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Algeria Muslim Body Slams Christians

ICC Note

Algerian Christians have under increased persecution from the country’s officials who have been prosecuting Christians and order closure of churches. Mr. Abu Amarane Chikh, who is the head of Higher Islamic Council, alleges that Christians have ulterior motives in spreading their faith in Algeria . Mr. Chikh has not produced any evidence to substantiate his claims.

By Jeremy Reynalds

06/01/2008 Algeria (ANS) — Algeria hit back on Saturday at foreign accusations saying that minority Christians are harassed in the country.

An official charged Protestant evangelicals with secretly trying to divide Algerians to colonise the mainly Muslim north African country.

According to a story by Hamid Ould Ahmed writing for Reuters News Service, Abu Amrane Chikh, head of the government-appointed Higher Islamic Council, said uproar in the West over a recent prosecution of an Algerian woman on a charge of practicing Christianity was being heightened for the benefit of foreigners.

“There are some church evangelists and reformist journalists who want to sow discord among brothers, and their long-term political goal is to create a Christian minority coupled with some foreign institutions,” Reuters reported he said in an interview with the website of the El Khabar daily newspaper.

“This is a new form of colonization that is hidden behind freedom of worship,” said Chikh, whose body regulates religious practice in the former French colony.”

Reuters reported Chikh added, “The evangelist movement is characterized by a secret activity that violates the Koran and the Sunna in one way or another.”

Reuters said Chikh was referring to Islam’s holy book and Islamic practice based on the words and deeds of Mohammed.

Reuters reported that Christian groups overseas accused the overwhelmingly Muslim Mediterranean country of religious repression after a Muslim woman in her mid-30’s appeared in court this month accused of “practicing a non-Muslim religion without authorization.”

Reuters said that critics, including some of Algeria ’s liberal French-language dailies, said the woman, Habiba Kouider, was not breaking a law just by practicing her religion. They pointed out that the constitution guarantees individual religious freedom.

The state prosecutor demanded she be jailed for three years.

Reuters said the ongoing case follows state-ordered closures of several churches under a 2006 law that limits non-Muslim worship to specific buildings approved by the state.

Algeria is almost totally Muslim, Reuters reported. According to officials, less than 10,000 Christians, including expatriates, live in the country of 33 million. Most of its Christian colonial settler population fled shortly after independence from France in 1962.

Reuters said secular liberals suspect increasing restrictions on Christian activity is a headline-grabbing tactic to please Muslims, and divert attention from a worsening economic situation.

But Reuters reported that Chikh said in Kouider’s situation, Algeria was concerned to ensure respect for a provision in the 2006 law that forbids non-Muslims from seeking to convert Muslims.

“This law requires that Christians and Muslims are to exercise their religious rites in full transparency in a place reserved for that purpose, and belonging to an accredited religious institution,” Chikh said.

Reuters reported that Chikh added, “There is no movement opposed to Christians as alleged by some tendentious minds. It is only about respecting Islam in a Muslim country, just as one must respect the Christian religion in a Christian state.”