The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has released its annual report.
(Page 2 of 3)
Most striking is the veritable destruction of Iraq’s Christian community, which predates the arrival of Islam. The original population of 1.4 million is down to about 500,000. The USCIRF quotes “Christian leaders warning that the result of this flight may be ‘the end of Christianity in Iraq.’”
*Nigeria. An estimated 12,000 have died in sectarian violence over the last decade. Reports the USCIRF, “The government of Nigeria continues to respond inadequately and ineffectively to recurrent communal and sectarian violence.” The tragic result has been more violence: “Years of inaction by Nigeria’s federal, state and local governments as created a climate of impunity, resulting in thousands of deaths.”
Although Christians and Muslims share responsibility, violence has been concentrated in the Muslim-majority states to the north, where Sharia law has been widely imposed. The legislation is supposed to be applicable only to Muslims, but “some states in recent years have instituted or tolerated discriminatory practices based on religious precepts,” including bans on public religious activities, notes the USCIRF.
*North Korea. This probably is the most repressive state on earth. Observes the Commission: “The government controls most aspects of daily life, including religious activity, which is allowed only in government-operated religious ‘federations’ or in a small number of government-approved ‘house churches.’ Other public and private religious activity is prohibited. Anyone discovered engaging in clandestine religious activity is subject to discrimination, arrest, arbitrary detention, disappearance, torture, and public execution.”
*Pakistan. The Commission paints a dark picture: “Systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief continue in Pakistan. Religiously discriminatory legislation, such as the anti-Ahmadi laws and blasphemy laws foster an atmosphere of intolerance. Sectarian and religiously-motivated violence is chronic, and the government has failed to protect members of religious minorities from such violence and to bring perpetrators to justice. Growing religious extremism threatens the freedoms of expression and religion or belief, as well as other human rights, for everyone in Pakistan, particularly women, members of religious minorities, and those in the majority Muslim community who hold views deemed un-Islamic by extremists.”
The blasphemy laws are routinely abused, resulting “in the lengthy detention of, and sometimes violence against,” religious minorities. Most frightening has been persistent sectarian violence.
*Saudi Arabia. This U.S. ally avidly promotes religious totalitarianism. The USCIRF points to “Systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom continue in Saudi Arabia.” Forget King Abdullah’s liberalizing pretensions: “the Saudi government persists in banning all forms of public religious expression other than that of the government’s own interpretation of one school of Sunni Islam and also interferes with private religious practice.” Despite official promises to tolerate expatriate workers worshipping in their homes, the government’s religious police regularly raid such gatherings and arrest non-Muslims. Lengthy imprisonment and torture await those arrested for religious offenses.
*Sudan. With the end of Sudan’s civil war, the situation has improved in south Sudan, where Christians and animists predominate. But religious persecution remains distressingly common.
Reports the Commission: “Systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of freedom of religion or belief continue to occur in Sudan. Violations include: the efforts by the Arab Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum to impose Sharia on Muslims and non-Muslims alike; governmental promotion of Sudan’s identity as being Arab and Muslims, thus effectively relegating non-Aras and non-Muslims to a secondary status in the society; the criminalization of conversion from Islam, a crime punishable by death, and the intense scrutiny, intimidation, and even torture of suspected converts by government security personnel; the denial of the rights of non-Muslims to public religious expression and persuasion, while allowing Muslims to proselytize; and the difficulty in obtaining permission to build churches, as compared to government funding of mosque construction.”
*Turkmenistan. Human rights have improved in recent years, but abuses remain rife. According to the USCIRF, the country’s religious law includes: “intrusive registration criteria; the requirement that the government be informed of all financial support received from abroad; a ban on worship in private homes and the public wearing of religious garb except by religious leaders; and severe and discriminatory restrictions on religious education.”
There is no recognition of conscientious objectors. The government interferes with internal church governance. Unregistered religious groups face systematic legal disabilities. Production of religious literature is banned. Worse, “in recent years, members of religious communities, including Muslims, Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a Hare Krishna, reportedly received prison terms or were sent into internal exile due to their religious convictions.”
*Uzbekistan. Reports the Commission: “The Uzbek government harshly penalizes individuals for independent religious activity, regardless of their religious affiliation. A restrictive religion law severely limits the rights of all religious communities and facilitates the Uzbek government’s control over them, particularly the majority Muslim community.”
Religions must register with the government: “Unregistered religious congregations may be subject to massive fines and police raids, as well as threats of physical violence, detentions, and arrest.” Yet the authorities routinely refuse to accept registrations from disfavored churches, including Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals, and others. The government also misuses laws against “extremism” to persecute the same groups, as well as Muslims.
*Vietnam. This communist state harshly restricts religious liberty. According to the USCIRF, the regime “continues to control government-approved religious communities, severely restrict independent religious practice, and repress individuals and groups viewed as challenging political authority.”
In fact, religious liberty is under sustained assault: “individuals continue to be imprisoned or detained for reasons related to their religious activity or religious freedom advocacy; police and government officials are not held fully accountable for abuses; independent religious activity remains illegal; legal protections for government-approved religious organizations are both vague and subject to arbitrary or discriminatory interpretations based on political factors; and new converts to some Protestant and Buddhist communities face discrimination and pressure to renounce their faith.” Moreover, the Commission charges that dozens of people remain in prison for their faith and religious rights advocates have been threatened and imprisoned.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online