The constitution and other laws and policies protect religious freedom in the regions of the country over which the government retains control.
The constitution defines the country as a secular state and allows for religious practices that do not pose a threat to social stability and peace.
Passports and national identity documents do not designate religious identity. For national identity documents, the law requires a photograph clearly showing the entire face, including hair and both ears. Citizens may not wear religious headdress in official photos for identity documents if the headdress obstructs any part of the face.
The government requires registration of all public associations, including religious groups; however, registration confers no tax preference or other legal benefits and there is no penalty for failure to register. The registration process is routine and not burdensome. The government does not require groups practicing indigenous religions to register.
The Malian High Council of Islam (HCIM), an umbrella organization representing all significant Muslim groups, serves as the main liaison between the government and these groups. Before making important decisions on potentially controversial national issues, the government’s policy is to consult with the HCIM and the Committee of Wise Men, a group including the Catholic archbishop of Bamako, Protestant leadership, and other Muslim leaders.
The Ministry of Territorial Administration and Local Collectivities has the authority, not exercised during the year, to prohibit religious publications that “defame” another religion.
Public schools do not offer religious instruction. There are a number of private, parochial, and other religious educational institutions, both Muslim and Christian. Medersas are community-run private Muslim religious schools teaching basic subjects, such as reading, writing, math, science, and history, in addition to Arabic and the Quran. There are 116 Catholic schools in Mali and a very small number of Protestant schools.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Mawloud, the Prophet’s Baptism, Easter Monday, Eid al-Fitr (Ramadan), Tabaski (Eid al-Adha), and Christmas.