Washington, D.C. – Muslim nations dominated a new report released by a federal religious freedom commission, which outlines the worst violators of religious freedom around the globe.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom was created under the International Religious Freedom Act, and reports to the President, Secretary of State and Congress regarding the state of religious liberty worldwide, making recommendations of needed improvements.
Out of the top fifteen violators on its 2013 “tier one” list, ten were predominantly Muslim countries: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
“The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused,” the report outlines in its section on Iran.
“Over the past few years, the Iranian government has imposed harsh prison sentences on prominent reformers from the Shi’i majority community, many of whom have been tried on criminal charges of ‘insulting Islam,’ criticizing the Islamic Republic, and publishing materials that allegedly deviate from Islamic standards, for simply exercising their internationally protected rights of freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief,” it continues. “In early 2010, the Iranian government began convicting and executing reformers and peaceful protestors, including on the charge of moharebeh (waging war against God).”
In its section on Egypt, the report states that Muslims often are not allowed to convert to Christianity, but if they do, they are commonly persecuted for their faith.
“In addition to violence, Christians—who comprise approximately 10-15% of Egypt’s population—face official and societal discrimination,” it explains. “Egyptian-born Muslims who have converted to Christianity cannot reflect their change of religious affiliation on identity documents, and in many cases, these converts also face intense social hostility. In past cases where converts have sued for the right to reflect their new religious affiliation on ID cards, Egyptian courts have ruled that Muslims are forbidden from converting from Islam based on principles of Islamic law because conversion would constitute a disparagement of the official state religion and entice other Muslims to convert.”
The report also discusses concerns with the Muslim sect Boko Haram in Nigeria, which has carried out much violence in the country in order to take the land for Islam and enact Sharia law.
“Boko Haram (a Hausa-language name meaning as ‘western education is a sin’) is an Islamic sect that sees the federal and northern state governments, as well as political and religious elites, as morally corrupt,” it explains. “ While Shari’ah is currently applied in the 12 northern Nigeria states, Boko Haram believes that it has been corrupted by politicians for their own gain. The group has also called on all Christians to leave northern Nigeria.”
“The group’s targets include police stations, government buildings, churches, Christians, schools, banks, politicians and Muslim critics,” the report continues. “Due to repeated Boko Haram attacks on churches, the Nigerian government has taken steps to try to protect churches, including stationing police and erecting barriers at church entry points. While this has not stopped all attackers, it has prevented a number of them from reaching their targets, thereby reducing the number of deaths and injuries.”
While the report outlines violence and discrimination against Christians in these countries, it does not focus solely on Christianity. All types of religious inequity, even the persecution of Muslim minority groups and clashes between various religions, are included in the extensive report.
The remaining five countries on the list are China, North Korea, Vietnam, Burma and Eritrea.