Religious Freedom in Algeria

19 June 2017

Minister of Religious Affairs and Waqf Mohamed Aïssa held a briefing on June 19, 2017, at the headquarters of the Council of the Nation (Senate) on "Moderation, Radicalization, and Dialogue in Religion".

In this context, the Minister referred to the issue of the Ahmadi practitioners and said that "No one is questioning their (the Ahmadi) right to worship, the issue at hand is that they broke the law by joining an association not officially recognized and by collecting funds without proper authorization."

On the issue of religious freedom in Algeria, it is important to recall the provisions of the Algerian Constitution and Laws in this regard.

Religious freedom in Algeria is regulated by the Algerian Constitution and other laws which apply equally to all religions and set up a legal framework of religious practice.

The Algerian Constitution eloquently underscores in Article 32 et 42, the principle of equality and nondiscrimination among citizen and the necessity of practicing Islam and any other religion in accordance with existing laws, that apply equally to all citizens, regardless of faith.

Freedom of worship is enshrined for all religions, including Islam, through Executive Order 91-81 of March 23, 1991, on Mosques, as reviewed and amended by Executive Order 13-377 of Nov. 9, 2013, whose Article 8 defines the Mosque as shepher and guide for worshipes. Moreover, Chapter 2 of Article 12 of Executive Order 13-377 states under title of "Mosque Ethics" that, "Misusing Mosques for the purpose to harm individuals or groups is prohibited."

Religions other than the Muslim religion fall under Ordinance 06-03 of Feb. 28, 2006, which sets requirements and rules for practice of religions similar to provisions applicable to the Muslim religion.

Religious practice for all religions including Islam (which is the religion of almost all Algerians), is subject to adherence to existing laws and the same stipulations enunciated in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Algeria ratified and which expressly recognizes the right of States to intervene, within “limitations prescribed by law”, to safeguard public order or fundamental freedom of others. And it is therefore, in this context that practice of religion in Algeria is regulated.
Whereas citizens have the freedom as individuals to express religious beliefs, collective practice of religion must be in accordance with the following:

  • Official recognition of religious associations by the relevant religious organization (Article 46 of Law 12-06 of Jan. 12, 2012, on Associations);
  • Worship in declared, appropriate and known facilities (Articles 5, 7, and 13 of Ordinance 06-03 of Feb. 28, 2006, setting terms and conditions for holding religious services in the case of religions other than Islam);
  • ┬áConduct of service by a qualified person authorized by the appropriate religious authorities (Ministry of Religious Affairs and Waqf, Archdiocese, and others) (Article 87 Bis 10 of the Penal Code, Article 13 of Ordinance 06-03 of Feb. 28, 2006);
  • Non-use or involvement of places of worship in partisan and/or political activities (Article 39 of Law 12-06 of Jan. 12, 2012, on Associations);
  • Non-use of verbal abuse or incitement to violence, hatred, or public disorder directed to others for their membership in a different ethnic group or religion (Article 298 Bis of Ordinance 66-156 of June 8, 1966, of the Penal Code, as reviewed and amended);
  • No-Collection of funds outside the scope of the law. Destination of the collected funds and traceability of their use must be properly established (Ordinance 77-03 of Feb. 19, 1977 related to the collection of funds. The official text of this ordinance was published in the June 5, 1977 issue of the Official Gazette of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria);

Further underscoring equal treatment of religions, all Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religious holidays are officially observed. As per Law 63-278 of July 26, 1963, as reviewed and amended, (relative to paid non-work day), celebration of all religious holidays is broadcast over national radio and worshipers get a paid legal holiday. This piece of legislation reflects the age-old tradition of tolerance and openness witnessed towards all faiths throughout the history of Algeria.

The Algerian Government provides equal consideration, treatment, help and support (material and financial) to associations related to all recognized religions. Moreover, religious ministers holding Algerian citizenship are paid, by the Government, an equal salary, regardless to faith. State help and protection is also extended to the upkeep of worship facilities and cemeteries. Also, Algerian law does not punish anyone for converting to a religion other than Islam.