Sunday, March 26, 2006

Algeria: Severe new penalties for 'Proselytising'

"Subj: Algeria: severe new penalties for 'proselytising'
To: World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty News & Analysis
From: WEA RLC Principal Researcher and Writer, Elizabeth Kendal.


A presidential order that establishes new conditions for the exercise of non-Muslim religious practice was passed in the Algerian Ummah council (Senate) on Monday 13 March, and in the Algerian National Assembly (Parliament) on 15 March. As a presidential order, the text would not have even been open to debate.

An article entitled 'New sanctions concerning the illegal exercise of religious worship - Evangelicals under high surveillance', was published on 14 March in the French language Algerian newspaper 'Actualite'.

In this article, writer Hamid Saidani laments, 'The form chosen for the promulgation of this law closes the door to any debate on this subject which is extremely sensitive because it touches on a principle established by the fundamental law of the land, which is the freedom of worship and of conscience. The content of this legislative framework would certainly have been greatly benefited if the discussion had been allowed.'

Saidani reports that the order, classified as No 06-03 and dated 28 February 2006, puts forward a number of arguments which call for the strengthening of the law regarding religious activities that could be considered as "missions of proselytising". According to Saidani the penal aspects of the text are, between a 2 and 5 year prison term and a fine of 50 to 100 million centimes (this amounts to approx. US$7,000 to US$14,000 (1 Algerian dinar = 100 centimes)) for anyone who "incites, constrains or uses seductive means seeking to convert a Muslim to another religion (...), or who produces, stores or distributes printed documents or audio-visual formats or any other format or means which seeks to shake the faith of a Muslim."

Saidani concludes: "It is certain that this legislation seeks to block proselytizing missions and missionaries led notably by American evangelical churches in certain regions of the country, however it remains vital that the texts be clear and explicit, and this so that the way will not be opened for the violation of individual and collective liberties established by the laws of the Republic which would be swallowed up by a revival of the demons of inquisition."

Arabic News reports that the new law "is an attempt to withstand the Christianizing campaign which had witnessed a notable activity recently especially in al-Qabayel area east of the country."

Arabic News also adds, "The law also bans practicing any religion 'except Islam' 'outside buildings allocated for that, and links specialized buildings aimed at practice of religion by a prior licensing.'"

No comments: