The southern African nation Angola has ordered the closure all mosques, effectively illegalising the practice of Islam inside the country.
"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," said Angolan minister of culture Rosa Cruz e Silva, according to local reports.
However, no official explanation has been given as to why Islam currently faces a need to be legalized in Angola despite its presence in the country for many years. The minister merely asserted that it was a necessary step to ban sects which are contradictory to Angolan customs and culture.
Following the ban, there are unconfirmed reports that mosques in the tiny African country are being destroyed.
On November 24, Angolan president Jose Edurado dos Santos said the country is working toward putting an end to Islamic influence in Angola once and for all.
"This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country," president Jose Edurado dos Santos declared to the Osun Defence daily.
Muslims number between 80,000 and 90,000 and account for a mere 1% of the Angolan population, while Christians make up the vast majority. Muslims often face hostile comments from lawmakers in Angola. Muslims in the country had predominantly migrated from West Africa and Lebanon. The government in the country is said to be inclined towards Christianity and the president is a Roman Catholic.
Public attitudes toward Islam have been generally negative. Cultural differences between Angolans and Muslim immigrants have been the basis for negative views toward Islam, as was the perceived link between Islam and illegal immigration. Since the 11 September attacks, there has been a deliberate attempt to link Muslims with terrorism. It has become routine at Luanda airport for security officers to detain Muslims arriving from West African countries.
Along with Islam, around 194 other religious denominations have also been outlawed.
"Besides these, there is a long list of more than 1,000 applications to be authorised," Cruz e Silva confirmed.
The destruction and closure of mosques was already underway when Cruz e Silva made the announcement. On 3 October 2013, Muslims in the municipality of Viana Zango in the capitol Luanda were shocked to see the minaret of their mosque dismantled without permission. At that time, the governor of Luanda announced on the radio that radical Muslims are not welcome in Angola and the Angolan government is not ready for the legalization of mosques in Angola.
Vasudevan Sridharan, "Angola Bans Islam and Shuts Down All Mosques" International Business Times November 25, 2013
"AFRICAN STATE OF ANGOLA BANS ISLAM, ALL MOSQUES TO BE DESTROYED" Codewit World News November 25, 2013
"Angola bans Islam, begins tearing down mosques" ,em>Examiner November 25, 2013
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today