The constitution provides for freedom of conscience and worship. The constitution declares Islam to be the state religion and prohibits state institutions from behaving in a manner incompatible with Islam. The law grants all individuals the right to practice their religion as long as they respect public order and regulations. Offending or insulting any religion is a criminal offense. Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims is a crime. In May authorities charged 26 Ahmadi Muslims in Bejaia with “insulting the precepts of Islam,” “operating an association without approval,” and “collecting money without authorization.” The courts acquitted three of the Ahmadis while sentencing the others to three months in prison. According to media reports, authorities charged five Christians from Bouira Province, three of whom belong to the same family, with “inciting a Muslim to change his religion” and “performing religious worship in an unauthorized place.” On December 25, a judge at the court of Bouira acquitted the five individuals. In March a court in Tiaret convicted and fined two Christian brothers for carrying more than 50 Bibles in their car. Prosecutors said the accused planned to use them for proselytism; the brothers said they were for church use only. The court fined each man 100,000 dinars ($850). In May another court convicted a church leader and another Christian of proselytizing, sentenced them to three months in prison, and fined them 100,000 dinars. Leaders of the Ahmadi community reported the government conducted investigations of at least 85 Ahmadi Muslims during the year. Charges included operating an unregistered religious association, collecting funds without authorization, and holding prayers in unauthorized locations. There were reports of police confiscating passports and educational diplomas from Ahmadi Muslims, and pressuring employers to put Ahmadi workers on administrative leave. Authorities closed eight churches and a nursery associated with the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) during the year on charges of operating without authorization, illegally printing evangelical publications, and failing to meet building safety codes. At the end of the year, four churches remained closed. Some Christian groups continued to report facing a range of administrative difficulties in the absence of a written government response to their requests for recognition as associations. The government continued to regulate the importation of all books, including religious materials. Senior government officials continued to oppose calls by extremist groups for violence in the name of Islam. They also continued to criticize the spread of what they characterized as “foreign” religious influences such as Salafism, Wahhabism, Shia Islam, and Ahmadi Islam.
Media outlets reported the killings of three Sunni imams during the year. The government attributed the attacks to extremists who opposed the imams’ moderate teachings. Some Christian leaders and congregants spoke of family members abusing Muslims who converted to or expressed an interest in Christianity. Media reported unknown individuals vandalized two Christian cemeteries, smashing tombstones and ransacking graves. Individuals engaged in religious practice other than Sunni Islam reported they had experienced threats and intolerance, including in the media.
The U.S. Ambassador and other embassy officers frequently encouraged senior government officials in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Religious Affairs, Justice, and Interior to promote religious tolerance and discussed the difficulties Ahmadis, Christians, and other religious minority groups faced in registering as associations, importing religious materials, and obtaining visas. Embassy officers in meetings and programs with religious leaders from both Sunni Muslim and minority religious groups, as well as with other members of the public, focused on pluralism and religious moderation. The embassy used special events, social media, and speakers’ programs to emphasize a message of religious tolerance. In April the embassy hosted a delegation of nine Americans – a university program officer, one imam, six community and religious leaders, and the executive director of a think tank – for a ten-day tour focused on promoting people-to-people religious ties. The Ministry of Religious Affairs facilitated the delegation’s visit to six cities – Algiers, Constantine, Oran, Biskra, Tlemcen, and Maskara – where the delegation met with a range of imams, community leaders, and ministry officials to discuss the role of religion in countering extremist narratives and religious communities in the United States.