The Spectacle Blog

Government Restrictions on Religion Are Rising

By on 8.17.11 | 9:51AM

Religious liberty is on the decline worldview, and Christians and Muslims are the target of much of the religious persecution that exists, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Because several of the nations with the highest religious restrictions also are among the most populous (such as China and India), about one-third of the world’s population experienced an increase in curtailed religious freedom between 2006 and 2009. In the United States, the level of religious freedom remained largely unchanged during that period.

On specific religions, Pew found:

Over the three-year period studied, incidents of either government or social harassment were reported against Christians in 130 countries (66%) and against Muslims in 117 countries (59%). Buddhists and Hindus – who together account for roughly one-fifth of the world’s population and who are more geographically concentrated than Christians or Muslims – faced harassment in fewer places; harassment was reported against Buddhists in 16 countries (8%) and against Hindus in 27 countries (14%).

In proportion to their numbers, some smaller religious groups faced especially widespread harassment. Although Jews comprise less than 1% of the world’s population, government or social harassment of Jews was reported in 75 countries (38%).

One issue the report doesn’t parse out is that most religious harassment and persecution of Muslims originates with other Muslims (such as Shia versus Sunni or vice versa).

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