Angola has not banned Islam, according to a spokesperson for the African nation’s embassy. Earlier in the week, reports surfaced that the government had barred the religion from the country.
Reports said that Angola was declaring Islam illegal and shutting down all mosques. Rosa Cruz e Silva, Angola Minister of Culture, reportedly said that the largely Christian nation would be shuttering Islamic places of worship indefinitely. She described the religion as a “sect” that was harmful to traditional Angolan culture and customs.
The Osum Defence Daily also quoted President Jose Edurado saying: “This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country.”
Edurado added: ‘The legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights [and] their mosques will be closed until further notice.”
There were also unconfirmed reports that the southern African nation was starting to destroy mosques, the International Business Times noted.
The IBT story cast doubt on the rumors, noting that a picture supposedly showing a mosque being destroyed was actually traced back to 2008, showing the destruction of illegal Bedouin homes in Israel.
In Angola, Islam accounts for less than 1 percent of the population of 19 million. The nation has banned close to 200 other “sects” from being practiced.
On Tuesday, Angola denied reports that Islam had been banned, and the government released the following statement:
“The Republic of Angola, it’s a country that does not interfere in religion. We have a lot of religions there. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and Evangelical people.”
While Islam may not be banned in Angola, Islamic fundamentalism has been under fire in other places. A proposed mosque in New York City near the Ground Zero site was met with resistance a few years ago, and France has instituted a ban on the face coverings worn by Muslim women. However, the French ban applies to all face-covering headgear worn by anyone of any religion, including masks, helmets, balaclava, niqābs and other veils covering the face in public places.
Officials in Angola said the Islam rumors were meant to create tension in the country.