Story last updated at 9:12 a.m. on Friday, September
Report: Religious persecution
By George Gedda
WASHINGTON -- A State Department report Thursday pointed to evidence
of widespread religious persecution in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan,
all under varying degrees of authoritarian rule, and to discrimination
in some democratic countries as well, including Israel and India.
The report, covering 194 countries and territories, is the first
of what will become an annual assessment of the state of religious
freedom around the world. The most serious violators could eventually
face economic sanctions.
The study stressed that religious persecution is not confined to
a particular faith. "Throughout the world, Buddhists, Christians,
Hindus, Jews, Muslims and other believers continue to suffer for
their faith," it said.
While the report did not rank the countries based on the degree
to which they limit freedom, the excesses attributed to the Iraqi
government stood out.
Iraqi leader "Saddam Hussein has for decades conducted a brutal
campaign of murder, summary execution and protracted arbitrary
detention against the religious leaders and adherents of the
Shiite Muslim population," the report said.
It said Iraqi security forces "have murdered senior Shiite clerics,
desecrated mosques and holy sites, arrested tens of thousands of
Shiites and forcibly prevented Shiites from practicing their
Shiites in Afghanistan also suffered persecution and killing at
the hands of the Taliban-led government in Kabul. Afghan police
impose "severe physical punishment and imprisonment for deviations
from codes of worship and dress," the report said.
It said Iran is intent on eradicating the Baha'is through prolonged
detention and imprisonment, confiscation and desecration of graveyards
and holy places. It added that other religious minorities in Iran
In general, the report made clear that democratic countries are
far more tolerant of religious diversity than are countries run
by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes. The report credits
India, for example, for respecting constitutional provisions
guaranteeing freedom of religion.
But it said, tensions between Muslims and Hindus in India, and to a
lesser extent between Hindus and Christians, "continue to pose a
challenge to the concepts of secularism, tolerance and diversity on
which the state was founded.'' It added that state and local
governments only partially respect religious freedom. The report
also said there have been numerous reports of human rights abuses
carried out by the mostly Hindu security forces against the
predominantly Muslim population in the region of Kashmir controlled by
As for India's rival, Pakistan, the report said discriminatory
legislation has encouraged an atmosphere of "religious intolerance,
which has led to acts of violence by extremists against members of
religious minorities, including Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and Zikris."
The study also cited credible reports of abuse against Buddhist monks
and nuns in China, including Tibet.
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