Angola Backpedals After Islam Ban Reports
Angola's President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos  (Reuters)

Reports that Angola has banned Islam and destroyed mosques have been denied by a government official.

"The republic of Angola is a country that does not interfere in religion," the official, who was not named, said. "We have a lot of religions. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and Evangelical people."

The announcement that Angola had become the first country in the world to ban the religion was made in the African press, with quotes from the Angolan president and minister of culture suggesting that Islam - a faith practised by less than 1% of the 18 million-strong population - had been outlawed.

Weekly French-language Moroccan newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune published an article quoting senior officials, including minister of culture Rosa Cruz saying: "The process of legalisation of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Their mosques will be closed until further notice."

Angola's president Jose Edurado dos Santos told the Osum Defence daily: "This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country."

But the truth was mired in confusion after an official with the Angolan embassy in the US said that he was not aware of any Islam ban and that the quotes attributed to the minister of culture could not be verified.

"We don't have any information about that," the official said. "We're reading about it just like you on the internet. We don't have any notice that what you're reading on the internet is true."

A photograph circulating on the web of a minaret being dismantled in Angola as proof of the crackdown was said to have been taken in January 2008.

Angola is a predominantly Christian nation where some 55% of the population follow African Christian denominations, 10% major Protestant traditions and 5% Brazilian Evangelical churches. There are believed to be only between 80,000 and 90,000 Muslims in the west African nation.

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