World Bulletin / News Desk
Egypt's Al-Azhar has voiced concern over reports about an Angolan decision not to recognize Islam and close all mosques in the African country.
In a Tuesday statement, Al-Azhar said that such a decision "violates religious freedoms, human rights and principles of tolerance and peaceful co-existence".
Unconfirmed media reports suggested earlier that Angola had decided not to recognize Islam and to close all Muslim places of worship in the country.
The Azhar – the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world – called on Angolan authorities to make their position clear about the mosque closure reports.
It called on Muslim organization and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to send a fact-finding commission into Angola to make sure of the reports and explain the true image of Islam to Angolan officials.
Egyptian Foreign Ministry expresses concern
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has voiced concern over reports about an Angolan decision to close mosques in the African country.
In a Tuesday statement, ministry spokesman Badr Abdel-Ati said Egypt is "following up with concern media reports about Angolan government measures that restrict the worship freedom and mosque building".
"Angola did not ban Islam"
The ruling People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has denied reports that the government in the mineral-rich southern African country has outlawed Islam.
"The media reports that have been circulating are not true," Ramadan Chibululu, the MPLA information secretary, told Anadolu Agency.
"Angola is a religious country and there is no way we can ban Islam because it is one of the world’s most recognized religions," insisted Chibululu, himself a Muslim.
Reports about Angola's alleged banning of Islam surfaced on the weekend after several newspapers and websites quoting President President Jose Edurado dos Santos and Culture Minister Rosa Cruz e Silva as saying Islam had been banned and all mosques would be closed.
"No way Angola can ban Islam," insisted the ruling party official.
Chibululu, the ruling party official, said the legalization of Islam would soon be completed.
"We have been lobbying the government to legalize Islam and am sure soon Islam will be legally recognized as one of the religions in the country," he told AA.
He said that there were more than 100 mosques in the mineral-rich southern African country.
An effort to get an official comment from the government was futile.
Bashir Ali, a businessman from Somalia, said he had never faced discrimination in the largely Christian country.
"I read about the news on the internet and I was shocked because I have been doing my business here for three years now and no one has ever attacked me for being a Muslim," he told AA.
"I have not seen the police or military deployed to stop people from worshipping inside the mosques yet," he said jokingly.
Earlier, Angolan Muslim leaders have denied any blanket closure of their mosques in the southern African country.
"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 over the phone.
"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," said Sheikh Ibn Zaid.
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.
According to the CIA fact book, Angola has a population of nearly 18.5 million, including 47 percent who subscribe to indigenous beliefs, 38 percent Roman Catholics and 15 percent Protestants.
It gives no mention about the number of Muslims in the country, but unconfirmed estimates put the number at nearly 90,000.Last Mod: 27 Kasım 2013, 11:17