The constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and designates Islam as the sole religion of the citizens and state. Only Muslims may be citizens, and apostasy is a crime punishable by death. On November 15, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of blogger Mohamad Cheikh Ould Mohamad Ould Mkheytir, often known as MKheytir. MKheytir was convicted of apostasy and sentenced to death in December 2014. At the November hearing for MKheytir’s case, hundreds of individuals protested outside of the courthouse demanding his execution. The case was awaiting judgment from the Supreme Court at the end of the year. On December 20, 2015, several local news outlets reported that the government closed 40 madrassahs located in the Hodh El Garbi. Local authorities stated they closed the madrassahs because of their affiliation with Warsh, an unauthorized Islamic institute. The government reopened the schools on January 6, following demonstrations in many communities. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education (MIATE) continued to collaborate with independent Islamic religious groups to combat extremism, radicalization, and terrorism through a series of workshops in all 15 provinces.
On September 12, during the annual Eid al-Adha observance, Imam Ahmedou Ould Lemrabott Ould Habibou Rahman, the imam of the Grand Mosque of Nouakchott, warned of what he called the spread and growing threat of Shia Islam in the country. The imam also stated government authorities should sever ties with Iran in order to stop the spread of Iranian Shia Islam. On March 30, the Mauritanian Bar Association, in collaboration with the Muslim World Lawyers Organization, held a one-day seminar in Nouakchott on the role of Islamic law in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism.
U.S. embassy representatives, including the Ambassador and senior visiting U.S. government officials, discussed religious tolerance with senior government officials, including the president and prime minister. Embassy officials raised the MKheytir apostasy case with authorities on multiple occasions. The Ambassador urged authorities to ensure that judicial proceedings were transparent. The Ambassador hosted two iftars at which he discussed religious tolerance with government officials and religious and civil society leaders.