Islam in Angola

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Islam in Angola is a minority religion. Most sources estimate the population at 90,000,[1] although some give a higher figure. Most Muslims in the country are Sunni. Most Muslims are foreign migrants from West Africa and the Middle East, although some are local converts. There exist several Islamic organizations that run mosques, schools and community centers. The Association of the Development of Islam in Angola is the primary proselytizing organization. Muslim Angolans are represented by the Supreme Council of Angolan Muslims of Luanda.[2] As of late 2013, the Angolan government does not legally recognize any Muslim organizations; as a result, mosques in the country have faced restrictions and most have been shut down by the government.[3]

Legal status[edit]

The 2010 Angolan Constitution guarantees freedom of religion to all of its citizens.[4][5]

The government requires religious groups to petition for legal status. Upon recognition, these groups are allowed to build schools and places of worship. In order to be recognized, a group must have more than 100,000 and be present in 12 out of 18 provinces.[6] The population of Muslims, however, is estimated at only 90,000.[1] While the government has given legal status to 83 religious groups (all of them Christian[1]), it has not given legal status to any Muslim groups.[6] The president of the Islamic Community of Angola has criticized Angola's threshold for recognition by stating, "You need 100,000 to be recognised as a religion or officially you cannot pray".[1]

The US State Department reports that the government often permits non-registered groups to exist and function, but notes of instances of Angolan authorities shutting down mosques (see section below).[6]

In November 2013, Angolan foreign minister Georges Chikoti said that there were eight Islamic denominations in Angola, but none met the legal requirements for registration, and "so they can't practice their faith until concluding the process". Chikoti states that some Muslim groups had not registered their mosques officially, but did not specify which legal requirements they had not met.[7]

Demographics[edit]

Historically, Angola did not have a significant Muslim population. During the 21st century, Angola's Muslim community has grown. Most Muslims in Angola are businessmen and migrants from West Africa and the Middle East, especially Lebanon.[4] Very few Angolans have converted to Islam, as a result of Muslim missionary activity in Angola. Most of these conversion occurred during the Angolan Civil War, when many Angolans fled to countries with a significant Muslim presence and came into contact with Islam there.[2]

Adebayo Oyebade estimates that Muslims make up 1 to 2.5 percent of Angola's population.[2] The US State Department states that the estimated Muslim population is 80,000-90,000, but notes that some sources put the population size closer to 500,000.[6]

Restrictions on mosques[edit]

The International Religious Freedom Report stated that the Angolan government selectively shut down mosques, schools and community centres.[6] Angolan officials denied that a government had a policy to close mosques, there were reports of local authorities closing mosques or preventing their construction on several occasions.

In July 2010, unidentified arsonists set fire to a mosque in Huambo, causing extensive damage.[8] A Muslim leader later said the mosque was burned "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."[1]

On September 4, 2010, authorities closed a mosque in Cazenga without prior notice or justification. The mosque reopened a month later.[9]

In November 2011, Angolan authorities tore down a structure being used a mosque in Cacuaco without notice and without a written order of violation.[10] In December 2011, a Muslim group in the Malanje Province purchased some land, and applied to obtain permission to build a mosque. The Muslim group repeatedly asked the authorities to either grant or deny the application, but received no response. After waiting several months, when the Muslim group began construction, Angolan authorities arrived and destroyed the mosque foundation. The authorities did not provide either a denial of the application, or a citation for offense.[10]

In January 2012, the Angolan government prevented Muslims from building a mosque in Dundo, Lunda Norte Province, even though the Muslim group had a license to do so. In May 2012, the police chained the doors of a building used by Muslims as a mosque and told them to cease praying there. Muslim leaders wrote letters in response, but received no response.[6]

According to the Islamic Community of Angola, a total of 60 mosques, mostly outside of Luanda, have been shut down in 2013. Voice of America reported seeing a video that showed the demolition of a mosque in Saurimo.[11]

Angolan Minister of Culture said "The legalisation of Islam has not been approved...their mosques will be closed until further notice."[12] The Angolan Embassy in the United States said it was not aware of this remark.[13][4] A spokesperson for the Angolan police said that he was unaware of any government order to shut down mosques. However, Voice of America found a government document telling official to demolish the "Zango 1" mosque in Viana Luanda province.[11]

"Ban on Islam" controversy[edit]

In November 2013, some media sources reported that Islam had been outlawed in Angola, as well as other belief systems deemed to be contrary to the country's culture.[5][14][15] The International Business Times said that Angola was seeking to shut down all mosques.[12]

However, the reports were later denied by the government[13][4] The Ministry of Culture stated, "There is no war in Angola against Islam or any other religion."[16]

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said that it will be sending a fact-finding team to prepare a report on the situation.[17]

Incidents[edit]

In 2004 Constantino Vitiaka, the head of information of Angola's national intelligence services, claimed in a radio interview that the Extremist terror network al-Qaeda had tried to enter the country through Muslim Non-Governmental Organizations.[18]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Department of State.

  1. ^ a b c d e Aristides Cabeche and David Smith (2013-11-28). "Angola accused of 'banning' Islam as mosques closed". The Guardian. 
  2. ^ a b c Oyebade, Adebayo O. Culture And Customs of Angola, 2006. Pages 45–46.
  3. ^ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/28/angola-accused-banning-islam-mosques
  4. ^ a b c d "2008 Report on Interantional Religious Freedom - Angola". U.S. Department of State. 
  5. ^ a b "Islam Banned in Angola". Las Vegas Guardian Express. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f "ANGOLA 2012 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT". 
  7. ^ "Angola defends barring Islamic groups, denies persecution". Reuters. 2013-11-29. 
  8. ^ "Angola: Fire in Huambo Mosque Destroys Documents". Angola News Agency. 
  9. ^ "ANGOLA July-December, 2010 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT". 
  10. ^ a b "ANGOLA 2011 INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM REPORT". 
  11. ^ a b "Muslim Leader Says Angolan Authorities Destroying Mosques". Voice of America. 2013-11-26. 
  12. ^ a b Vasudevan Sriradhan (2013-11-25). "Angola Bans Islam and Shuts Down All Mosques". International Business Times. 
  13. ^ a b "Angola Denies It Banned Islam, Destroyed Mosques". International Business Times. 2013-11-25. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  14. ^ 19 November 2013 (2013-11-19). "Angola: Minister Guarantees Efforts to Fight Illegal Churches". allAfrica.com. Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  15. ^ Ireneu Mujoco. "Islão já tem 60 mesquitas encerradas - Política - O País - O Jornal da Nova Angola". O País (Angola). Retrieved 2013-11-26. 
  16. ^ "Angola denies banning Islam after outcry". Agence France-Presse. Nov 26, 2013. 
  17. ^ "OIC Probes Facts About Angola Muslims". 2013-11-28. 
  18. ^ "Al-Qaeda tries to enter Angola". News24. 2004-10-22. Retrieved 2013-11-26.