Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 July 2014, 15:15 GMT

2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Senegal

Publisher United States Department of State
Author Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Publication Date 26 October 2009
Cite as United States Department of State, 2009 Report on International Religious Freedom - Senegal, 26 October 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ae8610e4c.html [accessed 31 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

[Covers the period from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009]

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion.

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period.

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice.

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 76,000 square miles and a population of 12.5 million. Islam is the predominant religion, practiced by approximately 94 percent of the population. Most citizens practice a syncretic form of Islam, combining Islamic practices with indigenous cultural beliefs and values. There also is an active Christian community (4 percent of the population) that includes Roman Catholics, Protestant denominations, and syncretistic Christian-animist groups. The remaining 2 percent practices exclusively indigenous religious beliefs or no religion.

The country is ethnically and religiously diverse. Although there is significant integration of all groups, Christians are concentrated in the west and south, while groups who practice indigenous religious beliefs live mainly in the east and south.

Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious Freedom

Legal/Policy Framework

The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. The law at all levels protects this right in full against abuse, either by governmental or private actors.

The Constitution specifically defines the country as a secular state and provides for the free practice of religious beliefs, provided that public order is maintained.

Unlike members of other religious groups, Muslims can choose Islam-based laws contained in the family code for marriage and inheritance. Civil court judges can preside over civil and customary law cases, but many disputes are turned over to religious leaders for adjudication, particularly in rural areas.

The Government provides direct financial and material assistance to religious organizations, primarily to maintain or rehabilitate places of worship or to underwrite special events. All religious groups have access to these funds, and there is often competition among religious groups to obtain them.

The Government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: Tabaski, Tamkharit, the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, Korite, Easter Monday, Ascension, Pentecost, Feast of the Assumption, All Saints' Day, and Christmas.

Religious organizations are independent of the Government and administer their affairs without government interference. The civil and commercial codes require any group, religious or otherwise, to register with the Minister of the Interior in order to acquire legal status as an association. Registration enables an association to conduct business, own property, establish a bank account, and receive financial contributions from private sources. Registered religious groups and registered nonprofit organizations are exempt from many forms of taxation. The Government generally grants registration, and the Minister of Interior must have a legal basis for refusing registration.

Religious nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) obtain permission to operate from the Ministry of Women, Family, and Social Development. The Government monitors foreign religious NGOs to ensure that their activities adhere to their stated objectives.

The Government allows for four hours of religious education per week in state-owned elementary schools. The religion taught is based on demand from parents, whether Christian or Muslim. An estimated 700,000 students participated in these programs.

Private schools are free to provide religious education. The Ministry of Education provides funds to schools operated by religious institutions that meet national education standards. Christian schools, which have a long and successful experience in education, received the largest share of this government funding. The majority of students attending Christian schools are Muslims. Religious charities also received government support.

The Government also operates Islamic schools, which are growing in popularity and include an estimated 50,000 students. During the reporting period, eight new middle schools were opened in Louga, Matam, Kaffrine, Diourbel, and Kaolack; in addition, three other middle schools and one high school were under construction in these regions. The demand for such religious schools, which combine Arabic and French instruction, is very high. In 2008 citizens made requests for 600 new Islamic schools; however, the Government lacked the funding and capacity to fulfill the high demand.

The Government encourages and assists Muslim participation in the annual Hajj, providing hundreds of free plane tickets to citizens each year for the pilgrimage. The Government provides similar assistance for an annual Catholic pilgrimage to the Vatican.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

The Government generally respected religious freedom in practice. There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the reporting period.

The Government provided facilities to ease access to the Saint-Lazarre cemetery in Dakar, resolving concerns expressed in March 2008 about its plan to expropriate part of the cemetery to erect office buildings.

There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States or who had not been allowed to be returned to the United States.

Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom

There were no reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice. Christian and Muslim leaders continued to maintain a public dialogue.

Section IV. U.S. Government Policy

The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Through the Embassy's Speakers Program, International Visitor Leadership Program, calls to religious leaders, U.S. Government Program Alumni Association, editorials, digital video conferences, and other public outreach tools and events, the Embassy promoted religious pluralism and open dialogue between religious groups.

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