Mohammad Cheikh Ould Mohammad (better known as “MKheytir”) remained in prison under sentence of death following his December 2014 conviction for apostasy. An appeals court accepted his application for an appeal, but the court had not scheduled a hearing date as of the end of the year. MKheytir had published an online article the government said criticized the Prophet Mohammad and implicitly blamed the nation’s religious establishment for the plight of the country’s forgeron (blacksmith) caste, which traditionally has suffered discrimination. MKheytir’s lawyer stated that the case has lacked due process, but also said that the delay in his appeal hearing was still within legal norms. Protesters called for the death of the prominent human rights activist who defended MKheytir, Aminetou Mint El Moctar. Authorities issued an arrest warrant for the leader of the protests, Yahdih Ould Dahi, but did not arrest him.
In April a Mauritanian citizen and U.S. resident sparked public protests for a blog posting deemed to have been offensive to the Prophet Mohammad. In May the government’s High Council for Fatwa and Administrative Appeals called on the competent authorities to apply the “legitimate punishment” to the individual. In its statement, the High Council said that it “deplores and condemns” his articles and reiterated its calls to punish “this apostate and his ilk” who offend Islam.
Although there is no specific legal prohibition against non-Muslims proselytizing, in practice the government prohibited such activity through the broad interpretation of the constitution stating Islam shall be the religion of the people and of the state. Authorized churches were able to conduct services within their premises, but could not proselytize publicly. No public expression of religion except Islam was allowed.
An unofficial government requirement restricted non-Muslims worship to the few recognized Christian churches. There were Roman Catholic and other Christian churches in Nouakchott, Kaedi, Atar, Zouerate, Nouadhibou, and Rosso. Mauritanian citizens were not allowed to attend non-Islamic religious services, which were restricted to foreigners.
The government continued to prohibit printing and distributing non-Islamic religious materials, but possession of these materials remained legal. In January the Gendarmerie arrested six South Korean expatriates for distributing the Bible in Gorgol province. In July individuals who said they were Egyptian nationals distributed copies of the Bible in Nouakchott, which resulted in complaints to local police. The authorities took no actions against either the South Korean or the Egyptian nationals.
In May a local association to combat extremism among youth groups organized an awareness campaign in the capital under the auspices of the Ministry of Youth and Sports to discuss the phenomenon of religious extremism among young people.
The government continued to provide funding to mosques and Islamic schools.
The government maintained a Quranic television channel and a Quranic radio station. Both stations sponsored regular programming on themes of moderation in Islam.
The government paid monthly salaries of 50,000 ougiya ($152) 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 ($76-$303) to 30 members of the National Union of Mauritanian Imams, an authority established to regulate the relationship between the religious community and the MIATE.
Islamic classes remained part of the educational curriculum, but the results in these classes did not count significantly in the national exams that determine further placement. Additionally, many students reportedly did not attend these religious classes for various ethnolinguistic, religious, and personal reasons. Students were able to advance in school and graduate with diplomas despite missing these classes, provided they performed otherwise satisfactorily in other mandatory subjects. In August the Ministry of National Education and the MIATE reaffirmed the importance of the Islamic education program at the secondary level; the ministries stated the government considered religious education a tool to protect children and society against extremism and to promote Islamic culture.