ALGERIA – Church demolished to build a mosque and a Koranic school
On 9 June the Algerian state ordered the demolition by bulldozers of an ancient Catholic church located in the center of the city of Sidi Mousa, 25 km from Algiers. The Algerian authorities have justified this anti-Christian act of demolition saying that the church had become unsafe because of structural deterioration. According to the authorities concerned, the church was listed in the red category by the technical inspection services. Many viewed the demolition of this historic church as an act of vandalism.The legitimate question that may be asked is, since the building was deemed in danger of collapse, why was it not restored and listed as part of the national heritage?
The motive behind the demolition of the church became clear when the mayor of the region soon after announced that a mosque and a Koran study center were going to be built on the site where the Christian church had stood. Although the closure, destruction, or transformation of Christian churches into mosques is nearly as old as Islam itself in the north African nation, there has been an increase in such incidents.
Abdel Fattah Zarawi, the Muslim leader of the Salafi party, has called for all Christian churches remaining in Algeria to be closed and reopened as mosques. Zarawi tried to portray his proposal as a “reaction,” or “grievance” against rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe, especially France. The Salafi campaign on social media and networks against Algerian churches even insists the nation’s most important churches be converted into mosques — including the Church of Notre Dame d’Afrique in Algiers, the Church of St. Augustine in Annaba, and the Church of Santa Cruz in Oran. The reason given is that “they have no relation whatsoever to the religion of Algerian Muslims.”
Article 36 of the Algerian constitution guarantees freedom of conscience, which includes freedom of worship although this is not explicitly stated in the text. However, Algeria can justify all of its anti-Jewish or anti-Christian acts by virtue of the same constitution, since Article 2 states that Islam is the state religion and Article 10 bans state institutions from doing anything contrary to Islamic morality. These articles are completely contradictory and faithfully reflect the schizophrenic state of the country.