The persistent myth that Islam was banned in Angola
False reports that Angola has become the first country in the world to ban Islam have re-emerged. Clare Spencer asks if this is linked to the US presidential election. “Muslims are super mad right now,” writes Frank Lea in Freedom Daily.
“Angolan authorities to ban Islam, which they consider a cult, NOT a religion,” continues the website Liberty Is Viral.
The story gives details of a mosque being knocked down in the Zango neighbourhood of Angola’s capital, Luanda.
“They see what Muslims are doing to non-Muslims, particularly in Africa, and are taking steps to prevent it from happening in Angola,” the story published by ReaganCoalition.com says.
“Maybe the USA could learn a thing or two from Angola,” adds the site America First Patriots, which says 80 mosques have been bulldozed.
But the original story isn’t true.
A contact in Luanda took this photograph last month of a mosque that was still functioning:
One Angolan Muslim, Adam Campos, told the BBC that in fact the Muslim community is “growing every day”.
But Mr Campos says his own mosque was closed by the government a few years ago and, in the same period, some were destroyed.
This is where the misunderstanding that Islam had been banned appears to have come from.
He explains that mosques were destroyed because the government said they did not have permission to be built.
He adds that not all of them were closed, and he went to other ones to pray, although sometimes people chose to worship outside his closed mosque.
Then, after a few months, and lawyers had got involved, his three-floor mosque in the Hoji-ya-Henda area of Luanda was re-opened.
“Islam is not banned in Angola, we face some difficulty like other minority religious groups, because we are not recognised by the government.”
Now “things are calm, and I hope they continue this way” he says.
A group in London was so outraged that they held a protest outside the Angolan embassy, which photographer Peter Marshall documented.
The South Africa newspaper the Daily Maverick busted the myth shortly after it first emerged.
“No” it said “Angola has not ‘banned Islam’. It’s a little more complicated than that”.
Many, including the Daily Mail, quoted Angola’s Culture Minister Rosa Cruz e Silva as saying that mosques would be closed until further notice.
One detail, which gave the story more credence, was that the government had denied a Muslim group’s applications for legal recognition.
This does appear to be correct.
It is what Mr Campos was referring to when he said that Islam was not recognised by the government.
However, it does not appear to be specifically anti-Muslim as a lot of other religious groups are also not recognised.
So we have the global media playing playing telephone that had a teeny-tiny kernel of truth and went around the world.