Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:38AM
A picture taken on November 1, 2013, shows the ruins of a mosque in Viana, a suburb of Luanda, Angola.

A picture taken on November 1, 2013, shows the ruins of a mosque in Viana, a suburb of Luanda, Angola.

Angola’s government has come under fire from human rights activists following reports that it has banned the religion of Islam. According to a report published by the Guardian on Thursday, the Islamic Community of Angola (ICA) has said that eight mosques have been razed since 2011, adding that anyone who practices Islam runs the risk of being found guilty of disobeying the penal code of Angola. “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 difference.” Religious organizations should apply for legal recognition in Angola. In October, the Angolan Justice Ministry dismissed the application of the Islamic community. Based on Angola’s law, a religious group should have over 100,000 members and needs to be present in 12 of the 18 provinces to achieve legal status, which gives the group the right to build schools and places of worship. Around 90,000 Muslims live in Angola, which is home to about 18 million people. ICA president David Ja said on Thursday that there are around 80 mosques across Angola that all have been shut except those in the capital, Luanda, since they are technically unlicensed. “The mosques in Luanda were supposed to be closed yesterday but because of an international furor about reports that Angola had banned Islam, the government decided not to,” he stated. Ja added that the Angolan government started closing mosques three years ago, including one that was set fire to in Huambo province. Another mosque has also been demolished in the capital and 120 copies of Holy Qur’an have been burned, Ja said, adding that Muslims have been requested to dismantle the mosques themselves. “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.” The ICA president also said Muslim women who wear veil face intimidation and violence in Angola. “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,” Ja stated. Angolan officials claim that media reports on a ban on Islam have been exaggerated and no places of worship have been targeted in the country. “There is no war in Angola against Islam or any other religion,” said Manuel Fernando, director of religious affairs at the Angolan Culture Ministry. “There is no official position that targets the destruction or closure of places of worship, whichever they are.” However, political activist and investigative journalist in Angola Rafael Marques de Morais, has confirmed the ICA complaints. “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.” MR/HSN
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