Update, 2:32 p.m., Nov. 25, 2013: Officials at the Angolan Embassy in Washington, D.C., denied Monday that the nation has banned Islam and dismantled mosques, disputing published news accounts and stating that they cannot authenticate comments reportedly made by top Angolan officials that support the claims. Read more here.
A number of news outlets have reported that Angola has "banned" Islam and started to dismantle mosques in a bold effort to stem the spread of Muslim extremism.
Weekly French-language Beninese newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune published an article on Friday sourcing "several" Angolan officials, including the Southwest African nation's minister of culture, Rosa Cruz, who reportedly offered the following remarks, which have been translated from French: "The process of legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Their mosques would be closed until further notice."
The media reports have not described why Islam would need to be legalized, considering its presence in the country for many years.
OnIslam.net reports that the African economic news agency Agence Ecofin wrote that Cruz made the statement at an appearance last week before the 6th Commission of the National Assembly. The website goes on to note that, "According to several Angolan newspapers, Angola has become the first country in the world to ban Islam and Muslims, taking first measures by destroying mosques in the country."
Even Angola President José Eduardo dos Santos has 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," according to the OnIslam.net report.
The reported comments by Cruz and Santos echo the stance of the governor of the country's Luanda province, Bento Francisco Bento, who reportedly maintains that "radical Muslims were not welcome in Angola and that the government was not ready to legalize the presence of mosques in the country," according to a La Nouvelle Tribune summary of Bento's take on the issue.
In a physical extension of the officials' sentiments about Islam's place in Angola, La Nouvelle Tribune said that a minaret of an Angolan mosque was dismantled last October, and that the city of Zango "has gone further by destroying the only mosque in the city."
The emerging reports about Angola "banning" Islam and dismantling mosques point to the anti-Islam sentiments held by many in the nation's citizens, but they could not immediately be independently verified by International Business Times.
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. Only 80,000 to 90,000 Angolans are Muslim, according to the U.S. State Department.