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Religion 2013-01-11

Algeria to redefine role of mosques

By Fidet Mansour for Magharebia in Algiers - 11/01/13

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The role of mosques is currently the subject of a hot debate in Algeria.

Authorities want to eliminate extremist ideology from places of worship and protect them from the influence of political parties and community organisations.

Political parties and other organisations will no longer be permitted to preach or make speeches inside mosques. So says a draft decree on religious organisations drawn up by the Algerian government.

Places of worship must revert to their main role, said Algerian Minister of Religious Affairs Bouabdallah Ghlamallah.

"Mosques embody the unity of the nation in the sense that they represent the crucible in which the character of society is forged," he said during a seminar held in Algiers on January 1st.

In his view, imams are not just "officials" but also preachers who instil human and spiritual values. He argued that imams "must be cultured and aware of the role that they must play in passing on the educational message of the mosque and instilling human and spiritual values into young people".

Ghlamallah added that an imam's task is to pass on this legacy to the next generations and show good judgement and unity of thought.

"In Algeria, imams are an integral part of the nation, which is why they must be mindful of the respect shown to social authorities and work in complete harmony with all other state institutions," the minister said.

The first step towards this goal is to invest in better training for imams. Future imams will have to "change in line with social development and changes", Ghlamallah noted.

To this end, the minister vowed to implement a "high-quality" training programme for imams.

The goal is to train imams to understand "the realities of the society in which they live so that they are better placed to counteract proponents of fundamentalist ideology", he concluded.

Institutes train an average of 1,200 imams each year.

According to the January 8th addition of Echourouk, Ada Fellahi, an aide to the minister of religious affairs, issued a warning about the infiltration of salafists into Algerian mosques. She noted that they "have been given a great deal of room for manoeuvre so far".

The Algerian government is now getting tough. The draft law on religious organisations stipulates that the latter will be disbanded in cases of "interference in the work of officials in mosques and Qur'anic schools".

"The Algerian government wants to close up the legal loophole which, at the beginning of the 1990s, allowed the now-dissolved Islamist FIS party to control mosques and so-called charities," explained academic Ilham Saadi.

The FIS "turned Algerian mosques into recruitment grounds for thousands of terrorists who were manipulated by pseudo-imams who preached hatred of all those who did not share their political stance," she added.

Politics student Hadjer Mohamdi agreed. She told Magharebia that the Algerian government wanted to regain control of mosques to protect them from political manipulation.

Members of the Algerian public have welcomed the new measures.

"Mosques must get back to doing their job. They are holy places which must spread messages of peace, brotherhood and unity," said Amar Mehdi, a public-sector worker.

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  1. Anonymous thumb

    أبو مريم : م 2013-12-2

    The popular proverb says they are digging their own grave.

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  2. Anonymous thumb

    ك.يونس 2013-7-24

    Praise be to God, peace be upon the messenger of God. Your excellency the minister Ghoulam Allah. We ask you sir to take into consideration that outgoing committees should submit a financial and administrative report, revive the activity of the association for the believers by consulting with the appropriate ministry. But in Ennour mosque in Mohammedia, no-law is prevalent. The mandate of the committee expired in 2006 but it is still active as usual. Recently, worshipers wanted to change the committee, but there was a real fuss and they began causing problems in the neighbourhood. As a result, the mosque - which used to host about 4000 worshippers on Fridays, about 500 worships during week days and thousands during Ramadan, some inside the mosque and others in the streets because they couldn't all fit in - sometimes hosted only nine rows of worshipers in Ramadan 2013, by God. Everyone is complaining of mistakes in reading Qur'an of reciters. If the mission is handed to incompetent people, wait for the Hour! We hope that your excellency will intervene to renew this committee which is proud of its mediators and didn't leave this association no matter what happens. God is our witness that we have extinguished the fire of sedition in the neighbourhood as we are seeking security and safety because of all we have endured in the last decade. Therefore, we advise you sir that we have notified some officials in the inspectorate and directorate. A citizen from Al Moundirine neighbourhood who loves his neighbourhood and territory which is his homeland. Sincerely yours. Happy Ramdan!

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    qnoqr 2013-1-17

    The minister of religious affairs doesn't distinguish halal from haram. Algerians ate non-halal meat in Ramadan. Young people have indulged in usury. There is an increase in the number of debauchery, robbery and adultery. Even state officials take bribery; sometimes Alimony funds are spent through usury and thus become illegitimate. The lands, houses and shops of the Waqf are given through favouritism and graft. Mosques are built with illegitimate money. They are decorated with billions while the poor starve. Mosque shouldn't be dedicated only to worship. It should be a shelter for the homeless and powerless. This is the sent mercy.

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    d12 2013-1-12

    There is no other God but Allah, we are sincere to Him in religion. Mohamed is the messenger of God, we should follow him in everything. No Sufism, no Alaouism, no Kadiri, no Jabria, no Zerdat no Addat sectarism.

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