Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
In January unknown individuals hoping to regain control of mosques they reportedly considered too liberal physically killed two imams in the cities of Skikda and Tadjena, respectively. The attacks took place during weekly committee meetings to manage the mosques’ space and affairs. After the attacks, Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Aissa filed a complaint and started an investigation of those who attacked the imams. As of the end of the year, the government had not released updates or results of the investigation to the public.
In June Minister of Religious Affairs Mohamed Aissa said, “It is no secret that radicals are constantly trying to seize the mosques of the republic and influence the mosques’ messages. These individuals managed to infiltrate groups that seemed pacifist. They are the cause of the death of two imams; they hurt and insulted dozens of others who did not share their ideologies.” In July Aissa froze the weekly mosque management committee meetings because he reportedly felt extremist individuals would try to direct the mosques via these committee meetings. He said these events were reminiscent of the 1990s when the now-banned Islamic Salvation Front forcibly seized control of mosques to spread its extremist ideology.
In October unknown individuals stabbed an imam in a mosque before dawn prayer near the city of Laghouat. Mosque attendees found the imam and called emergency services, which declared the imam dead. At year’s end, the government was conducting an investigation to find the individuals responsible.
Media reported a group of young people desecrated more than 31 Christian graves in the British Military La Reunion War Cemetery in Oued Ghir, Bejaia in September, smashing tombstones and ransacking the graves. A few weeks earlier, unknown individuals vandalized another Christian cemetery in Ain M’lila. Authorities stated they believed Islamic extremists were responsible for the vandalism but no news of those responsible had been released by year’s end.
Christian leaders said when Christian converts died family members sometimes buried them according to Islamic rites, and their churches had no standing to intervene on their behalf. Christian groups reported some villages continued not to permit Christians to be buried alongside Muslims.
Several Christian leaders reported instances in which citizens who converted, or who expressed interest in learning more about Christianity, were assaulted by family members, or otherwise pressured to recant their conversions.
Some Christian converts reported they and others in their communities continued to keep a low profile due to concern for their personal safety and the potential for legal, familial, career, and social problems. Other converts practiced their new religion openly, according to members of the Christian community.
Media outlets reported in August hundreds of imams had lodged complaints in recent years after suffering violent attacks. MRA officials said extremists who opposed the imams’ moderate teachings carried out the attacks, while others were related to interpersonal disputes. The government said it would take additional steps to protect imams such as stationing security forces near mosques to deter future attacks and providing more support for local authorities to investigate and prosecute such cases.
The media criticized religious communities it portrayed as “sects” or “deviations” from Islam or as “foreign,” such as Ahmadi Muslims and Shia Muslims. Some who openly engaged in any religious practice other than Sunni Islam reported that family, neighbors, or others criticized their religious practice, harassed them to convert, and occasionally insinuated they could be in danger because of their choice.
Christian leaders continued to state they had good relations with Muslims in their communities, with only isolated incidents of vandalism or harassment.