The provisional federal constitution (PFC) provides for the right of individuals to practice their religion, makes Islam the state religion, prohibits the propagation of any religion other than Islam, and stipulates all laws must comply with the general principles of sharia. The federal government had limited ability to implement the PFC beyond greater Mogadishu; most other areas of the country were outside its control. Federal state and interim regional administrations, including Somaliland, Puntland, the Interim Juba Administration (IJA), the Interim South West Administration (ISWA), the Interim Hirshabelle Administration (IHA), and the Interim Galmudug Administration (IGA), governed their respective jurisdictions through local legislation but did not fully control them. The constitutions of Somaliland and Puntland declare Islam as the state religion, prohibit Muslims from converting to another religion, bar the propagation of any religion other than Islam, and require all laws to comply with the general principles of sharia. In July Somaliland authorities closed the only Catholic church in Hargeisa; the church had reopened in October 2016. In May the minister of education, culture, and higher education unveiled the National Curriculum Framework for public and private primary and secondary schools, which the minister said was in part to better regulate Islamic instruction.
The terrorist group al-Shabaab killed, maimed, or harassed persons suspected of converting from Islam or those who failed to adhere to the group’s religious edicts. During the year, al-Shabaab was responsible for the killings of civilians, government officials, members of parliament, Somali national armed forces, police, and troops from contributing countries of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Al-Shabaab continued its campaign to characterize the AMISOM peacekeeping forces as “Christians” intent on invading and occupying the country. According to Morning Star News reports, in February al-Shabaab forces killed a secret Christian convert from Islam, Faduma Osman, and her 11-year-old son and wounded her husband. In June al-Shabaab fighters stormed an army base in Puntland, killing 70 persons and wounding dozens more. Al-Shabaab said it attacked the base because of the presence of foreign soldiers and Puntland “apostates.” ISIS-affiliated fighters maintained a presence in the northern regions of Puntland.
There was strong societal pressure to adhere to Sunni Islamic traditions. Conversion from Islam to another religion remained socially unacceptable in all areas. Those suspected of conversion faced harassment by members of their community.
The U.S. government did not maintain a permanent diplomatic presence in the country. Travel by U.S. government officials to the country continued to increase from previous years, although trips remained limited to areas when security conditions permitted. U.S. government engagement to promote religious freedom focused on supporting efforts to bring stability, reestablish rule of law, and advocate for freedom of speech and assembly.