CAIRO – Reports about Angola’s move to ban Islam have sparked condemnations from Al-Azhar, the highest seat of learning in the Sunni Muslim world, asking for dispatching fact finding teams to investigate the conditions of the Muslim minority in the Southwest African nation.
“Al-Azhar is following with great concern media reports about an Angolan authorities move to ban Islam in its territories and prevent Muslims from practicing their religion, arguing that they do not welcome Muslims militants on its territory,” Al-Azhar said in a statement obtained by OnIslam.net.
“Al-Azhar hopes these reports turn to be untrue as they are incompatible with religious freedom, basic human rights and principles of tolerance and peaceful coexistence,” it added.
|Freedom of Expression: The Muslim Definition|
Quoting the nation’s Minister of Culture as offering statements, the reports said that the Angolan authorities moved to destroy mosques in the country, including a mosque in the urban municipality of Viana, Luanda which was destroyed last October 17.
Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos reportedly weighed in on the controversy, as he was quoted in Nigeria's Osun Defender newspaper on Sunday as saying, "This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country."
Al-Azhar demanded an immediate clarification from Angolan authorities on the issue.
“The Angolan government has to clarify its position on the matter in an explicit and clear way,” Al-Azhar said.
“It has also called on “Muslim citizens in Angola to be advocates of peace, security and brotherhood and calls on the Angolan government to deal with the situation rationally, far from the reactions that increase the complexity of the situation.”
Fact Finding Team
The leading Islamic organization called on world Islamic organizations, especially the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to dispatch investigating team to find out the facts about the conditions of Muslim citizens
This committee would also be entitled with, “informing the Angolan government with the true nature of a peaceful Islamic faith that rejects violence and extremism,” Al-Azhar added.
Al-Azhar is not the first Muslim organization to comment on the disturbing news.
Yesterday, the International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) called on Angola to withdraw its decision, urging moves at the UN, African Union to condemn the unprecedented decision.
The union has urged international bodies to interfere immediately to alleviate the suffering of Angolan Muslims.
Angola is a majority-Christian nation of about 16 million people, of whom an estimated 55 percent are Catholic, 25 percent belong to African Christian denominations, 10 percent follow major Protestant traditions, and 5 percent belong to Brazilian Evangelical churches.
According to official numbers, cited in the US State Department 2012 International Religious Rights Report, Islam in Angola is a minority religion with 80,000-90,000 adherents.
Muslim Angolans are represented by the Supreme Council of Angolan Muslims of Luanda.
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