Muslim-majority countries score worst across a range of measures in a comprehensive new study tracking government restrictions on religion as well as social hostilities involving religion around the world.
The study by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, released Tuesday, found that nearly one-third of the world’s population lives in countries where religion-related government restrictions or social hostilities rose significantly between mid-2006 and mid-2009.
[…]A separate index in the Pew report graded countries according to levels of social hostility involving religion. Eight of the top ten countries in that index were Muslim-majority states – Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Egypt. The other two, India and Israel, have Hindu and Jewish majorities respectively, and large Muslim minorities.
In an index measuring official interference with religious practice, 18 out of 26 countries (69 percent) whose government “prohibits worship or religious practices of one or more religious groups as a general policy,” were OIC members – Brunei, Chad, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The other eight were Burma, China, Eritrea, Laos, Madagascar, Monaco, Tuvalu and Vietnam.
A grading of countries where conversion from one religion to another is restricted was also dominated by Islamic states, accounting for 25 out of 29 countries listed (86 percent). They were Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
The four non-Muslim countries were Eritrea, India, Israel and Vietnam.
Taking the conversion issue a step further, among 13 countries where there were incidents of physical violence over conversions from one religion to another, 10 (77 percent) were Muslim – Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Comoros, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria. The other three were India, Mongolia and Nepal.
I found it interesting that the tolerant religious pluralists in India are actually not very tolerant of conversions at all. You’ll recall that there are many Hindus who push for anti-conversion laws. That doesn’t sound like pluralism to me – it sounds like totalitarianism.
The Pew report also examined the issue of “defamation” of religion, tracking countries where various penalties are enforced for apostasy, blasphemy or criticism of religions.
“While such laws are sometimes promoted as a way to protect religion, in practice they often serve to punish religious minorities whose beliefs are deemed unorthodox or heretical,” it said.
It found 21 Muslim countries in that category – Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Brunei, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Western Sahara and Yemen.
The study also found 23 non-Muslim countries where penalties are enforced for such criticism of religion – Austria, Brazil, Burma, El Salvador, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Iceland, India, Italy, Malta, Mauritius, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Singapore, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
This whole article is worth reading. Religious liberty is not as common as you might think if you are an American.