The constitution and other laws and policies restrict religious freedom. The 1991 constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state. Due to this stance, all non-Muslims are restricted from being citizens of the country. Persons who convert from Islam lose their citizenship.
Article 306 of the penal code outlaws apostasy. It states that any Muslim found guilty of the crime will be given the opportunity to repent within three days and if the person does not repent, the individual will be sentenced to death and the person’s property will be confiscated by the Treasury.
The government prohibits the printing and distribution of non-Islamic religious materials, although possession of these materials is legal.
There is an unofficial government requirement that restricts non-Muslims to holding worship services only in the few Christian churches in the country. However, religious groups can meet in private homes after they receive official authorization.
The law and legal procedures in the country are based on the government’s interpretation of Islamic law. The judiciary consists of a single system of courts that uses principles of Islamic law in matters concerning the family and modern legal principles in all other matters.
The government and citizenry consider Islam to be the essential cohesive element unifying the various ethnic groups in the country. There is a cabinet-level Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education tasked with enacting and communicating fatwas, fighting religious extremism, promoting research in Islamic studies, organizing the pilgrimage and the Umrah, and monitoring mosques. The High Council of Islam, consisting of six imams, advises the government on conformance of legislation to Islamic precepts.
Although there is no specific legal prohibition against proselytizing by non-Muslims, in practice the government prohibits such activity through the broad interpretation of article five of the constitution that states, “Islam shall be the religion of the people and of the State.”
The government does not register religious groups; however, NGOs, including humanitarian and development NGOs affiliated with religious groups, must register with the Ministry of the Interior. NGOs must agree to refrain from proselytizing or otherwise promoting any religion other than Islam. In addition, the government requires that groups, including religious groups, receive official authorization before they can meet, even in private homes. Officials did not always enforce this requirement in practice.
The government requires members of the Constitutional Council and the High Council of Magistrates to take an oath of office that includes a promise to God to uphold the law of the land in conformity with Islamic precepts.
The government restricts the use of mosque loudspeakers exclusively to the call to prayer and to Friday services in accordance with a 2003 law that prohibits the use of mosques for any form of political activity.
The government, mosque members, and other donors normally supported mosques and Islamic schools and made their contributions mainly during the month of Ramadan.
Both public schools and private Islamic schools include classes on Islam. Although attendance at these religious classes ostensibly is required, many students decline to attend for various ethnolinguistic, religious, and personal reasons. Students are able to advance in school and graduate with diplomas despite missing these classes, provided they perform sufficiently well in their other classes.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: First Muharram (Islamic New Year), Eid al-Mowlud (the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad), Eid al-Fitr, and Tabaski (Eid al-Adha).