The constitution and other laws and policies restrict religious freedom. The constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and recognizes Islam as the sole religion of its citizens and the state. Only Muslims may be citizens. Persons who convert from Islam lose their citizenship.
The law outlaws apostasy. A Muslim convicted of apostasy who does not recant within three days will be sentenced to death and have his or her property confiscated, although the government has never applied capital punishment for this offense. The law does not prohibit proselytizing, but government policy prohibits such activity through broad interpretation of the constitutional assertion, “Islam shall be the religion of the people and of the State.”
The government prohibits printing and distributing non-Islamic religious materials, although possession of these materials is legal.
The law and legal procedures in the country derive from a combination of French civil law and Sharia (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 regards Islam as the essential cohesive element unifying the country’s ethnic groups. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education enacts and disseminates fatwas, fights “extremism,” promotes research in Islamic studies, organizes the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, and monitors mosques. The six imams of the High Council of Islam advise the government on conformance of legislation to Islamic precepts. A new High Council for Fatwa and Administrative Appeals, appointed in May, has sole authority to regulate fatwa issuance and resolve related disputes among citizens and between citizens and public agencies.
The government does not register religious groups, but all nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), including humanitarian and development NGOs affiliated with religious groups, must register with the Interior Ministry. NGOs must agree to refrain from proselytizing or otherwise promoting any religion other than Islam.
The government requires that the Interior Ministry authorize all group meetings in advance, even those held in private homes, although officials did not always enforce this requirement.
An unofficial government requirement restricts non-Muslims to holding worship services only in the few recognized Christian churches in the country.
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 provides funding to mosques and Islamic schools.
Both public schools and private Islamic schools include classes on Islam. Although attendance at these religious classes is ostensibly mandatory, many students do not attend for various ethno-linguistic, 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).