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Religion in Algeria

Population

In 2019, Algeria had an average population density of 18 residents per km2. Only the mountain and coastal areas in the north, which receive rainfall, are densely populated. About 95 percent of the population is concentrated to 12 percent of the country's area. In the Sahara, only the oases are inhabited.

About 73 percent of the population lives in cities. The largest cities in 2010 were Algiers (2.2 million residents), Oran (678,300) and Constantine (460,100). In order to counter the move of farmers to the cities, the state has accelerated programs to strengthen the agricultural economy.

According to Countryaah data, the population consists mainly of Berber, the majority of whom are Arab. A number of Bedouin groups live in the desert areas. Among the Berber are the agricultural cabillaries (3.3 million) in the country's northern mountainous regions, Shawia (1.8-2 million) who support themselves as shepherds in the Tunisian borderlands, Mozabs (256,000) living in the Northeast and a number of groups that are found in the deserts of the south, the most important of which are the mainly nomadic Tuaregs (40,000) in Ahaggar.

Since the country's independence, most of the Jews who previously existed in the cities of Algiers, Constantine and Oran have emigrated. Groups (French, Italians, Maltese) of European origin have also emigrated to a large extent.

Language

The official language is Arabic. The majority of the population (about 80%) speak various forms of Arabic gastric dialect. Berber languages ​​are spoken by a large minority. As a second language, the former colonial language French has a strong position.

Religion

Islam is state religion in Algeria. The dominant direction (97.9%) is Sunni Islam of the Malikite rite (see Islamic Law, Islamic Law Schools). A small minority are Mozabites, most of whom profess a form of Islam, ibadiya, which differs from both Sunni and Shia. by claiming that it was founded about 60 years after Muhammad's death, but also on some central issues of faith.

The Christians - Catholics, Protestants of various estimations and Orthodox - make up about 0.2% of the population. The number of Jews is estimated at less than 0.1% (2010) or just under 600 people. When Algeria became free from France in 1962, the majority of Christians and Jews fled (in 1962 the number of Jews in Algeria was estimated at 230,000). A large part of the remaining non-Muslims emigrated in the 1990s after many were subjected to Islamist terrorist acts.

The Ministry of Religion exercises political control over Islamist groups, including through strong regulation of religious sermons and by mosques becoming propaganda centers where the government's actions are praised. In 2007, a National Commission on Religious Devotion was created with the task of registering, approving and monitoring non-Muslim religions. Attempts to convert Muslims have been criminalized and Muslims who have converted to Christianity have been sentenced to prison for practicing a religion that is unauthorized or for insulting Islam. Algerian Christians have difficulty practicing their religion because they do not get their applications approved, which has led to the closure of several unauthorized churches.

During the liberation struggle from France, the Muslim identity of the population came to act as the unifying national marker, as the country was not linguistically and ethnically unified. This "national Islam" was questioned when a religious opposition to the ruling party gradually emerged. Inspired by other Islamic movements in the Muslim world (Muslim Brotherhood), in connection with strong popular demonstrations in the late 1980s, the Islamic Rescue Front (FIS) was formed, with the goal of Algeria becoming an Islamic state.

The FIS had strong popular support and was proclaimed victorious in the 1991 parliamentary elections. The situation developed into a civil war between the military regime, the state security forces (DRS) and various Islamist factions. However, the reciprocal acts of violence, which resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, declined in the early 2000s.

Through violent acts in the 1990s, the more radical direction of Islamism, represented by the GIA, lost its appeal. After President Bouteflika's accession in 1999, religion, even the more moderate forms of Islam, moved more in the background as a political phenomenon. Algeria banned parties that define themselves by invoking religion or language. In the 2012 election, however, Islamist parties were allowed to stand again.

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