Minorities and freethinkers in Algeria
Algerian authorities have sentenced individuals for blasphemy and proselytization, closed dozens of Protestant churches, and charged religious minorities with gathering illegally, despite providing no legal way for them to worship together.
Themes : Legislative restrictions, blasphemy, proselytization, places of worship
In 2021, religious freedom conditions in Algeria continued to get worse. Algerian authorities convicted and sentenced individuals for blasphemy and proselytization, maintained the closure of dozens of Protestant churches, and charged religious minorities with gathering illegally, despite providing no legal means for them to worship collectively. Many groups are affected, including Protestant Christians, Ahmadiyya Muslims, and freethinkers.
In February 2021, for example, a court sentenced Said Djabelkhir, an expert on Sufism and advocate for a progressive interpretation of Islam, to three years in prison for “offending the precepts of Islam.” In June 2021, a court upheld a proselytization conviction against pastor and bookshop owner Rachid Mohamed Seighir and his book shop assistant Mouh Hamimi, sentencing them to suspended one-year prison sentences. In October, a court sentenced two Ahmadiyya Muslims to two years in prison for defamation based on religion and denigration of common rituals of Islam.
In June, a court in Oran ordered the government to physically seal three churches despite an ongoing appeal by the Protestant community against the order for their closure. Since 2017, the Algerian government has ordered the closure of 20 Protestant churches under Ordinance 06-03, which prohibits non-Muslim organizations from establishing places of worship without authorization. The Evangelical Protestant Association (EPA) applied for authorization but the National Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Groups, which reportedly never meets, has not adequately responded to the request. In November 2021, the Algerian government summoned the president of the EPA to court for practicing non-Muslim rites without permission.
Algerian authorities also continued to prosecute Ahmadiyya Muslims and Protestants for gathering without authorization. The Algerian government insists the Ahmadiyya Muslim community register with the Commission for Non-Muslim Religious Groups, while Ahmadis, who consider themselves Muslim, believe that to be in violation of their conscience as Muslims. At the end of 2020 over 200 Ahmadiyya Muslims were facing such charges.
United States Commission on International Religious Freedom