Religious freedom in Algeria

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

The Algerian Constitution in its article 51 guarantees the Freedom of worship that should be exercised within the law. Furthermore, the State guarantees the protection of places of worship from any ideological or political influence.

Freedom of worship is regulated for all religions, including Islam, by Executive Order 91-81 of March 23, 1991, on Mosques, as reviewed and amended by Executive Order 13-377 of Nov. 9, 2013. Article 8 of the latter defines the role of the Mosque as strictly one of guidance. 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."

Algerian law provides that no mosque is open and no religious rite is officiated without prior agreement from the Minister of Religious Affairs and the submission of an application of compliance with law.

Religions other than the Muslim faith are governed by ordinance No. 06-02 of February 28, 2006, which sets requirements and rules for practice of religion similar to those applicable to the Muslim religion. This ordinance was promulgated with the view to reaffirm the freedom of religious practice and non-discrimination between the Muslim faith and other religions which are guaranteed at many levels, in particular:

  • Article 2 bis expressly provides that “The Algerian State, whose religion is Islam, guarantees freedom of religious practice consistent with respect for the Constitution, the present Ordinance, the laws and regulations currently in force, public order, morality, and the fundamental freedom of third parties. The state guarantees tolerance and respect between different religions ";

  • Article 3 of the same ordinance which provides that "Religious associations other than Muslim benefit from the protection of the State";

  • The prohibition by the ordinance of the use of religious affiliation (article 4) as a discriminatory element with regard to a person or a group of people. It is in this context that this text provides for state assistance and protection for the benefit of religious associations of religions other than Muslim.

  • The national Commission of worship other than Muslim (CNCAM), being the instrument, monitors the application of the related provisions of law, ensures an equal treatment to that of the Muslim worship and addresses concerns related to its mandate.

    Whereas citizens have the freedom as individuals to exercise religious beliefs, collective practice of religion must be in accordance with the following:

  • The organizer must have an official recognition of religious associations by the relevant religious organization;

  • Worship must take place in a declared, appropriate and known place. Algerian law prohibits places of worship from being used or associated with partisan, union or political activities;

  • No Fundraising without prior express permission from the competent authorities. Destination of the collected funds and traceability of their use must be properly established.

  • Only an individual qualified and authorized by the higher national authority of their faith can deliver sermons (Ministry of Religious Affairs and Wakf, Church);

  • The distribution of subversive materials is prohibited;

  • The distribution of subversive materials is prohibited;

  • The construction of buildings intended to be used as places of worship must obtain the prior approval of the urban planning and housing departments and must comply with all applicable safety standards for institutions open to the public;
  • The incitement to violence and hatred, or disorder, is banned from sermons. The facilitator must demonstrate moderation, open-mindedness, and tolerance.
  • The limitations on the exercise of worship apply to all religions, including the majority religion in Algeria, Islam, as determined by article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Algeria and which stipulates that "Freedom to manifest one's religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others”

    Further underscoring the 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 broadcasted 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.

    Moreover, the Algerian Government provides equal consideration, treatment, help and support to associations related to all recognized religious "ministers" holding Algerian citizenship are paid an equal salary, regardless to faith.

    Non-Muslim places of worship have been closed, pending to apply thoroughly the same legal proceedings on the rest of these illegal like-worshiping places. These closures procedures occurred after all the efforts of public authorities have been exhausted in order to regularize their situation. Such decision wasn’t taken against a given religion, but what matters is to permit free practice in compliance with laws and in application to regulatory procedures linked to religious practice.

    When offences are committed, the state in its capacity as a public authority, and the public prosecutor for the defense of society take appropriate actions in accordance with the law. The alleged victims of violations or restrictions have the right to a fair trial, namely: Knowing the reason for the closure of the place of worship, being assisted by a lawyer, have a public trial with the opportunity to appeal.

    The alleged victims of violations or restrictions have the right to a fair trial, namely: Knowing the reason for the closure of the place of worship, being assisted by a lawyer, have a public trial with the opportunity to appeal.

    All these elements offered above are meant to shed the light on the religious practice in Algeria and should not be interpreted as judicial harassment, nor restrictions of freedoms but rather as pursuit of common law without any relation to the exercise of religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution.