order to qualify, a religious organization needs 100,000 members, whereas Muslim Angolans number 90,000 (out of about 18 million). According to the report, the Angolan justice ministry last month “rejected the applications of 194 organisations, including one from the Islamic community.”
The Islamic Community of Angola claimed that the country’s considerations stem from discrimination and religious intolerance; of the 78 mosques in the country, according to the organization, all have been shut over the past few years, except for those in the capital, and persons who practice Islam risk being found guilty of violating the law.
Earlier in the week, Angola’s minister of culture, Rosa Cruz e Silva, was quoted by Britain’s Daily Mail as conceding that “the legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights,” adding that as a result the mosques would be closed until further notice.
Muslims are usually required to shut down a mosque themselves but if they fail to do so, the government intervenes, Já said.
“They usually issue a legal request for us to destroy the building and give us 73 hours to do so. Failure to do so results in government authorities doing it themselves.”
Já also claimed that Muslim women who wear the traditional veil have also been targeted. “As things stand, most Muslim women are afraid to wear the veil. A woman was assaulted in hospital in Luanda for wearing a veil, and on another occasion, a young Muslim lady was beaten up and told to leave the country because she was wearing a veil,” he told the Guardian.
“Most recently, young girls were prohibited from wearing the veil in Catholic schools and, when we went there to confront the nuns, they simply said they couldn’t allow it. Although there is not an explicit written law prohibiting the use of the veil in Angola, the government has prohibited the practice of the faith and women are afraid to express their faith in that sense,” he added. »»» The Times of Israel
The Angolan government is playing a game that hides the truth. Although the constitution includes a right to freedom of (private) religious belief, the law requires organized religious denominations to be recognized by the government. If they are not, they are illegal and cannot build or operate public worship facilities. Furthermore, the authorities turn a blind eye on people who harass Muslims and who vandalize or destroy mosques.
» 1 December 2013