ANGOLAN diplomats in the United States have rejected reports that the nation has banned Islam.
The International Business Times quoted a spokesperson from the Angolan embassy in Washington DC, who said Angola is “a country that does not interfere in religion”.
“We have a lot of religions there. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people.”
Over the past few days, the Angolan Minister of Culture, Rosa Cruz e Silva has been quoted in various news sites as saying that “The process of legalisation of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human rights” and that “mosques would be closed until further notice.”
The same sites quoted President Jose Eduardo dos Santos saying: “This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country.”
Meanwhile, Muslims in Angola have denied any blanket closure of their mosques, and are hoping that the authorities will soon recognize Islam.
“The Angolan government has not taken any decision to close mosques,” Sheikh Uthman Ibn Zaid, an imam of the Masjid Nur al-Islam in the Angolan capital Luanda, told Anadolu Agency.
“We have been in constant contact with the culture and religious affairs director and he has confirmed to us that no such decision had been taken by the government.”
He insisted that any decision to close a particular mosque is a temporary decision related to regulating unrecognized places of worship.
“This applies to all places of worship, including churches,” he said.
Ibn Zaid, who identified himself as the second ranking imam in Angola, cited the brief closure of a mosque in Huambo, the second largest city in Angola, last week.
“The mosque was closed on Thursday and the director of culture called to assure me that it was reopened on Friday,” he said, falling short of explaining why the mosque was initially closed.
“God willing, closed mosques will be reopened,” he said.
The Muslim leader also confirmed that a couple of mosques have been destroyed in the African country.
“Some Muslims built some mosques on unauthorized lands owned by the government or army,” he noted.
“Would you let someone come and build a room inside your home? The same applies to the Angolan government. Every country protects its sovereignty.”
Angola has a population of around 20 million. Around half the population subscribe to indigenous beliefs and the other half are Christian. It’s thought that there are around 90,000 Muslims in the country.