News outlets around the world reported this weekend that Angola had "banned Islam" and had begun to dismantle mosques.
Angolan officals have decried these news reports as erroneous.
An official at the Angolan Embassy in Washington, D.C., who did not want to be identified while discussing the sensitive matter, said that there is no such ban, and that the reports are erroneous.
"The Republic of Angola â¦ it's a country that does not interfere in religion," the official said via telephone Monday afternoon. "We have a lot of religions there. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people."
A second official at the Angolan Embassy in the U.S. reiterated that the diplomatic seat has not been made aware of any ban on Islam in the country.
"At the moment we don't have any information about that," the official said in a phone interview. "We're reading about it just like you on the Internet. We don't have any notice that what you're reading on the Internet is true."
News of Angola's supposed ban on Islam originated in the African press, which went so far as to quote the nation's president and minister of culture offering statements that suggested the premise of the reports was accurate.
A close examination of some of the initial reports about the supposed ban and dismantling of mosques reveals some suspect findings. One such discrepancy is that a Google Images search shows that a photograph published by numerous news outlets this month that purportedly depicts the minaret of an Angolan mosque being dismantled in October 2012 had been used at least as early 23 January 2008, when the Housing & Land Rights Network posted it to illustrate an article about the destruction of Bedouin homes in Israel.
Angolan officials could not attest to the veracity of the comments attributed to officials in Angola seemingly affirming the Islam ban referenced in initial news storie published over the weekend.
Angolan President JosÃ© Eduardo dos Santos reportedly weighed in on the controversy, as he was quoted in Nigeria's Osun Defender newspaper on Sunday as saying, "This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country."
"The president has been out of the country for a week," the first Angolan Embassy official mentioned above said, contending that as such he could not have made the remarks as they were reported.
Weekly French-language Moroccan newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune published an article on Friday sourcing "several" Angolan officials, including the minister of Culture, Rosa Cruz, who reportedly offered the following remarks, which have been translated from French: "The process of legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Their mosques would be closed until further notice."
Other news sources reported that the African economic news agency Agence Ecofin wrote that Cruz made the statement at an appearance last week before the 6th Commission of the National Assembly, noting that, "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."
Angolan Embassy officials denied knowledge that Cruz had made such comments.
"I cannot confirm if the Minister of Culture said that. I cannot find that in our press,â one official said.
La Nouvelle Tribune also reported that a minaret of an Angolan mosque was dismantled last October, and that the city of Zango "has gone further by destroying the only mosque in the city." The Embassy officials could not authenticate either of these claims.
News Corp undertook to determine the source of the information, but was unable to trace it to Angolan sources. Nevertheless, the news reports of the supposed ban spread rapidly on social media networks and have alarmed Muslims around the world.
Muslims worldwide have pleaded with their Twitter followers to "pray for Muslims in Angola" and retweeted images of a mosque being knocked down.
Connor Adams Sheets, "Angola Denies It Banned Islam, Destroyed Mosques" International Business Times November 25, 2013
"Angola government denies it tried to ban Islam" News AU November 26, 2013
"Just media rumours: Angola denies it banned Islam " Express Tribune November 26, 2013
Reproduced with permission from Islam Today