Angola defends barring Islamic groups, denies persecution
By Shrikesh Laxmidas
LUANDA (Reuters) - Angola said on Friday it had refused registration to a number of Islamic religious groups and closed illegal mosques because they did not comply with national laws, but it denied any persecution of Muslims.
The government of the No.2 oil producer in Africa has faced a storm of criticism after some international media reported it had "banned Islam", causing embarrassment for this member of the OPEC oil cartel dominated by Muslim states.
The outcry followed an announcement by the Ministry of Justice earlier this month listing 194 "religious confessions" whose requests for registration it rejected, among them the Islamic Community of Angola (COIA).
Requests from a number of evangelical Christian and other non-Muslim groups were also turned down.
A COIA leader, David Ja, told Reuters the authorities had closed dozens of mosques and even demolished some across Angola's 18 provinces, in what he called a targeted crackdown in the predominantly Catholic former Portuguese colony.
In a briefing to diplomats on Friday, Foreign Minister Georges Chikoti said there had been "misunderstandings" about the government action.
"There has been no Muslim persecuted," Chikoti said.
"There is no government policy to persecute one church or religion, that was an interpretation made by the Islamic community in Angola," he said. Continued...