At NPR’s Goats and Soda blog, Anders Kelto writes about Angola’s suppression of Islam. This seems to be a consequence of a repression of civil society generally.
The oil-rich, southern African nation of 21 million is thousands of miles away, but looks a lot like the U.S. when it comes to religion. Both countries are roughly three-fourths Christian (Roman Catholicism dominates in Angola) and less than 1 percent Muslim.
But in contrast with the U.S., the Angolan government has made it extremely difficult for non-Christian religious groups to practice their faith.
“The problem is that the men in government believe that Angola is a Catholic country,” says Elias Isaac, program director for the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa.
He says freedom of religion is protected in the Angolan constitution but is restricted by many laws. For example, the Angolan government only grants legal standing to religious groups that have at least 100,000 members. There are roughly 90,000 Muslims in the country, the vast majority of whom are immigrants from West Africa. Without legal religious standing, Isaac says, Muslims face many challenges.
“They don’t have permission to build mosques, to open schools, to build clinics, to do outreach,” he says.