By: Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi
When the entire world is crying to protect and respect the "Human Rights" and the "Freedom of Religion" on the globe level, at the same time, it's irony to hear that the Angolan Ministry of Justice and Human Rights couldn't favour the Muslims legalizing Islam as a mere religion in the country. The government of Republic of Angola announced to ban Islam and Islamic activities in the country only few days ago on 19th November, 2013.
Republic of Angola, a Christian dominated country, is situated in the Southern-Central Africa, with a population of 17 million peoples, bordering Namibia to the south, Zambia to the east, Democratic Republic of the Congo to the north and with the west coast along the Atlantic Ocean. Luanda is the capital city. Kikongo is one among six recognised national languages; whereas Portuguese is the official language which is commonly written, spoken and understood in the whole country.
From 16th century till October 1975, it was a Portuguese Territory known as the Overseas Province of Angola. With sacrifices and efforts made by the Angolan people, it achieved its independence on 11th November, 1975. After the independence, the civil war broke out and Angola remained the scene of an intense civil war around 26-year, until it came to an end on 4th April, 2002, following a peace and reconciliation agreement between civilians and the government.
While on the one hand the news about banning Islam in Angola has spread like jungle fire within few days in the entire world, the information about being the said news false has been circulated on social networking sites on the other. Now the common Muslims are confused in this regard. It's shameful that a Muslim leader of an African or Arab country doesn't want to break his silence on such serious issue; while the common Muslims want to hear him.
A verification is being circulated on social networking site, Facebook, without any reliable source, is as follows: "Upon verification from Angloan scholars it was found that the story of Islam being banned in Angola is completely fabricated. Sadly, the demolition of all structures that were built without proper documentation, planning, procedure etc. was carried out. This happened to include some religious structures too, amongst them a Masjid. Interestingly the picture doing its rounds is not even from Angola but the Middle East. This happened quite some time back but is being carried mischievously by some media houses. It is important that Muslims only build Masaajid after proper approvals to avoid this. It has happened in other countries before. Please clarify the truth with those who have become emotional about the so-called banning of Islam in Angola. May Allah Almighty grant us a lesson and safeguard the Deen. Aameen!"
Speaking about the banning Islam, the Angolan President, Jose Edurado dos Santos was quoted by several news agencies and Angolan Newspapers as saying: "This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country."
The Angolan Minister of Culture, Rosa Cruz e Silva said, "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," Silva's statement was made during her appearance at the 6th Commission of the National Assembly.
Silva further said, "All sects on the list published by the ministry of Justice and Human Rights in the Angolan newspaper, "Journal De Angola" are prohibited to conduct worship. So, they should keep their doors closed," as she was quoted by Cameroon Voice.
It is reported that as part of the ban, the Angolan government has ordered the demolition of the mosques, Qur'anic Schools and Islamic Centers.
In early October 2013, the minarete of a mosque, in the municipality of Viana Zango of the capital city Luanda, was dismantled into pieces on the ground without any prior information in agreement with the decision of the Angola authorities. It took place after the announcement made by the governor on 3rd October, 2013 in the morning in a radio spot that radical Muslims are not welcome in Angola and the Angola government is not ready for legalisation of mosques in Angola.
On 28th November, 2013, The Guardian has quoted David Ja, president of Islamic Community of Angola as saying: "We can say that Islam has been banned in Angola. You need 100,000 to be recognised as a religion or officially you can't pray."
"The mosques in Luanda were supposed to be closed yesterday but because of an international furore about reports that Angola has banned Islam, the government decided not to do. So, at the moment, mosques in Luanda are open and people are going for prayer," Mr. Ja added.
As to me the report published in the Guardian is more authentic and reliable, because under Angolan law, a religious group needs more than 100,000 members and to be present in 12 of the 18 provinces to gain legal status, giving them the right to construct schools and places of worship. There are only about 90-80 thousand Muslims among Angola's population. So, it is impossible for Islam to be recongnised in Angola. In another word, Islam is banned in Angola under the present law and the freedom of religion is being snatched from the people, as I think.
We observe that when some unwanted actions occur at any place, the leaders of the so-called civilised countries start condemning with the strongest meaning of the word within a moment; but when those are against Islam and Muslims, they keep mum as they are dumb, deaf and blind. To my utter surprise, the heads of the Muslim countries show their courage and cruelly power against their own people, even if they want to protest for a right purpose, and when something goes wrong against Islam and Muslims, they never dare to speak against anti-Islamic elements for the sake of Islam and Muslims; rather they become a coward and chicken. Now banning Islam in Angola is a global issue and the Muslims are disturbed and pained; but not yet even a single responsible Muslim leader has addressed this issue.
According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2008 (published on www.memeorandum.com), "Islam is a minority religion in Angola with 80,000-90,000 adherents, composed largely of migrants from West Africa and the families of Lebanese origin. The Muslims comprised between 2.5 to 3 percent of Angola's overall population of 17 million people, most of them Christians."
During the last few years, the Muslim community in Angola has grown appreciably and Islamic activities have become more common in major cities. Mosques have sprung up in a number of places and the Qur'anic Schools have been built to provide Islamic instructions and teach Arabic language to the followers of Islam.
In brief, it is rightly said that the Republic of Angola has become the first country in the world to ban a peaceful religion: Islam, as I think. Now about 80,000-90,000 Muslims of Angola are criminal by law, whereas the constitution guarantees the Freedom of Religion, but only for 45% pagans and 53% Christians, not for a small minority Muslims. Is it democracy or what? At least I failed to understand the democracy of this so-called civilised world. May Allah protect Islam and Muslims all over the world! Aameen!
(The author of the article, Khursheed Alam Dawood Qasmi, is a graduate of Darul Uloom, Deoband and at present teacher of Moon Rays Trust School, Zambia, Southern Africa. He can be reached at email@example.com)