Following a referendum in 2009, the government introduced a law declaring Islam the state religion and entrenching Islamist tendencies. Comoros is member of the League of Arab States (LAS), as well as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Grave Violations
Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The constitution nominally protects freedom of thought, religion or belief, but in practice other laws and practices severely restrict this right. Article 1 of the 2009 referendum includes declaring Islam the state religion and declares Islam as the continuous inspiration for the principles and rules governing the Union.

The grand mufti is nominated by the president and is mandated to “counsel” government and the public on religious matters, being attached to government departments including the Ministry of Justice, Public Service, Administrative Reforms, Human Rights, and Islamic Affairs.

Education and children’s rights

There are no specific legal requirements around teaching the Qu’ran in school but a large majority of students learn Arabic and this is often mixed with Qu’ranic teaching.

Family, community and society

The grand mufti is provided a public platform, regularly addressing the country on radio, offering conservative Islamic views on a range of social topics. The government does not explicitly enforce restrictions on alcohol consumption nor modest dress, however societal pressures, especially at village level, are known to enforce these sorts of restrictions.

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Apostasy (from Islam) is a criminal offence in Comoros. As well as this there is serious negative social discrimination against ‘apostates’. (See “Highlighted cases” below.) Anyone with nationality cannot practice a faith other than Islam.

The demographic of Comoros is officially roughly 98% Sunni Muslim and the majority of the remaining 2% is Christian. Visitors and expatriates may practice other religions (but must not proselytise or display their faith publicly).

Proselytising of any religion other than Sunni Shafi’i Islam is prohibited in law. While foreign visitors and expatriates can practice their religion, they must do so in private. It was reported in 2006 that a Christian missionary who was having prayer meetings in his home, had his house raided and 4 men were detained for 3 months.

It was reported that what started as police investigating a 15 year old male apostate turned into a raid on a private residence and the arrest of both the homeowner and the Bible study leader. The boy, homeowner and study leader were all imprisoned along with a fourth man who was also a member of the Bible study group. Reportedly the study leader’s wife was also arrested and imprisoned. The wife was released a few days later while a court sentenced each of the four men to 3 months in prison. All five individuals remain anonymous.

There are other reports of societal discrimination against non-Muslims. Christians report being monitored on visits to the country and although the constitution claims religious freedom and the law do not technically prevent visitors practicing other faiths, many have claimed to feel that they cannot safely practice any other religion in Comoros. A Christian from Zanzibar reported the following anonymously to Worthy News:

“Comoros [is] a “horrifying environment for one to practice Christianity,” adding that it was not long after his arrival to the main island that he realized he was being monitored. He cut short his trip early last month. “I planned to take three different taxis to the airport” to evade authorities, he said. “But thank God on that day I met a Catholic priest who gave me a lift together with some Tanzanian soldiers to the airport.”

Freedom of the Press

While there is no specific restriction on press freedom most journalists will practice self-censorship in order to maintain their reputation and careers.

“The union government partially limited press freedom by publicly criticizing journalists who wrote controversial articles, and journalists on all three islands practiced self-censorship.”

Highlighted Cases

Musa Kim, a law student who left Islam in 2008, was beaten by his family. He was rescued and recovered in a secret location. The location was later identified and the house in which Kim was staying was razed. Kim survived but would not report any of the incidents to the police for fear that this would cause more trouble for him.