The TFC, which was drafted when the TFG was created in 2004, establishes Islam as the national religion; however, it also states that “(a)ll citizens of the Somali Republic…have the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without distinction of race, birth, language, religion, sex, or political affiliation.”
The TFC does not have a section that limits or protects religious practice. However, article 71 of the TFC decrees that “in respect of all matters not covered and not inconsistent with this charter,” the 1960 constitution and other national laws shall apply. The 1960 constitution specifically states: “Every person has the right to freedom of conscience and to profess freely his own religion and to worship it subject to any limitations which may be prescribed by law for the purpose of safeguarding morals, public health, [and] order.”
The Puntland constitution, which was approved by parliament in 2009 and adopted by a constituent assembly on April 18, states that no one can be forced to a faith different from one’s own beliefs. However, it also states that Muslims cannot commit apostasy (renounce their religion) and prohibits propagation of any religion other than Islam. This section of the Puntland constitution also is interpreted to mean that conversion from Islam to other religions is prohibited.
The Somaliland constitution states that it protects the right of freedom of belief. However, it also states that Islamic law does not accept that a Muslim person can renounce his beliefs (apostasy), prohibits preaching in a mosque on matters that would divide the nation, and prohibits the promotion of any religion other than Islam. This section of the Somaliland constitution also is interpreted to mean that conversion from Islam to other religions is prohibited.
The Somali Penal Code, which applies to all regions of the country, although not always enforced, does not prohibit conversion from Islam. However, it prohibits blasphemy or “defamation” of Islam. Chapter 1, Art. 313, of the Penal Code states: “Whoever publicly brings the religion of Islam into contempt shall be punished with imprisonment of up to two years, and whoever publicly insults the religion of Islam by bringing into contempt persons professing it or places or objects dedicated to worship, shall be liable to the same punishment.”
The TFC and the Somaliland and Puntland constitutions require that one be a Muslim to become president. The Somaliland constitution states that candidates for president, vice president, and the House of Representatives must be Muslim. The TFC and the Puntland constitution require presidential candidates to be Muslim, but make no such requirement for ministerial, parliament, or prime ministerial positions.
In May 2009 the TFG ratified legislation to implement Islamic law nationwide. Article 8 of the TFC states that “(t)he Islamic Sharia shall be the basic source for national legislation.” The Somaliland constitution declares that the laws of the nation shall derive from and not contradict Islam. The Puntland constitution stipulates that all laws in the region be based on Islamic law.
The judiciary in most regions relies on Xeer (traditional and customary law), Islamic law, and the Penal Code of the pre-1991 Siad Barre government. Legal frameworks vary considerably since each community individually regulates and enforces religious expression, often inconsistently.
The Somaliland constitution restricts the formation of political parties based on a particular religious group, religious beliefs, or interpretation of religious doctrine. The Puntland constitution, the TFC, and the 1960 federal constitution do not link political party formation to religion.
The TFG Ministry of Religious Affairs is authorized to register religious organizations; however, it has little capacity to conduct these registrations. Groups can continue to operate without registration as there is very little capability to monitor and shut down operations. Much of the south and central regions remained outside of TFG control. In Puntland religious schools and places of worship are required to receive permission to operate from Puntland’s Ministry of Justice and Religious Affairs. In Somaliland the government requires religious schools and places of worship to obtain the Ministry of Religion’s permission to operate. There is no specific punishment or consequence in either Puntland or Somaliland for religious schools or places of worship that operate without permission.
The TFG, Puntland, and Somaliland administrations permit religious instruction in public schools. The TFC states in article 24: “Teaching of Islam shall be compulsory for pupils in both public and private schools. This does not apply to non-Muslim students.” Private schools provide the primary source of education in all regions, with the majority offering religious instruction. A significant number of externally funded madrassahs exist throughout the country, providing inexpensive basic education and generally adhering to Salafist ideology, especially in al-Shabaab-controlled areas.
Mogadishu University, the University of East Africa in Bosasso (Puntland), and many secondary schools in Mogadishu are externally funded and administered through organizations affiliated with the Al-Islah Islamic organization.
The TFG, Puntland, and Somaliland observe the following religious holidays as national holidays: Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, Muharam (Islamic New Year), and Mi’raaj. In addition Friday is designated a day of prayer.