Getty Images

Muslim Mob Burns Christian Church

Jeff Katz
June 18, 2019 - 6:00 pm

A mob of Muslim activists ransacked and set fire to a Christian church in Niger this weekend to protest the arrest of an influential imam.

On Saturday night, a large group of protesters in Maradi, Niger torched the Assembly of God church along with the pastor's car. 

Witnesses said that groups of Muslim demonstrators laid barricades across the road and burnt old tires in protest of the arrest of Cheick Rayadoune, the imam of the mosque of Zaria.

Police arrested Rayadoune earlier on Saturday after he had preached against a new government bill on the organization of the exercise of worship, calling the proposed legislation “anti-Islam.” After being detained for several hours, he was released. 

A senior official of Niger’s Ministry of the Interior said there is “nothing anti-Islamic” in the proposed legislation, which is the result of extensive consultation and is intended to counter measures advocated by “obscurantist terrorist organizations” in the country.

The bill still needs to be adopted by Parliament to become law.

Imam Rayadoune has since said he was misinformed about the bill's contents, thinking it would impose same-sex marriage. He also said he would correct that in his upcoming sermon Friday. Police have detained 178 Muslim protestors as a result of Saturday's violence.

Niger has a population of more than 20 million people, and only about 1-2 percent are Christian. Most are Muslim.

It's also not the first time Christians have been recipients of violence in the country. After the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed by French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015, anti-Christian mobs killed ten people in Niamey and destroyed most of the churches in the capital, as well as in Zinder, the second largest city in the country.