Angola bans Islam as mosquesclosed, demolished

According to a report published by the
Cairo Post : http:// over 60
mosques have been demolished or
closed. Below is text of the report as
posted on the webiste.
CAIRO and LISBON: Over 60 mosques
have been closed or demolished in
predominantly Christian Angola over the
last two months, in a government
initiative ostensibly targeting mosques
built without authorization. International
media reports since Sunday claim Angola
has “banned” Islam, and the country’s
Muslim minority feels it is being targeted.
The Muslim community in Angola has yet
to receive official recognition from the
government, as many are believed to be
illegal immigrants and consequently do
not contribute to the 100,000 members
required by the government to constitute
a practicing religion.
A man stands infront of a demolished
mosque in Rocha Pinto city of Luanda-
courtesy of coque mukuta
Official documents dated Sept. 26 – of
which The Cairo Post has obtained copies
– ordered the demolition of a mosque in
Viana’s Zango-I neighborhood, in Luanda
province. Signed by Viana’s municipal
administration, the document notifies the
head of the mosque that they had 72
hours to carry out the “voluntary
demolition” of the mosque and remove
any leftover debris from the site.
According to the demolition order, the
mosque was “built without express
authorization from the local government
of Viana.”
Voice of America reporter Coque Mukuta
has been in direct contact with Muslim
communities across Angola, and
confirmed to The Cairo Post that over 60
mosques have been closed or
demolished. While The Cairo Post has
been unable to obtain numbers on how
many mosques were demolished versus
closed, Mukuta said mosques in several
locations were affected, including Luanda
and Moxico. A few mosques in Benguela
and Luanda are still operational.
According to the Association of Religion
Data Archives, Muslims make up 1.09
percent of Angola’s approximately 13
million population. The Muslims residing
in Angola are mostly migrants from West
Africa. However, Muslim sources quoted
in the 2012 U.S. government’s
International Religious Freedom Report
suggest there may be as many as 500,000
in Angola. The number is difficult to
confirm as many of the country’s Muslims
are said to have unclear immigration
status, according to the report.
While the Angolan government is citing
legal technicalities for the closures and
demolitions, the Angolan Constitution
guarantees freedom of conscience,
worship and religion as inviolable rights. It
declares that the secular state of Angola
“shall protect [...] places and objects of
worship” (article 10).
However, religious groups are required to
apply for legal status with the Ministries
of Justice and Culture to secure, among
other benefits, the right to build schools
and places of worship. One requirement
to qualify for legal status is a minimum
membership of 100,000 adult adherents.
The Central Mosque of Luanda, which
represents Angola’s Muslim community,
has reportedly come close to meeting the
membership requirement, but has not
yet obtained legal status. The 2008
International Religious Freedom Report
explained that the “Muslim community in
particular is affected by this numerical
limitation, as many of its adherents are
believed to be illegal immigrants and
therefore do not count towards the legal
Obtaining the minimum membership
requirement is one obstacle impeding
Angola’s Muslim community from
enjoying freedom of religion and worship,
according to a 2012 report by UN Special
Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or
Belief Heiner Bielefeldt.
“Our country has a constitution that
guarantees freedom of worship and of
religion,” David Já, head of the Islamic
Community of Angola (COIA), told
Angolan newspaper OPAIS. “If this is in
our legal system, I see no reason for
illegally closing the mosques.”
The local Muslim community believes it is
intentionally being targeted by the wave
of closures and “voluntary” demolitions,
community members told Mukuta. While
the government cites legal technicalities,
the Muslim community believes the real
reason their houses of worship are being
targeted is because Angolan society – and
the government – believes they are
“terrorists,” they said.
“The terrorist argument is raised by the
Muslims [themselves]. But it is a known
fact that the Angolan government is afraid
of radicalism,” Mukuta told The Cairo
Post. “People here tell me that I am
defending them in vain, as they are
The Guardian of UK also published
news on series of violence and
intimidation against women who wear
the veil, the report:
Angola has been accused of
"banning" Islam after shutting down most
of the country's mosques amid reports of
violence and intimidation against women
who wear the veil.
The Islamic Community of Angola (ICA)
claims that eight mosques have been
destroyed in the past two years and
anyone who practises Islam risks being
found guilty of disobeying Angola's penal
Palestinians burn Angola's flag in a protest
amid reports that the country has banned
Islam and destroyed mosques.
Photograph: APA/REX
Human rights activists have condemned
the wide-ranging crackdown. "From what
I have heard, Angola is the first country in
the world that has decided to ban Islam,"
said Elias Isaac, country director of
the Open Society Initiative of Southern
Africa (Osisa). "This is a crazy madness.
The government is intolerant of any
Officials in the largely Catholic southern
African nation insist that worldwide media
reports of a "ban" on Islam are
exaggerated and no places of worship are
being targeted.
The UK has just named Angola as one of
its five "high-level prosperity partners "
in Africa and the two countries have a
burgeoning trade relationship. The
Angolan president, José Eduardo dos
Santos, Africa's second-longest serving
head of state at 34 years, has long been
accused of corruption and human rights
Religious organisations are required to
apply for legal recognition in Angola,
which currently sanctions 83, all of them
Christian. Last month the justice ministry
rejected the applications of 194
organisations, including one from the
Islamic community.
Under Angolan law, a religious group
needs more than 100,000 members and
to be present in 12 of the 18 provinces to
gain legal status, giving them the right to
construct schools and places of worship.
There are only an estimated 90,000
Muslims among Angola's population of
about 18 million.
David Já, president of the Islamic
Community of Angola (ICA), said on
Thursday: "We can say that Islam has
been banned in Angola. You need
100,000 to be recognised as a religion or
officially you cannot pray."
There are 78 mosques in the country,
according to the ICA, and all have been
closed except those in the capital,
Luanda, because they are technically
unlicensed. "The mosques in Luanda were
supposed to be closed yesterday but
because of an international furore about
reports that Angola had banned Islam,
the government decided not to," Já said.
"So, at the moment, mosques in Luanda
are open and people are going for
Já said the government began shutting
mosques in 2010, including one that was
burned down in Huambo province, "a day
after authorities had warned us that we
should have not built the mosque where
we had and that it had to be built
somewhere else. The government
justified by saying that it was an invasion
of Angolan culture and a threat to
Christian values."
Another mosque was destroyed in Luanda
earlier this month, Já said, and 120 copies
of the Koran burned.
Muslims have been instructed to
dismantle mosques themselves, he
added. "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
Women who wear the traditional veil are
also being targeted, Já said. "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.
"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 veil in Angola, government has
prohibited the practice of the faith and
women are afraid to express their faith in
that sense."
The ICA's complaints were supported
by Rafael Marques de Morais, a political
activist and leading investigative
journalist in Angola. "I've seen an order
that says Muslims must destroy the
mosques themselves and clear away the
debris, or they will be charged for the
cost of the destruction."
He suggested the government was
seeking to find a convenient diversion
from growing public hostility towards
Chinese and Portuguese workers in
Angola. "The government need to deflect
attention. They are trying to find a
scapegoat for economic pressures and
saying Islam is not common to Angolan
values and culture.
"They believe a blanket law against Islam
will get the sympathy of both Angolans
and those in the international community
who equate Islam with terrorism."
Asked about the potential for Muslims to
protest, Marques replied: "If the Muslims
try to show any anger, they will be
deported the following day."
But the Angolan government denies any
attempt to ban Islam. "There is no war in
Angola against Islam or any other
religion," Manuel Fernando, director of
religious affairs at the culture ministry, .
"There is no official position that targets
the destruction or closure of places of
worship, whichever they are."
A statement from the Angolan embassy
in the US concurred: "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."