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Religious affairs minister defends mosque’s right to interfere in politics

By Blanca Madani, Washington, D.C., World Algerian Action Coalition, 31 January 2000

In another interview conducted by Libre Algerie, Religious Affairs Minister Mohammed Ghoulamah defended the intervention of the mosques in the referendum campaign in favor of the civil concord law.

In the name of the siyassa shar’ia (judicial policy) and the general interest, he affirmed that the policy which consists of pitting Algerians against each other is definitely excluded from the mosques, which must be society’s unifying place.

The minister’s goal is to obtain a more numerous and more qualified personnel in the mosques, and to focus his effort on the initial and continued training of the imams. The graduates of the Islamic University of Constantine and of the Islamic institutes of Algiers and Oran have been and will continue to be recruited to serve as imams in the mosques. Among them, some women (mourschidates) will teach just like the men and preach sermons, although they will not lead the prayer (reserved for the male-only imams). According to Ghoulamah, about fifty mourchidates play right now a very important role in the fatwa (religious decree).

He stated his wishes that academics offer conferences in the mosques on different topics, and asked why these academics do not preach and lead the Friday prayer to raise the level (of discussion) in the mosques.

Ghoulamah stated that since Algeria is a state whose religion is Islam, the state must oversee and protect the religion. In regard to the issue of polygamy and debate over the family code organized by the Algerian Islamic High Council (HCI), Ghoulamah stated that to center the problem on polygamy is to create a scapegoat to avoid the real problems that undermine our society: the decline of the marriage age, children without families, exploited woman. The minister also said that in his view polygamy hurts less than other phenomena more serious for the woman and for society in general: prostitution, cohabitation, single mothers and illegitimate children.

I do not deny the pain that a state of polygamy might produce, he said, and I do not encourage polygamy, but I cannot abolish it...because there is a Quranic text authorizing it. Mohammed Ghoulamah noted that it is sufficient to discourage this practice or to impose certain conditions, and to remind people that if the Prophet himself did not abolish polygamy, he, however did not accept that his son-in-law take a second spouse (a reference to Ali, the fourth Caliph in Sunni Islam, who was denied permission to take another spouse while married to Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter).