The Islamic religion in Algeria dominates its demography, with around 99% of the population being followers of the faith. The vast majority of them follow Sunni Islam. According to the estimations of the U.S. State Department statistics, there are only around 100,000 Christians, most of whom are Protestants, and approximately 2,000 Jews living in Algeria. Freedom of religion is regulated by the constitution which declares Islam a state religion. However, it prohibits any discrimination and allows freedom of worship and opinion.
Sunni Islam in Algeria constitutes the majority of the population. They believe that any able and pious man can be a religious leader. After the death of Muhammad, they gave leadership to his closest friend rather than his closest relative and cousin. Most government officials in Algeria are Sunnis and therefore, Algerian politics revolves around Sunni beliefs and practices. The constitution of Algeria incorporates all Islamic beliefs. No law in the country is allowed to contradict the Islamic faith and teachings. Most people in Algeria dress as Muslims and women put on a veil even if they are not Islam so as to avoid harassment in the streets.
Judaism in Algeria dates back to the 14th Century, when Jews migrated in large numbers into Algeria after being persecuted and driven from Spain. Six centuries later in 1934, the Muslims, incited by the actions of Nazi Germany, killed masses of Jews and injured many more. From 1940 and onward, the Jews were persecuted both socially and economically. After Algeria received independence from France, the government became even more hostile towards the Jews, forcing most of them to migrate to France or elsewhere. Judaism believes that God created the universe and every Jew has a personal relationship with Him. Most Jews put on Jewish attires the women wear the bedenora gown, takrita headgear, and a mosse or silk girdle. The men dress in a turban, sadriyyah, and sawal. They consider Judaism as a religion of the community, and they carry out many activities as a community. Their customs revolve around the home, and include observing practices such as male baby circumcision after eight days of life.
Protestantism in Algeria has had a presence in Algeria since the time of the French rule. They had their first synod in 1843 when the French Methodists began missionary work. In 1914, American Methodists joined the French Methodist in missionary and evangelical work. In 1972, the French and the Americans joined to form the Protestant Church of Algeria. Protestants number 50,000 to 100,000 people in Algeria. The government allows them to practice their faith without interference. However, they occasionally face persecutions from Islamic groups. The government allows them to carry out humanitarian activities as long as they are discreet and do not proselytize openly. The Christians meet in homes to avoid being targets of persecution groups. The government recognizes the Protestant Church of Algeria as a Christian organization.
There are few Shiite Muslims in Algeria, a remnant of the population of those who were around in the Middle Ages. In the late 9th Century, Abdullah started a movement and managed to convert many of the Kutama Berbers to Shia Islam. Today, they comprise around 2% of the total population in Algeria. The Sunnis do not consider Shiite Muslims as true Muslims. They only recognize twelve Imams as their religious leaders and believe that the Sunni leaders illegally reinstated the wrong people into leadership after the death of Prophet Muhammad.
Religious Freedom and Tolerance in Algeria
The Christians and Jews are generally allowed to practice their faith without interference from the government. The law recognizes marriages between the Muslim men and non-Muslim women but not Muslim women to non-Muslim men. The children follow the religion of their fathers. The non-Muslims live under threats by the armed Islamic groups who try to rid the country of any persons who do not share their beliefs. Other religions in Algeria include Ibadi Islam, Roman Catholic Christianity, the Baha'i Faith, Ahmadi Islam, and atheism.