The constitution provides for freedom of religious thought and expression and prohibits religious discrimination in the workplace. Other laws protect individual religious freedom against abuses by government or private actors.
The constitution also provides that such rights may be limited by the need to protect the rights of others or to preserve public order, national dignity, or state security. The labor code prohibits religious discrimination within labor unions and professional associations. Public schools do not offer religious education. There is no law prohibiting or limiting religious education in public or private schools.
The law requires religious groups to register with the MOI. By registering, a religious group receives the legal status necessary to receive direct bequests and other donations. Once registered, the group may apply for tax exemption each time it receives a gift from abroad. Registered religious groups also have the right to acquire land from individuals to build places of worship; however, the law states landowners should first cede those lands back to the state, and the state will then transfer it to the religious group. To qualify for registration, a group must have at least 100 members and an elected administrative council of no more than nine members, all of whom must be citizens.
Groups failing to meet registration requirements may instead register as “simple associations.” Simple associations may not receive donations or hold religious services, but the law allows them to conduct various types of community and social projects. Associations engaging in additional activities are subject to legal action. Religious associations must apply for a tax exemption each time they receive a donation from abroad. If an association has foreign leadership and/or members, it may form an association “reputed to be foreign.” An association is reputed foreign only if the leader or members of the board include foreign nationals. The law does not prohibit national associations from having foreign nationals as members not in those positions. Such foreign associations may only receive temporary authorizations, subject to periodic renewal and other conditions.
The government requires a permit for all public demonstrations, including religious events such as outdoor worship services.
The country is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Muslim leaders continued to state that because of their particular settlement history and mixed marriages over time, Muslims remained negatively affected by the country’s nationality code, which restricts children born of Malagasy mothers and foreign national fathers from obtaining citizenship. While there were no official figures on statelessness, a study by the NGO Focus Development and the UNHCR, which sampled residents in largely Muslim communities between October 2013 and January 2014, estimated that approximately 6 percent of individuals in the communities surveyed were stateless. Of this number, more than 85 percent were born in the country.
The MOI registered seven new religious groups through the middle of October, bringing the total to approximately 283 officially registered groups. Religious groups reported the government did not always enforce registration requirements and in general did not deny requests for registration.
Decisions by local authorities continued to affect the ability of some religious groups to practice their faith, according to religious leaders. Religious leaders also stated that inadequate government enforcement of labor laws resulted in some employers requiring their employees to work during religious services. A Catholic priest in Antananarivo who managed a social services center that caters to factory workers stated some employers failed to respect the labor code provisions requiring a 24-hour break weekly, which affects factory workers’ ability to attend worship services.
The government failed to restore or reimburse the value of FJKM-owned Radio Fahazavana’s equipment, which had been seized by the former government on the stated ground that the station was associated with deposed President Marc Ravalomanana.
Leadership of the Muslim Malagasy Association, which states it represents all Muslims in Madagascar, reported that some Muslims continued to report difficulty obtaining official documents such as national identity cards and passports because of their Arabic-sounding names. Some Muslims reported religious discrimination when applying for civil service positions. For example, to apply to civil service positions, applicants must provide criminal records, which some Muslims found difficult to obtain from the government.
On September 19, local newspapers reported that the MOI deported 10 foreign imams working in the southeast. According to press reports, they were Pakistani nationals operating a mosque in Vohipeno and a Quranic school in Manakara. The MOI confirmed the deportation, noting that the imams had entered Malagasy territory on a 15-day tourist visa which was extended to a three-month visa at the regional police station. They noted that missionary work or other work-related activities were not permitted on a tourist visa. In November Prime Minister Olivier Mahafaly reaffirmed that the imams were deported because of their illegal immigration status. One of the newspapers added that the MOI started an investigation of the imams when the sacrifice of 200 zebus in Manakara and Vohipeno for the Eid al-Adha celebration on September 11-12 aroused local concerns. While zebu sacrifice is common among animists, Muslims, and occasionally at royal funerals, a single sponsor financing 200 zebus is extremely uncommon which led many in the local community to suspect foreign entities funded the sacrifice.
State-run Malagasy National Television continued to provide free broadcasting to the Seventh-day Adventist Church and to Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Presbyterians on weekends, along with the Muslim community once a week. During Ramadan, the Muslim community was able to purchase additional airtime.
For the fourth year, the government decreed that Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr would be paid holidays for Muslims. Leaders of the Muslim community reported they continued to lobby without success for these holidays to be paid for everyone, rather than just for Muslims, on an equal basis with national holidays based on the Christian faith.