The constitution provides for equal rights and duties without distinction based on religion or belief, but other laws and policies restrict religious freedom. The law provides sanctions for any religious practice other than the Sunni Shafi’i doctrine of Islam and for prosecution of converts from Islam, and bans proselytizing for any religion except Islam. Islam is the state religion, and the constitution states that citizens will draw governing principles and rules from Islamic tenets. The government detained 18 Shia in Anjouan on at least two occasions and warned them that only the Shafi’i doctrine could be practiced. In November the 18 Shia were charged with “subversion, the propagation of religious education banned in the country, disturbing the public order, and presenting a threat to social cohesion.” In December, 15 of the defendants were convicted and received prison sentences, fines, or both. The government disallowed non-Sunni Muslims from establishing places of worship or assembling for peaceful religious activities.
There were reports of societal discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Societal discrimination continued against non-Muslim citizens, particularly Christians and those who converted from Islam.
There is no permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in the country. Staff of the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar traveled regularly to Grand Comore and periodically to Anjouan and discussed religious freedom issues with government officials, religious and civil society leaders, and others.