In 2013, Angola was reported to have become the first country in the world to put a ban on Islam which is practiced by some 1% of the population.
The allegation was that the country has ordered all mosques to be closed down until further notice from the country’s parliament.
The country’s minister for culture-Rosa Cruz Silva reportedly said mosques in the largely Christian nation has been shut because Islam is a religion that counters the Angolan customs and culture, making the religion and the Angolan State incompatible.
“The legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights [and] their mosques will be closed until further notice’’, Ms Cruz was quoted as saying.
The International Business Times reported that there were reports that mosques across Angola were being destroyed by unidentified thugs believed to be Christians.
The President of Angola, Jose Eduardo dos Santos also reportedly told the Osun Defence daily that the end of Islam in the country has come.
“This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country, we shall not allow it to flourish like in the past, we are done with it “, he said.
But in a sharp contrast to the ban, the Director of the Angolan Ministry of Culture and National Institute for Religious Affairs-Manuel Fernando denied in an interview with the French news agency- Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the country has banned Islam.
“There is no war in Angola against Islam or any other religion, there is no official position that targets the destruction or closure of places of worship, whichever they are”, he told AFP.
In all these confusions about who is telling the truth about the faith of Islam in Angola, the Islamic Community of Angola (ICA) said eight mosques have been destroyed in the past two years and anyone who practices Islam risks being found guilty of disobeying Angola’s penal code.
Human rights groups including the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) also confirmed the ICA allegation and condemned the Angolan government.
“From what I have heard, Angola is the first country in the world that has decided to ban Islam. This is a crazy madness. The government is intolerant of any difference”, said the Country Director of OSISA in Angola-Elias Isaac.
Whereas the alleged ban sparked controversy around the world especially the Middle East where some countries reportedly burnt down Angolan flags, there was uneasy calm in Angola itself.
Local reporters frequently report series of clashes in the hinterlands of the country between Christians and Muslims which barely gets reported to the outside world. Tension is gradually building up between Angola as a nation and the Muslim community. But the African Union, the United Nations and other so called conflict resolution bodies have turned a blind eye on it.
Probably, they are patiently waiting for it to explode like what is happening in the Central Africa Republic (CAR) before running in disguise for “useless and needless” humanitarian assistance.
As long as we are human being, we are bound to disagree on issues but the point is that those we have elected to lead the affairs of the world should be proactive instead of always being reactive. It is only through that we can bring peace to the world. Serious negotiations on religious tolerance are needed in Angola. Let us not underestimate anybody. Many have already died in the CAR. We do not want a repeat of that.