18 January 2014

Religious persecution on the rise

The Pew Research Center recently published a study of religious persecution over the period 2007-12 and the results aren't pretty. Of 198 countries and territories included in the study, 29 per cent had high or very high government restrictions on religion and 33 per cent had high or very high social hostilities involving religion. Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions and Pakistan the highest level of social hostilities. Over the period, religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas.

Religious minorities suffered abuse in forty-seven per cent of the countries for acts perceived as offensive or threatening to the majority faith, and in 39 per cent of the countries threats or violence were used to compel people to adhere to religious norms.

Women were harassed over religious dress in a third of the countries, and religion-related mob violence occurred in a quarter. About a fifth of the countries suffered religion-related terrorism and sectarian violence.

In 2012, the top five countries for very high social hostilities involving religion were Pakistan, India, Somalia, Israel and Iraq. The top five for very high government restrictions on religion were Egypt, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia. Also in 2012, the Middle East and North Africa saw both the highest levels of social hostilities and of government restrictions.

Government restrictions and social hostilities didn't necessarily coincide. For example, Jews faced social harassment in many more countries than they faced government harassment, whereas Sikhs faced government harassment in more countries than they faced hostility by groups or individuals.

That discrimination and hostility are occurring because of religion, either by or to members of various faiths, isn't surprising—bigotry and violence have always followed religion around. The extent surprises me, however, as does the fact that, in recent years at least, it is increasing.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder how often religion is a primary cause of persecution or just an identifier.

    For example, we of what is considered the Christian part of the world have earned a reputation in other parts for our aggressive, sometimes predatory ways. Yet we, too, have a bigoted perception of Muslims based on their dramatic, although modest, demonstrations of violence.

    What of racial profiling? When you selectively identify Middle Eastern traits, chances are you're singling out Muslims.

    I suspect much persecution is the result, at least in part, of the cancer of religious fundamentalism be it Muslim, Judaic, Christian or Hindu. Fundamentalism of any stripe posits all other religious belief as needing to be displaced.