Over the past few years, international religious freedom advocates and Ahmadiyya communities around the world have campaigned for an end to escalating persecution against Ahmadi Muslims in Algeria. As reported by USCIRF and the United States Department of State, Algeria has routinely denied formal recognition to the Ahmadiyya community, seeing them as violators of traditional Sunni Islam and therefore non-Muslims. As a result, Ahmadi Muslims face tremendous obstacles to obtaining association and worship building registration, importing religious texts, and even obtaining travel documentation.
At year’s end in 2020, it was reported that 292 Ahmadi Muslims were currently awaiting formal trial in Algeria’s justice system, two of which were in prison. The majority of the ‘crimes’ that Ahmadiyya Muslims are charged with include unauthorized fundraising, holding worship in unregistered locations, disseminating non-Muslim religious materials, “insulting the Messenger” and “desecrating” the Qur’an. Should an Ahmadi Muslim be officially convicted, he or she will be subject to fines and up to two years in prison simply for the crime of peacefully practicing their faith.
In late November 2020, 31 Ahmadi Muslims were summoned to court in Tizi Ouzou to answer for their ‘crimes’ of faith:
“According to two lawyers, the charges against these 31 defendants are: ‘the dissemination of leaflets with the aim of undermining the national interest’, ‘the occupation of a building for the practice of worship in a secret manner without authorization’, ‘collecting funds and donations without authorization’ and ‘preaching inside a building without authorization and without approval’. They are, they specify, prosecuted under articles 96 of the penal code and 05 / 07-12-13 of the law relating to the conditions of organization of non-Muslim cults. Contacted, Me Houali denounced yet another attack on freedom of worship. ‘This is an attack on the freedom of worship.'”
Ahmadi Muslims are also the subject of hateful and derogatory remarks. In October 2016, the community was falsely criticized as engaging in a “deliberate sectarian invastion” by Algeria’s Religious Affairs Minister Mohamed Aissa. Just a few months later, he alleged that Ahmadi Muslims are “damaging the very basis of Islam.” The Religious Affairs Minister, the individual who should be leading the calls for religious harmony, plurality, and tolerance, is the very person denigrating his nation’s own religious minorities.
Now, amidst the new arrests of members of the Ahmadiyya community, USCIRF once again calls for an end to persecution and arbitrary imprisonment:
“New convictions and harsh sentences against Ahmadi Muslims in Algeria demonstrate systematic and ongoing persecution on religious grounds. The U.S. government should urge the Algerian government to act swiftly to reverse this disturbing trend.” – USCIRF Vice Chair Anurima Bhargava
“These unwarranted arrests and detentions are the latest in a long history of Ahmadi persecution in Algeria. The U.S. government should demonstrate its strong support for the Ahmadi community in Algeria by denouncing these violations.” – USCIRF Commissioner Johnnie Moore