Algeria Religion

Islam is a state religion in Algeria where basically everyone professes to Islam’s main Sunni. The constitution provides for religious freedom, but state institutions must not oppose Muslim morality.

When the French colonized Algeria in the 19th century, they sought to reduce the influence of Islam, but the religion instead became a unifying force in Algeria’s resistance to the French. After independence in 1962, the government sought to control religious life by allowing the state to educate, appoint and pay imams (religious leaders) as well as by instituting state monopoly on building mosques.

In the 1980s, radical Muslims became part of some Algeria through protests against the regime’s imperfection and corruption, as well as social injustice and poverty. Many Islamists demanded that Algeria’s politics and justice system be shaped by the Quran’s commandments. The contradiction between state power and radical Islamists led to a bloody conflict in the 1990s. The conflict changed shape in 2006 when militant Islamist groups began to bomb in the terror network al-Qaeda’s name (see Modern History and Current Politics).

The constitution that has prevailed since 2016 provides for religious freedom, but there is also a law that says that a cult, such as Christianity, may only be practiced in places that are intended for worship. In countries where Islam is the majority religion, mission is a sensitive issue. It is forbidden by law to try to convert Muslims. However, the law is not always complied with and it is possible that magazines publish figures on how many have converted to or from Islam.

Algeria Population Pyramid 2020

  • Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Algeria, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.

Some religious expressions can be openly questioned, even when there is some form of Muslim tradition that supports them. In 2020, Algeria was agitated by a case where a 10-year-old girl died during expulsion in her home environment. The case also had legal consequences.

The number of Christians in Algeria is estimated at between 20,000 and 100,000, a majority of whom are foreigners. Algerians who convert from Islam to Christianity often have to exercise their faith in secret because of opposition from radical Muslims.

Above all, emigration has reduced the country’s Jewish minority from around 140,000 people before the liberation war in the 1950s to perhaps a few hundred today.



Murdered Christians are blessed

December 8

The Catholic Church blames seven French monks and twelve other church representatives who were murdered in the civil war in the 1990s. After the ceremony in Oran, the church states that it is the first time it is happening in a country with a majority Muslim population. Relatives of the murder victims are also welcomed at the large Ibd Badis Mosque in Oran. Blessing is a step in a process that can lead to a person being declared holy by the Church.

High-level meeting on Western Sahara

December 5

In Geneva, Switzerland, representatives of the Moroccan state and the liberation movement Polisario are on site for talks on Western Sahara, at the UN’s initiative. Neighboring countries Algeria and Mauritania have also been found. Three foreign ministers and the Speaker of the Sahrawi National Council, their parliament, participate. This is the first time since 2012 the UN has been given a similar meeting. The aim is to start regular negotiations on the future of Western Sahara, which has been occupied by Morocco since 1975 (see October 16).


FLN: The president is ready for re-election

October 28

President Bouteflika will stand for re-election in 2019 for a fifth term, announces the FLN government, which says the party’s central committee will soon make a formal decision on the candidacy. But the message from the party’s secretary general seems to have been rushed; two weeks later he resigns himself “for health reasons”. The 81-year-old president, who has disability following a stroke in 2013 and rarely appears in public, has not publicly announced his decision.

The President borrowed from Parliament

October 16

About 200 of the 462 members of the National Assembly implement a blockade. With a padlock and chain, they prevent President Said Bouhadja from reaching his job in Parliament’s lower house. The members – including members of President Bouteflyas and the party’s own party FLN – have long been dissatisfied with Bouhadja, who is accused, among other things, of waste, poor recruitment and neglect of office. According to AFP, it is not regulated by law how a president who refuses to resign should be handled, but the dissatisfied members are in the process of trying to get a replacement. A few days later, a declaration of confidence is voted against Bouhadja, but he says he will only resign if President Bouteflika so demands.

The UN makes a new approach to solving the Western Sahara issue

October 16

UN-led talks on the future of Western Sahara will take place in December. Like the governments of Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania, the police guerrilla has accepted an UN invitation. Morocco maintains that negotiations should be based on a proposal for Western Saharan autonomy within Morocco, while Polisario demands that Western Saharans should have a referendum on independence. When the UN got into a ceasefire between Morocco and the Polisario in 1990, a promise of referendum that was not fulfilled was included.


France honors loyal Algerians

September 21

Algerians who fought on the French side in the Algerian Liberation War will be honored with honors, President Emmanuel Macron announces. After the end of the war in 1962, some 60,000 Algerians who were loyal to the French were allowed to move to France, but the Algerians – called harkis – suffered discrimination. For the nearly 75,000 who remained in their home country, conditions became even more difficult, in many cases subjected to brutal revenge. Now seven people are awarded the French Honor Legion, the country’s foremost award, while 19 are awarded the National Merit Order, which is the second best.

Armed Forces managers are replaced

September 19

Algeria is redeveloping its defense leadership. Both the Air Force Inspector and the commander of the ground forces have been required to leave their posts, as have several military area commanders. The top chiefs of some police forces have also been replaced in recent months. The president is the commander-in-chief according to the constitution, but the defense leadership is usually perceived as “kingmaker” and it is unclear whether 81-year-old President Bouteflika, who is in poor health, intends to try to stay for a fifth term when the presidential election is held for eight months.

Macron promises open war archives

September 13

President Emmanuel Macron says that during the Algerian War of Independence 1954-62, France applied systems that allowed torture. Macron’s French allegations of allegations of Algerian abuse go beyond the statements made by former presidents, according to the AFP news agency. He also promises that the archives will be opened to those investigating thousands of people who disappeared during the war, ending 130 years of French colonialism in Algeria.


Cholera outbreak outside the capital

August 30th

Algeria witnesses its first outbreak of infectious disease cholera in over 20 years. At least two people have died and so far 59 cases have been confirmed, most in Boufarik a few miles from the capital, Algiers, where up to a hundred people are kept isolated in hospitals. Cholera causes severe diarrhea and vomiting. The infection is usually spread through unclean water or food.

The border crossing to Mauritania opens

August 19th

A border crossing is inaugurated between Mauritania and Algeria, the first to be set up in just over half a century which has passed since the two countries became independent from France. The transition is near the Algerian city of Tindouf and is said to have cost Algeria $ 10 million to build. In the desert area along the border, smuggling of weapons, oil and migrants is common, as are clashes between various armed groups. On the Mauritanian side, the area constitutes a military zone. The decision to open the border was made in November 2017.

Disagreement about views of churches

August 2

After a period when a number of churches and other religious institutions have been closed down by authorities, the UN Human Rights Council calls on Algeria to respect religious freedom. A key role in the matter, which may cause authorities to close church institutions, has a law that states that a building is needed for a building to be used for religious practice.


Bloggers are sentenced to prison

24th of May

The blogger Merzoug Touati is sentenced to ten years in prison for providing “foreign power” with intelligence. However, he is exempt from charges of manslaughter. Touati was arrested in January 2017 after he called for protests against a new finance law and published a video interview with a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Amnesty International considers Touati a prisoner of conscience.


Many dead in military airplane accident

April 11

President Bouteflika announces three days of country grief since all 257 people aboard a military aircraft died after a crash. The majority of victims are army employees and their relatives. The plane crashes shortly after take-off from a military airport outside Algiers. It was on its way to Tindouf in western Algeria, where the Western Saharan movement Polisario is based. About 30 Polisario members are reported to be among those killed.


Free Trade Agreement in Africa

21 March

Algeria is one of 44 Member States of the African Union (AU) that signs an agreement to set up an African Free Trade Area, AFCFTA .


Berber New Year becomes a holiday

January 12

Algeria’s Berber minority celebrates its New Year, which is for the first time a public holiday in Algeria. According to a Berber calendar that was resumed in the second half of the 20th century, the year 2968 now begins. President Bouteflika announced at the end of December that the Berber New Year would be a public holiday, in order to “strengthen national unity”. Two days before the New Year, the Ministry of the Interior also published for the first time a communique in the language of the Berbers tamazight (see Population and languages).

Algeria Religion