Algeria Seeks to Curbe the Influence of Religious Groups

In an effort to degrade the increasing influence that religious extremism have in the Algerian society, the government there decided to review the laws relative to the formation of religious associations. A new draft decree is underway to impose stricter rules to tighten the control on such organizations, and eventually use the law to shut down rogue or infiltrated associations.

Government statistics reveal that as of December 2011 Algeria counted 15,304 associations of religious nature. That figure meant that religious groups accounted for more than 16% of the 92,927 registered non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. Surprisingly, the provinces of Tizi Ouzou and Bejaia topped the chart in terms of concentration of religious associations, with respectively 728 and 663 associations, whereas Algiers and Adrar both boasted 569. [membersonly]

Encouraged by an easy legislation relative to NGO formation, the number of religious association rose significantly in recent years, even outnumbering sport associations and Parent-Teachers Associations.

The draft decree envisaged by the Algerian authorities aims at revising the licensing procedures, strengthening the legislation, and enabling closer monitoring of the financing and budgets of local and national associations.

Mohamed Aissa, the Minister of Religious Affairs who oversees the sector, stated “the decree will prevent the associations from embracing extremist and fanatic ideas, and will prevent them from taking advantage of the people’s material, physical or moral weaknesses .”

Seeking to block foreign infiltration and influence, the decree stipulates that the Ministry of Religious affairs will strictly supervise all contacts with foreign organizations, as correspondence of this nature is contingent on the prior approval of the Minister himself.

Upon promulgation of the decree, existing associations will hold assemblies to comply with the new requirements.

Breaking the momentum of the growing extremism in the country could come at a price. The Algerian government’s crackdown on extremism is very likely to spark fury among the Islamist communities and leaders of religious associations which have been active for many years. But the momentum is not in their favor and their complaints may not yield a retraction from the government.

For the Algerian authorities, it is largely about extinguishing a series of fires that have engulfed many regions under the influence of foreign religious agendas, including for the likes of the Salafists, Shiaa and the Wahabists imported from a chaotic Middle East. Examples of disruptions abound, including the ongoing inter-tribal feud in the M’Zab region, where religious associations have been playing leading roles in issuing Fatwas condoning actions that have led to death and destruction. The Kabylie region is also the theater of religious-based agitation, not just limited to specific branches of Islam, but also we see the rise of an aggressive Evangelical Christian movement that worries authorities.[/membersonly]

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