L’Observatoire des religions
2008 International Religious Freedom Report

Increased restrictions on non-Islamic religious practice in Algeria

jeudi 16 octobre 2008

The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and opinion and permits citizens to set up institutions whose aims include the protection of fundamental liberties of the citizen. The Constitution declares Islam to be the state religion and prohibits institutions from engaging in behavior incompatible with Islamic morality. Ordinance 06-03 provides for the freedom of non-Muslims to practice religious rites, on condition that the exercise thereof is in keeping with the ordinance, the Constitution, and other laws and regulations and that public order, morality, and the rights and basic freedoms of others are respected. The law limits the practice of religions other than Islam consistent with the limits on Muslim worship included in the Penal Code of 2001, which includes restricting public assembly for religious practice to approved public places of worship. The law prohibits efforts to proselytize Muslims, but it is not uniformly enforced. The Government interprets Shari’a (Islamic law) as banning conversion from Islam to any other religion.

The status of respect for religious freedom by the Government declined during the period covered by this report. In February 2008 the Government began enforcing Ordinance 06-03, which increased restrictions on non-Islamic religious practice. In one case, a foreign Catholic priest found to be praying in an unauthorized place received a 2-month suspended prison sentence and was fined $303 (20,150 Dinars). Government ministers made public statements that criticized evangelism and emphasized the dominant role of Islam in society. There were many claims of government restrictions on worship, including the arrest and sentencing of converts to Christianity, ordered closure of churches, the dismissal of a Christian school director for allegedly using a school for evangelizing, and confiscation of Bibles.

Although society generally tolerates foreigners and citizens who practice religions other than Islam, some local converts to Christianity kept a low profile out of concern for their personal safety and potential legal and social problems. Radical Islamists harassed and threatened the personal security of some converts to Christianity. Islamist terrorists continued to justify their killing of security force members and civilians by referring to interpretations of religious texts. Moderate Muslim religious and political leaders publicly criticized acts of violence committed in the name of Islam. Anti-Semitic articles occasionally appeared in the independent press. Press reports concerning the May 2008 riots between Maliki and Ibadi Muslim groups in Berriane suggested that sectarian differences contributed to the violence.

Source : 2008 International Religious Freedom Report (USA)

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