The government used the law prohibiting apostasy to punish a man whom it alleged affronted Islam. On January 2, authorities arrested Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed (better known as “M’kheytir”), a young blogger who had published an article they said criticized the Prophet and implicitly blamed the nation’s religious establishment for the plight of the country’s “forgeron” (blacksmith) caste. Charged as an apostate, Ould Mohamed remained imprisoned throughout the year. Although the conditions of his confinement were unknown, detention facilities across the country lacked reliable access to health care and were poorly ventilated or unsanitary. On December 24, following a two-day trial, the criminal court in Nouadhibou found Ould Mohamed guilty of apostasy and sentenced him to death. At year’s end, Ould Mohamed remained in jail, and the government had not announced a date for his execution.
On March 4, rolling protests swept through the capital, leaving at least one dead and several dozen injured. The unrest began with an early morning demonstration in front of the presidential palace, where protestors vented their outrage at a report, later shown to be unfounded, alleging four unidentified men had desecrated a Quran at the Khaled bin Walid Mosque in northern Nouakchott. Comprised of between 3,000 and 5,000 participants, the demonstrations turned riotous before mid-day and continued through late evening. Authorities responded with tear gas and live gunfire when confronted with disorderly crowds, which blocked capital roadways with burning tires and other makeshift obstacles. Police eventually arrested several dozen demonstrators, some of whom were reportedly Quranic students. Although sporadic demonstrations continued through March 5, calm returned to the capital on the following day. Those arrested were released shortly thereafter.
The government continued to collaborate with independent Islamic religious groups. Throughout the year, the Ministry of Interior and Decentralization organized a series of workshops on combating extremism, radicalization, and terrorism in all 13 wilayas (provinces). On September 14, the MIATE organized a symposium for approximately 400 imams from across the country. The two-day conference focused on the responsibility of religious authorities to assist the government in its efforts to eradicate what the government termed “the vestiges” of slavery.
An unofficial government requirement restricted non-Muslims to holding worship services only in the few recognized Christian churches. There were Roman Catholic and other Christian churches in Nouakchott, Atar, Zouerate, Nouadhibou, and Rosso.
The government provided funding to mosques and Islamic schools.
The government launched Al Mahdra TV, a Quranic television channel and maintained a Quranic radio station. Both stations sponsored regular programming on themes of moderation in Islam.
The government prohibited printing and distributing non-Islamic religious materials, but possession of these materials was legal.
The government paid monthly salaries of 50,000 ougiya ($164) to 200 imams who passed an examination by a government-funded panel of imams and headed mosques and Islamic schools. It also paid monthly salaries of 25,000-100,000 ougiya ($82-$328) to 30 members of the National Union of Mauritanian Imams, an authority established to regulate the relationship between the religious community and the MIATE.
Although attendance at state-mandated religious classes was ostensibly mandatory, many students did not attend for various ethno-linguistic, religious, and personal reasons. Students were able to advance in school and graduate with diplomas despite missing these classes, provided they otherwise performed satisfactorily.