In addition, the measure forbids that any religion except Islam be practiced outside authorized edifices.
The law follows growing efforts by evangelical Christians to bring citizens of this North African nation into their fold. Missionaries trying to convert Algerians have been known to be active in the Berber region east of the capital.
An official of the Ministry of Religious Affairs alleged this week that Christian evangelists here entice Algerians with offers of visas or financial help.
Such groups “profit from the confusion of youths to convert them,” Dr. Mohamed Aissat, the ministry’s director of orientation and teaching, said Wednesday on Algerian radio. “Numerous youths have repented, returning to Islam,” he said.
Aissat stressed that the law was not aimed at the Christian or the Jewish faiths, which are recognized by Algeria. There are some 5,000 declared Christians in Algeria, a French colony until 1962.
Aissat noted that Muslim imams face penalties should they exploit Islam to send a political message.
“The exploitation of Islam created terrorism,” Aissat said, referring to the deadly Islamic insurgency that racked the country for nearly 15 years with sporadic violence continuing. “We don’t want that any religion, Islam, Christianity or Judaism, to be used to propagandize and destabilize Algerian society.”
He did not explain how evangelists might be using their fervor to spread propaganda.
Algeria’s parliament adopted the law penalizing those who proselytize on March 20.
By AOMAR OUALI Associated Press Writer