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Comoros - Religion

The U.S. government estimates the population is 98 percent Sunni Muslim (July 2015 estimate). Non-Sunni residents include Shia Muslims, Jehovahs Witnesses, Roman Catholics, and Protestants. Members of non-Muslim religious groups, made up primarily of expatriates, are concentrated in the countrys capital, Moroni, and the capital of Anjouan, Moutsamoudou. The Shia adherents are mostly based in Anjouan.

In May 2006, religious leader Ahmed Abdallah Sambi was elected President; he pledged to defend Islam and fight terrorism and organized crime. The constitution specifies Islam is the state religion but proclaims equality of rights and obligations for all regardless of religious belief. The law establishes the Sunni Shafii doctrine as the only allowable religious practice in the country and provides sanctions for any other religious practice, other than by foreigners. Non-Islamic proselytizing and conversion from Islam is prohibited, although the government did not always enforce these proscriptions.

The constitution states Islam is the state religion and citizens shall draw the states governing principles and rules from Islamic tenets. It proclaims equality of rights and obligations for all individuals regardless of religion or belief. A law establishes the Sunni Shafii doctrine as the only allowable religious practice in the country and provides sanctions of five months to one year imprisonment and/or a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 Comorian francs ($230 to $1150) for any other religious practice, on the grounds of avoiding social unrest and the undermining of national cohesion. Proselytizing for any religion except Sunni Islam is illegal, and the law provides for deportation of foreigners who do so. The law provides for prosecution of converts from Islam, but penalties are not clearly defined.

Almost all children between the ages of three and six attended private, informal schools at least part-time to learn to read and recite the Quran. In response to reports of child labor abuses at some of these schools in previous years, the government continued to expand the introduction of Arabic reading instruction using the Quran in public primary schools to eliminate the demand for unlicensed and unregulated private classes.

The Government discouraged the practice of religions other than Islam. The August 2000 Fomboni Declaration included an agreement to make Islam the national religion. Authorities restricted the right of Christians to practice their faith, and police regularly threatened and sometimes detained practicing Christians.

There was widespread societal discrimination against Christians. Christians faced insults and threats of violence from members of their communities. Christians have been harassed by mobs in front of mosques and summoned for questioning by religious authorities. In some instances, families forced Christian members out of their homes or threatened them with a loss of financial support. Some Christians had their Bibles taken by family members. Local government officials, religious authorities, and family members attempted to force Christians to attend services at mosques against their will.

Several times during 2002, religious leaders on Anjouan and Grande Comore threatened Christians during radio broadcasts and sermons in mosques. Attempts have been made to isolate Christians from village life. Islamic fundamentalism grew in popularity as more students returned to the country after studying Islamic subjects in foreign countries.

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Page last modified: 24-07-2017 18:27:50 ZULU