Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Islam Banned in Angola: True or False?

Mosques have been closed and religious discrimination against Muslims is common practice in Angola

The alleged demolition of a mosque in Angola

Last week, there was an uproar on social media around the world because of rumours about Islam being banned in Angola and several mosques being demolished in the country. While Manuel Fernando, Director of the Angolan Ministry of Culture's National Institute for Religious Affairs, denied reports, the magazine Exame Angola claimed a mosque in Huambo had become the 60th closed down by the police.

Egypt's Grand Mufti Shaqi Allam decried the anti-Muslim persecution by the Angolan government, calling them 'a provocation not only to Angolan Muslims but to more than 1.5 billion Muslims all over the world'. It was not only Muslims in Angola that were outraged at the ban; Muslims throughout the world were furious as well. Twitter and Facebook were full of angry remarks about how absurd the idea of banning Islam was. There were curses, threats, and there were posts about how Angola is going to incur the wrath of God. 

Fernando's comments were the first public attempt by the Angolan government to refute the claims. Similar statements were given by two officials at the Angolan Embassy in Washington, declaring that Angola provides freedom of religion, therefore it could not possibly ban Islam. Another official confirmed that the embassy did not have knowledge of an Angolan ban on Islam or a plot by the government to destroy mosques.

The reports of mosques being destroyed have come under scrutiny, as a Google Image search shows that a photograph published by numerous news outlets this month that supposedly depicts the minaret of an Angolan mosque being dismantled in October 2012 had been published at least as far back as January 23, 2008, when the Housing & Land Rights Network used it to illustrate an article about the demolition of Bedouin homes in Israel.

La Nouvelle Tribune, a Beninese paper, published an article quoting the Minister of Culture Rosa Cruz, an Angolan official, who reportedly offered the following remark: "The process of legalisation of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Their mosques would be closed until further notice." Furthermore, the website onislam.net cited an African news agency reporting, "According to several Angolan newspapers, Angola has become the first country in the world to ban Islam and Muslims, taking first measures by destroying mosques in the country."

Now, human rights activists have begun to condemn Angola. Even as authorities continue to claim reports of a ban of Islam are 'exaggerated', the fact remains that Angola requires religious organisations to be officially sanctioned. Over 80 are, all of them Christian, and recently almost 200 fresh applications were rejected, including one from an Islamic group. 

Whether the practice of Islam in Angola is legal or not remains a mystery, but there is no doubt that mosques have been closed down for an indefinite amount of time and religious discrimination against the Muslims has become common practice in Angola. @BubTheMinion
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