Algeria: Law drafted to restrict evangelists

Algeria's cabinet have approved a draft law aimed at combating the growing influence of evangelical Christian groups in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.
A cabinet meeting yesterday approved a Justice Ministry bill to restrict the practice of religions other than Islam, and reinforce Islam's constitutional status as the state religion, official media reported.
"The draft bill aims at filling a judicial loophole on the practice of religions other than Islam," the government said in a statement carried by official media. The bill must now be approved by parliament.

The proposals contain "provisions to put an end to anarchic activities in Algeria by associations as well as foreign individuals, and to contain by the force of law proselytising campaigns that target Muslims in our country."

Christian missionary groups have carried out increasingly fervent campaigns in Algeria, offering financial help, medical treatment and visas to potential converts, especially in poor areas. Activities aimed at converting Muslims to Christianity are not tolerated elsewhere in the Arab world, where many constitutions use sharia law as a principle source of legislation. Some of the most intense activity in Algeria has been in Kabylie, a Berber-speaking region with strong connections to former colonial ruler France, which evangelists hope might boost sympathy to their message. Berbers are the original inhabitants of North Africa before Arabs arrived in the 8th century to spread Islam.

In neighbouring Morocco similar issues have arisen, with evangelical campaigns reported to have attracted scores of followers. - Reuters