The constitution and most other laws and policies protect religious freedom. However, an October law grants the Ministry of Religious Affairs increased oversight of Djibouti’s mosques, including of messages disseminated during Friday prayers.
Although the constitution states that Islam is the state religion, the law does not impose sanctions on those who do not observe Islamic teachings or practice other religious beliefs. The constitution does not specifically prohibit proselytizing.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs has authority over all Islamic matters and institutions, including mosques, private religious schools (together with the education ministry), and religious events. The ministry’s High Islamic Council has a mandate to give advice on all Muslim concerns. The council also is responsible for coordinating all Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in the country. The foreign ministry coordinates the activities of non-Islamic NGOs.
There are approximately 40 private Islamic schools. The public school system is secular. Public schools do not teach religion.
The president and other government employees, including magistrates, are required to take religious oaths. While there is no penalty established by law for noncompliance, it remains an official custom.
Muslims resolve matters such as marriage, divorce, and inheritance in family courts whose code includes elements of civil law and Islamic law. Civil courts address the same matters for non-Muslims.
The government allows civil marriage only for non-Muslim citizens and foreign residents. Muslims must marry in a religious ceremony.
The government requires that a religious group register by submitting an application to the Interior Ministry, which investigates the group. Foreign religious groups have the added step of gaining approval from the Foreign Ministry. Once approved, the group signs a two-year agreement detailing the scope of the group’s activities. The approval process is lengthy due to required background investigations and the government’s limited administrative capacity.
The government permits Muslim foreign clergy and missionaries, as well as a small number of Somali Christian missionaries, to perform charitable works and sell religious books. The government permits Western non-Muslim missionaries to enter the country on tourist visas and to operate NGOs. The government licenses foreign missionary groups to operate orphanages.
The government observes the following religious holidays as national holidays: the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad, the Ascension of the Prophet, Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and the Islamic New Year.