Measures In Favor and Against Mosques in Angola
As an illustration of Maka Angolas investigation into the treatment of Islam in Angola, here is a chronological list of measures taken by the government regarding Islamic practice in the provinces of Luanda, Lunda Norte, Zaire, Bié and Malanje.
The last of these mechanisms were decreed on January 29, 2014 by the Luanda Provincial Court. With reference to Case no. 005713-C, the court ordered the temporary closure of the Nurr Al Islamia Mosque in the Mártires de Kifangondo area of Luanda, because of a dispute between two Imams: Diakité Adama, a Malian, and Alhaji Fode, a Gambian.
Created in 1995, the mosque is the second largest in Angola, large enough to accommodate over 1,500 worshippers.
In his ruling, the judge emphasised that the Islamic Community of Angola (CISA) had a request for recognition under consideration by the Religious Affairs Department of the Ministry of Justice. This statement is incorrect. CISA is one of the 194 religious denominations whose requests for legalisation were deferred by the Ministry on 28 October last year.
The court implemented its decision by sealing the doors of the mosque on February 6, 2014. Since then, more than 1,000 Muslims have been praying on the pavements outside two improvised places of worship in the same neighbourhood of Martires de Kifangondo.
On 23 March 2005, the administration of the Hojy ya Henda commune issued Decree nº 32/GAB/ADM.COM.H.H/2005, which ordered an immediate halt to the construction of two mosques in the area and the banning of Islamic worship, on the instructions of the governor of Luanda. After these orders and counter-orders, the work went ahead and the location is now home to the biggest mosque in Luanda, Abubakar Sidiq, three stories high and room for 3,500 worshippers.
One year later, on 27 April 2006, the representative of the Ministry of Culture in Kilamba Kiaxi district, also issued an order (01/SMCKK/06) for the closure of the mosque in the Palanca neighbourhood and the banning of Islamic worship there. The municipal administrator did not allow the order to be carried out and said that only the Justice Ministry was competent to issue such an order.
Four months later, on 8 August 2006, the then municipal administrator of Maianga issued Despatch nº 007/GAB.ADM.MMGA/2006, which ordered the banning of [Islamic] worship and the closing of mosques in its area of jurisdiction, awaiting legalisation [of Islamic practice] by the Ministry of Justice.
In a meeting with Muslim representatives, the administrator said she was merely complying with orders from the governor of Luanda and that the measures were aimed at urban orderliness in Luanda.
It is not comprehensible that in order to make the capital city more orderly, one has to start by closing mosques where prayer has to be silent and singing and shouting are banned, the representative of the Muslim community, David Já, said in a letter addressed to the governor of Luanda
On 7 December 2010 then municipal administrator of Cacuaco, Carlos Cavuquila, ordered the closure of the mosque in the Combustíveis neigborhood on the grounds that it was holding services when it was not on the list of recognised churches in the country.
The administrator also prohibited the holding of Muslim services in his area of jurisdiction by prohibiting [Islams] representatives from carrying out any ecclesiastical activity in the name of the abovementioned church. The administrator ordered the local police command to enforce the order.
On 26 September 2013, the municipal administrator of Viana sent a notice to the Muslim community demanding the voluntary demolition of the mosque in Zango I neighborhood within 72 hours. In the same notice, the administrator also ordered Muslims to take away all construction materials, or risk being arrested. He added that not complying with this order would constitute a crime of disobedience.
Although the administrator argued that the mosque had been built without express authorisation, his administration had only the previous month, on 1 August, paid fines of 281,130 kwanzas (US $2,810) on behalf of the mosque. On 1 October, the Social Housing Program of Luanda province issued a [demand?] to the secretary general of the Islamic Community in Angola (CISA), David Já, in connection with a fine of 3.5 million kwanzas (US$35,000) for the building of the Zango I mosque. Three days later, the provincial government demolished the two-storey mosque, which had room for 800 worshippers and which had been operating for a year.
The closure of the mosque in Mbanza-Kongo, the capital of Zaire province, is particularly revealing. On 25 March, the provincial police headquarters contacted Pedro Ramos, the representative of the citys Muslim community, and ordered that the mosque be closed immediately, on the grounds that the mosques religious services and Arabic language classes amounted to flagrant disrespect for Article 10, clauses 1 to 3 of the Constitution.
Strangely, this article of the Constitution refers to the secular nature of the Angolan state and the separation of church and state, as well as to the states duty to protect all religious groups, churches and places of worship. The same articles also set out the obligation of religious groups, churches and places of worship to comply with the Constitution, with the law and with public order.
The orders given by the police were in effect a sentence. The order to close the mosque claimed to be delivered in accordance with Angolans desire for stability, dignity, freedom, development and the building of a modern, prosperous, inclusive and democratic country. The police acknowledged that the Muslim community had the papers to prove it and had requested legal recognition. The decision by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights to defer the granting of legal status to the Islamic religious community of Angola was announced only in June 2013, almost three months after the police in Mbanza Kongo had ordered the closing of the mosque. As human rights lawyer Salvador Freire put it, are the police now passing judgment?
If this is how it is, we can close the courts and the police can do everything: arresting, judging and passing sentences. This kind of behavior is illegal, Mr Freire said.
In 1996 the Malanje provincial government granted a 480 square meter site to the Islamic Community in Angola. In 2003, a year after peace came to Angola, the Muslims acquired and registered a piece of land to build a mosque. In 2004 the local authorities stopped the construction of the mosque, confiscated the land and transferred its title to another individual.
Curiously, in 2007 the Provincial Directorate of Education, Culture, Science and Technology issued a Statement of Establishment on behalf of the Islamic Community in Angola, authorising it to carry out its work throughout the province for evangelization and spreading the Gospel of Christ. The statement had no effect when the Muslims acquired another site in Maxinde neighborhood and started over again to build the mosque and a health post. The local government demolished the work in progress and confiscated the land.
The Muslims persisted in acquiring a third site in the same neighborhood and requested a building permit. They waited for a year without a response to their request, and then started building the mosque without a permit.
In 2011, the then provincial governor, Boaventura Cardoso, ordered the demolition of the mosque, on the grounds that Islam was not officially recognized in Angola. This order was made in Despatch 2708/01/01/GAB.GOV/2011 of 24 October 2011, and was communicated to the local Muslim community leaders two days later by the Enforcement (Fiscalização) department of the municipality. According to a document obtained by Maka Angola, the authorities ordered Muslims to proceed with the voluntary demolition of their work within two days, in other words by 28 October 2011. Once the time was up, the municipal administration went ahead with destroying the partially completed mosque
On 5 July 2010 the municipal administrator of Huambo, Armando Kapunda, ordered a halt to the work in progress on the local mosque, claiming that the building had not been authorized. Two days later a fire broke out in the mosque in the wee hours of the morning. The Provincial Criminal Investigation Directorate (DPIC) told the newspaper O País that the fire was the result of arson. The fire destroyed the pulpit and thirty copies of the Koran among other materials. According to O País a DPIC specialist had told the newspaper that the author of the misdeed was an expert in military engineering, judging by the way the mosque was set on fire.
Six days later the local authorities ordered the mosque to be reopened, and no more was heard of the investigation. According to official data, about 400 Muslims were living in Huambo at the time, most of them Mauritanian, and a smaller number of Malians.
On 5 January 2012, members of the National Police intruded into the provisional Muslim place of worship and ordered the prohibition of Islam throughout the province of Bié. In a letter addressed to the Islamic Community in the province on 24 February 2012, the provincial government set aside the request for permission to open a mosque in the province, which the Muslims had requested in June 2011. The vice-governor of the province, Carlos Silva, said the communitys process of legalization was being processed at the Ministry of Justice. The provincial government demanded that the community must update the statement issued in their favor in 2008 as it was out of date.