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Western Sahara PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 19 September 2011 20:18
Religious Freedom Ranking:
2 out of 5 stars: Poor

Western SaharaWestern Sahara is currently controlled by the government of the Kingdom of Morocco thus the laws and practice of religion and the condition of religious freedom are basically the same as in the nation of Morocco. The Constitution of the Kingdom of Morocco provides for the freedom to practice one's religion. However, Muslims may not convert to another faith, and non-Muslims may not preach to Muslims. In practice in Western Sahara, only one Spanish woman was cited for proselytizing to Muslims. She finished her work and left the country of her own accord.

Of the 450,000 residents, most are Sunni Maliki Muslims. A small group of Catholics live and worship freely. “Maraboutism” (Islamic veneration of religious figures and the tombs in which they are believed to have been buried) exists in the Western Sahara. The small foreign community working for the United Nations Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) has many non-Muslims.

Religious freedom and women: The situation of women in the region is similar to that in Morocco with Shari’a law guiding the status of women. Female genital mutilation exists in remote areas, it is uncertain if it is a tribal practice or a religious one.

Religious violence: There are no reports of religious violence, but as the sovereignty of the Western Sahara remains the subject of a dispute between the Government of Morocco and the Polisario Front, which seeks independence for the region, this puts a strain on people living in the region. The Moroccan Government assumed administration of the northern two-thirds of the Western Sahara after Spain withdrew from the area in 1975, and to Oued Ed Dahab after Mauritania renounced its claim in 1979. The Moroccan Government has undertaken a sizable economic development program in the part of the Western Sahara under its control. Since 1973 the Polisario Front has challenged successively the claims of Spain, Mauritania, and Morocco to the territory. Moroccan and Polisario forces had fought intermittently from 1975 to the 1991 until a cease-fire was established and the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping contingent to the area, known by its French initials, MINURSO continues until today.


2010 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report on Western Sahara No changes in religious freedom status during this period.

Western Sahara - New World Encyclopedia

Last Updated on Tuesday, 07 February 2012 20:37