Religion, Churches, Tradition
Islam is the official religion in Algeria and is practiced by the majority of the country's inhabitants. Sunni Islam or Muslim religion permeates Algeria in practically every aspect of life. Whilst not all followers are orthodox, Islam gives Algeria its cultural and social identity and its principles govern much of the nations ethics and behavior. Whilst Islam is the dominant religion in Algeria, there are small numbers of Christians, Jews, atheists and others.
Following the revolution, various groups have tried to influence Algeria into becoming an Islamic Arab socialist state. A ministry has been set up in the Algerian government to take care of religious affairs. Whilst Islamic awareness is promoted in Algeria, religious tolerance is high in the country. People of all religions are afforded the right to worship and are respected. Muslims gather for religious worship at mosques throughout the country. The Imam of the mosque holds the sermons every Friday as well as taking the lead in weddings and funerals. Imam’s are often approached when followers of Islam are seeking advice or guidance. A Superior Islamic Council has been established in Algeria to encourage Muslims in the country to understand Islamic teachings as well as to consider the impact of religion on society.
Islam plays a large political role in Algeria and three views can be identified. The first is the Islamist view, where Islam is regarded as all-embracing and must be part of every aspect of life, both private and public. The second is the secular view, where Islam is seen as a guideline allowing certain deviations. The third is the traditional view, perceived in the elderly and rural communities.
Roman Catholicism is the largest church of Christendom in Algeria and upholds the leadership of the Pope. There are four dioceses in Algeria and one archdiocese. During French rule there were more than one million Roman Catholics in Algeria. After independence these numbers dwindled as many left the country. Today they number only in the lower thousands.
With Islam as the most widely practiced religion in Algeria, visitors need to be aware of what is culturally acceptable. If you enter a mosque it is important to remove your shoes and women should always be dressed modestly. By understanding a few basic rules of etiquette and Islamic beliefs you will avoid offending anyone.