The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom. Article 1 of the constitution provides that the country be a secular state and for separation between religion and state. Other provisions relating to religious freedoms are found in Article 14, providing for the equality of religions, and Article 27 which provides for freedom of religious expression.
The director of religious and traditional affairs oversees religious matters. Working under the Ministry of Interior (MOI), the director is responsible for arbitrating intercommunal conflicts, reporting on religious practices, and assuring religious freedom.
The independent nongovernmental High Council for Islamic Affairs (HCIA) oversees Islamic religious activities, including the supervision of some Arabic language schools and higher institutions of learning and the representation of the country in international Islamic meetings. The HCIA, in coordination with the president, appoints the grand imam, who oversees each region’s high imam and serves as head of the council. In principle the grand imam has the authority, though it is generally not practiced, to restrict proselytizing by Muslim groups, regulate the content of mosque sermons, and exert control over activities of Muslim charities.
Religious leaders participate in managing the country’s wealth. A representative from each of the country’s two principal religious communities, Muslim and Christian, sits on a rotating basis on the Revenue Management College, a body that oversees the use of oil revenues. At the end of the year, a Muslim religious leader held the seat.
The government required religious groups, except indigenous groups but including foreign missionary groups, to register with the MOI. Registration took place without discrimination, and the government interpreted this recognition as official. Despite popular perceptions to the contrary, registration does not confer tax preferences or other benefits on religious groups.
The government prohibits activity that “does not create conditions of cohabitation among the populations” in order to promote interfaith cooperation and prevent sectarian tensions.
The government prohibits religious instruction in public schools but permits all religious groups to operate private schools without restriction. The government closed certain Qur'anic schools that compelled children to beg for food and money. Many Arabic-language schools were financed by foreign donors, including the governments of Egypt and other countries, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals, particularly from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Turkey, Pakistan, and Kuwait.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr, All Saints’ Day, Eid al-Adha, and Christmas. It is common for Muslims and Christians to attend each other’s festivities.