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Ahmadis in Algeria

  • Ahmadis are followers of a modern Islamic sect that is considered heretical by some traditional Muslim scholars. The Ahmaddiya movement originated in India in 1889. In many ways the life of Ahmadis conforms to Islam, although there are significant differences between orthodox Muslims and Ahmadi practices. The main one is that Ahmadis believe that Prophet Muhammad’s message was revived by the founder of the community, Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, thus constituting the only community of Muslims to have accepted him as a prophet, thereby rejecting a fundamental tenet of Islam, a belief in the finality of the Prophet Mohammad. Moreover, the Ahmaddiya movement also rejects the idea of militant jihad (holy war).

    Islam is unquestionably ‘the religion of the state’ as clearly stated in Article 2 of the 2020 Algerian Constitution. Article 73 of the 2016 Constitution used to affirm that the President of the Republic must be of Muslim faith and must take an oath ‘to respect and glorify the Islamic religion’. In the 2020 Constitution, the same oath is expressed in Article 90. Although Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, they are viewed as heretical by the Sunni Muslim majority in Algeria. However, the country’s legal framework does not prevent the presence and free exercise of other beliefs. Ordinance No. 06-03 of 2006, which governs the practice of faiths other than Islam. expressly guarantees ‘the free exercise of worship’ and states that ‘the State also guarantees tolerance and respect between different religions’.

    The ‘free exercise of worship’ established by the 2006 law is nevertheless strictly regulated. It is subject to respect for ‘public order, morality and the fundamental rights and freedoms of third parties’. But above all, the collective exercise of worship is confined to the buildings assigned for this purpose by the Algerian authorities.

    Religious groups suspected of attempting to convert Muslims are particularly vulnerable to spurious charges and find themselves under near-constant surveillance. This suspicion leads in particular to persecution of Ahmadis, Ibadis and evangelical Christians.

    The former leader of the Ahmadi community, Mohamed Fali, was arrested on 28 August 2017, and charged with ‘raising funds without a permit’, ‘insulting the Prophet Mohammed’, ‘forming an unauthorized association’. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence based on these charges. The Algerian authorities seized his passport, and he was banned from leaving the country. After the beginning of the Hirak movement, Mohamed Fali asked to recover his passport and chose to leave the country. Scores of other Ahmadis have been imprisoned since June 2016 in a context where religious intolerance is espoused at the highest level of the state with government officials claiming that Ahmadis represent ‘a threat to the majority Sunni Muslim faith’. Persecution against members of the Ahmadi community has continued, with the government still denying them freedom of religion. Officially prosecuted ‘for joining an unauthorized association and collecting donations without permission’, and not for the practice of their worship, members of this community were even denied their membership by the relevant ministry.

    For instance, on 15 December 2020, 31 followers of the Ahmadiyya faith were summoned to appear before the court in Tizi Ouzou, Kabylie.  Charges brought against them included ‘distribution of leaflets with the aim of undermining the national interest’, under Article 96 of the Penal Code, ‘occupation of a building to hold a religious service secretly without authorisation’, and the ‘collection of funds and donations without authorisation’,  in application of Articles 5, 7, 12 and 13 of Ordinance No. 06-03 issued on 28 February 2006, which sets out the conditions and rules for the exercise of religions other than Islam.  Moreover, in January 2020, seven Ahmadis were brought in for questioning at the Prosecutor’s Office in Constantine in relation to their religious beliefs and practices. Their passports were confiscated, and they were then prosecuted for forming an illegal association. While later acquitted, the authorities reportedly did not return their passports.

     

Updated January 2023

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