State Department warns of poor religious freedoms in Egypt, China, Europe
Coptic Christians demonstrate in Cairo on Monday, May 9, 2011 in protest of Muslim-Christian clashes that left several dead days before.
July 30th, 2012
06:29 PM ET

State Department warns of poor religious freedoms in Egypt, China, Europe

By Elise Labott

Efforts to transition from dictatorship to democracy after the Arab Spring have endangered religious minorities, the State Department says in its annual report of religious freedom.

The annual survey of religious liberties around the world also warns against deteriorating religious freedom in China and Iran, the increased use of anti-blasphemy laws to restrict the rights of religious minorities and a rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe

"In times of transition, the situation of religious minorities in these societies comes to the forefront," says the State Department's first report since the Arab Spring uprisings. "Some members of society who have long been oppressed seek greater freedom and respect for their rights while others fear change. Those differing aspirations can exacerbate existing tension."

While the report notes Egypt's interim military leaders had made gestures towards greater inclusiveness, it points to an uptick in sectarian tensions and violence in Egypt, particularly against Coptic Christians.

It denounces the interim Egyptian government's "failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks," including one instance in which Egyptian security forces attacked demonstrators, killing 25 people injuring 350, most of whom were Coptic Christians.

"On other occasions, through inaction, the government failed to prevent violence against Christians or stop the destruction of churches and religious minority-owned property," the report says. "Authorities also failed to investigate effectively and prosecute crimes against Christians."

In a speech extolling the virtues of protecting religious freedom, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the country's new president, Mohamed Morsy, to make good on his promises to respect the rights of all Egyptians. The secretary visited Egypt earlier this month, meeting with Morsy as well as with Christian leaders worried about life under Egypt's new Islamic leadership.

"I am concerned that respect for religious freedom is quite tenuous" in Egypt, Clinton said. "I don't know that this is going to be quickly resolved."

Clinton warned an inconsistent effort by the government to investigate the perpetrators of sectarian violence sends a dangerous message that there are no consequences for such crimes.

"That's the kind of recipe that can quickly get out of control ... and undermine the new democracy," Clinton said.

In an address to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Clinton said religious freedom is "not just about religion," but also "about the right of people to think what they want, and say what they think, and come together in fellowship, without the state looking over their shoulder.

"These rights give our lives meaning and dignity, whatever religion we belong to - or if we belong to no religion at all," Clinton said. "Like all human rights, they are our birthright. They not granted to us by any government. Rather, it is the responsibility of governments to protect them."

In its report, the State Department once again criticizes Saudi Arabia, Eritrea, North Korea and Iran as chronic violators of particular concern. The report says North Korea permitted no religious freedom at all and warns that religious freedom in Iran "deteriorated further from an already egregious situation." It cites the restoration of 20-year sentences in Iran for seven Bahais charged with spying for and collaborating with Israel as well as the imprisonment of Yousof Nadarkhani, a Christian pastor sentenced to death for apostasy

Blasphemy and religious defamation laws are also highlighted in the report, which cites Pakistan for issuing death sentences for blasphemy and Afghan courts for interpreting Islamic law to punish non-Muslims for exercising their faith.

In China, the report says, there was "a marked deterioration during 2011 in the government's respect for and protection of religious freedom," citing greater restrictions on religious practice, especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.

"Official interference in the practice of these religious traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12 self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011," the report says. It also criticizes China's "severe" repression of Muslims in the far western region of Xinjiang.

Myanmar's reformist government took steps to overcome intense religious oppression, easing restrictions on church construction and allowing registered groups to worship, but the report says authorities continued monitoring religious activities.

The report also warns of alarming trends in Europe, where nations undergoing major demographic changes are witnessing "growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered 'the other.'"

It points to a "rising number of European countries, including Belgium and France, whose laws restricting dress adversely affected Muslims and others," referring to bans on veils worn by Mulish women.

It also warns of a global rise in anti-Semitism, citing the desecration of Jewish synagogues in France and Ukraine, anti-Semitic statements in Venezuela and the Netherlands, and the rise of an anti-Semitic party in Hungary.

Government efforts against "violent extremists" also come under scrutiny. The report criticizes Russia, Iraq and Nigeria for cracking down on peaceful religious practice under the guise of fighting terrorism.

In Bahrain, where government forces crushed mass protests calling for political reform, the report says there was "deterioration in the respect for and protection of religious freedom, including mass arrests and detentions of members of the Shia community and the destruction of Shia religious sites and gathering places."

The government blamed the uprising on Shia extremists.

The report cites "documented cases of arbitrary arrest, excessive use of force, and detainee torture and mistreatment" while a state of "national safety law" was implemented by royal decree under constitutional authority. It adds that government demolished a number of Shia religious sites and structures during the year.

The report finds some actions to commend as well. Turkey issued a decree facilitating the return of property confiscated from religious groups in the past. In Libya, the Supreme Court overturned a law that criminalized insults against Islam, and the new government chose not to enforce some old laws that limit religious freedom, the report says.

soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. A.Yeshuratnam

    While persecution of Christians goes on unabated in Muslim countries, Christian countries allow Muslims to construct mosques and enjoy religious freedom.On his visit to a new Turkish-funded mosque in Lanham, Md., Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erodogan said his government chose the site because of its location in “free territory.”He said when he attended the groundbreaking of the 15-acre, $100 million mega-mosque that the Turkish-American Cultural Center likely will become “the largest and most striking examples of Islamic architecture in the Western hemisphere when finished in 2014.”But those seemingly innocuous words are alarming to a number of analysts, including former Palestinian operative Walid Shoebat, who says the West doesn’t realize the significance of what Erdogan was saying. Shoebat said Erdogan’s true mission is to claim the land for Islam, and the evidence is in his words.
    “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers,” Shoebat said, quoting Erdogan. “The West is unaware that in Islam, a mosque is an embassy and Turkey is acting stealthily, which is why the project is not arousing much alarm,” Shoebat said.Islam analyst and Atlas Shrugs blogger Pamela Geller agrees. Most Americans don’t know that the plans showcase Turkey’s long-held territorial dream, she said. “The Turks are trying to restore the glory of the Ottoman period. They may be staking a claim to be the leaders of Sunni Islam worldwide, as they were in the days of the last caliphate,” Geller said.

    June 21, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Reply
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    September 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm | Reply
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    September 23, 2012 at 8:04 am | Reply
  4. Islamists hate everyone else

    In Pakistan there was one and only one Christian lawmaker. A Muslim killer assassinated him. Killer was loved by Pakistani Muslims as a hero and was never prosecuted.

    August 1, 2012 at 8:38 am | Reply
  5. Hahahahahahahahahah

    The author used the words "religious" and "freedom" in the same sentence! Hahahahahahahahaha

    July 31, 2012 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      Sometimes you actually make sense.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:38 am | Reply
    • yodude1990

      what's so wrong/ funny about using the words religious freedom in the same sentence?

      July 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Reply
  6. moon god

    One thing the muslims are very good at is lying. They condemn it but they also encourage it. They say protect the minorities but everywhere in muslim countries minorities are persecuted. Can muslims live with Jews ? They cannot even stand the sight of them as demonstrated by the Libanese judo team. Everywhere in muslim worlds minorities from Egyptian Copts to Indonesian Christians are persecuted.

    July 31, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply
  7. obama leaves troops behind

    obama gives billions to the islamic brother hood at the expence of American tax payers coin ,,,,,,,,FACT

    July 31, 2012 at 7:24 am | Reply
    • CanadianPOV

      If that is a fact, then you will have no problem providing your source. Since it isn't a fact, you just look like a troll.

      July 31, 2012 at 8:40 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      The same could be said about the CIA re the drug cartels.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:41 am | Reply
  8. greg

    Stop getting so excited USA it's only religion. No one really believes all this god crap. It's just another way of putting other people down.

    July 31, 2012 at 6:10 am | Reply
  9. Hooks

    Another example of how religion poisons everything. Nothing but hate and intolerance, on all sides. "My God teaches peace and love, if you don't believe me I will persecute and or k*ll you".

    July 31, 2012 at 4:54 am | Reply
    • Trevor

      Religion, which can be defined as simply a set of beliefs that a group believe are true is not the problem... Its when you insert corrupt, power-seeking and self-centered humans into the equation that turns it into "poison". ALL of us have a set of beliefs that we think are "true"...from the staunch Atheist to the devout Christian. To help you out, discernment is good quality to have. To be able to tell the difference between the "message" and the "messenger" and know which is at fault for what is really "disgusting". In this case "shoot the messenger" instead of the "message", because the "message" (ie: belief) is what YOU make of it, not dictated by what other sinful people do/say.

      July 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  10. Mohammed Anis

    I'm an egyptian Muslim at the age of 23 and I'm yet to find a single instance where religious injustice is as high as the Media portrays it. My boss at work is a coptic chiristain and one of the sweetest, most faithful open-minded and expressful individuals you'll ever meet. Of all political debates we've had, it had never came across religions. We, the egyptian muslims shared the christmas celebrations with them and they in turn our eids and ramadhans.

    Rather then quoting the words of poetic instigations by politicans and officials, as CNN has done for years to fuel the tension. Can we perhaps quote some objective statements such as 'the statistics themselves'? Such as, 'in what way' there is injustice? I can tell you that in the previous regime, the rations of official seats in power were certainly not divided equally among muslims and christains – not that many of the officials there deserved to even affiliate with such noble ideals.

    The facts CNN. That's all I'm asking for. The facts. Let that be the judgement driver of your readers.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:06 am | Reply
    • Mohammed Anis

      divided equally*

      July 31, 2012 at 4:08 am | Reply
    • ISATHE

      im glad to hear what ur saying, and i hope ur right, but this article only claims to quote from the state department report, CNN did not claim that this is an accurate description of the situation in Egypt, the report only deals with official government policy. if the government actually was leanient with ppl who burned coptic churches, than morsy has to answer for that, regardless of whether or not copts are fairly represented in government.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:36 am | Reply
      • Mohammed Anis

        That, I can most certainly agree to good sir.

        Morsi's psychological profile as a 'good person' and an educated individual, in my humble opinion is what the egyption people need. Unfortunatly, whether or not he is capable of making political decisions is lagged by many inconvenient variables. Hence, if I were to be objective, I can't really decide whether he is a good president or not. He really hasn't been able to make those critical decisions just yet. Too many obstacles in the way to slow him down. One being – there isn't really a formidable governing foundation just yet. It'll take time before we such decisions can be made and these protests, however noble the cause, do slow them down...

        Alas, I can't really blame people anyone here. The scale of damage left behind the previous government is just too much to quickly resolve. Morsi won't leave his chair being the most popular president, nor would any in his place. And the military still in control of the country's economic resources makes it impossible.

        As regards

        July 31, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • sam ibzagh

      I'm Canadian living in Egypt Egypt, and I have to say Hillary Clinton is a lier also the media, I see christians and moslims hand in hand every day, have not seen any single instance where religious injustice being commeted

      July 31, 2012 at 5:45 am | Reply
    • sun powered being

      How come no one is fixing the Pyramid? Your trouble is the result of fighting one another, making your own god different from the other. Long time ago, people only have one God, the truth is, it is still the one and it comes everyday. The Pyramid built by ancient people is the evidence of that.

      July 31, 2012 at 7:55 am | Reply
      • Sodomite

        Maybe they have more pressing needs than fixing an ancient structure constructed by slave labor.

        July 31, 2012 at 10:43 am |
  11. Megan Grawe

    Thank you mister president for putting the muslim brotherhood in control of Eygpt and doing a lousy job with our foriegn policy! ...if Obama has america's back, we're all in trouble!

    July 31, 2012 at 3:53 am | Reply
    • ISATHE

      its bad inough mus1ims blame america for every injustice in the world, but now americans are blaming themselves too? the arab spring led to a democratic election where the MB won. im not happy about it eather, but its not obama's fault, the responsibility lays on the Egyptian voters- not just those who voted MB, but also those who didnt vote and let the MB take power.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:38 am | Reply
    • mervat

      Thank you indeed for helping the Muslim Brotherhood . Now we have Islamists and Muslim Brother hood who will be ministers and holding all key jobs in the country. Thank you Clinton for running quickly to visit with Morsy and give him your approval. U.S. politics at its worst. But then again not any different from what was done in Iraq or Afghanistan .

      July 31, 2012 at 5:21 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      Looking forward to seeing you and your kind committing mass suicide come November.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:45 am | Reply
  12. lee

    Foolish report and idiot american . American are world famous fool nation . When the ally of the USA was at power , why the USA did not publish such report ? What is the problem if Obama is muslim ? Religious freedom and Racism are not in the USA , they are pointing finger at others . Stupidity .

    July 31, 2012 at 3:27 am | Reply
    • Hooks

      No, tell us how you really fell.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:49 am | Reply
  13. Lisa

    Hey, the Egyptians voted for their leadership and they're stuck with the consequences...just like we got stuck with the consequences of Bush and Obama.

    July 31, 2012 at 3:22 am | Reply
    • noneofyourbusiness

      ask a donkey to vote and you see the effects as with bush Jr in the past.... you are asking a population to vote that was denied political views, education and full freedom, what do you expect that you will get..... the only education, information these people received was and is from their religious representative, of course they will vote for them

      July 31, 2012 at 4:00 am | Reply
      • Sodomite

        If anyone's coerced or brainwashed, it's the American electorate.

        July 31, 2012 at 10:48 am |
  14. Diogenes of Mayberry

    My imaginary friend can beat up your imaginary friend, nu uh, ya huh, nu uh...

    July 31, 2012 at 2:45 am | Reply
    • sun powered being

      Here comes the sun to wo wo wo. Like hey jude don't make it bad. Take the sun song and make it butter.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:54 am | Reply
  15. fffjjj

    Report of cases of Christian girls and women disappearing, being forcibly converted to Islam and married against their will in Egypt have escalated since the Arab Spring uprising.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:33 am | Reply
  16. ibra

    the list above is fake when it comes to freedom of religion i suggest these instead, MNYAMAR/BURMA, ISRAEL, EU countries esp(FRANCE,BELGIUM,NORWAY), USA, these are the countries where religious minorities are oppressed. please get the fact i am a muslim myself and the QURAN clearly says treat equally the people of the book those are the jews and christians and all muslim countries are practicing unless there are few who have no respect for islam like regime in saudi arabia, bahrain, post gadhafi libya, syria under al assad the list is endless

    July 31, 2012 at 2:27 am | Reply
  17. Afropolitik

    Moshaib and Big that's the US for you.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:12 am | Reply
  18. godfrey

    Jehovah God will soon use human Government depicted as the wild beast with seven heads and ten horn mentioned in the bible book of revelation for the distruction of the empire of false religions around the worl depicted as "HARLOT". the God who promised these things is the the alive Go

    July 31, 2012 at 12:46 am | Reply
    • sun powered being

      Te sun been there done that and still is te one. Was creator of all. Been with you since yu were born and will be with you for everlasting peace on earth under or anywhere. Sun makes it all possible for you to see hear taste smell breath feel and more. Sun comes everyday.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:49 am | Reply
  19. godfrey

    Jehovah God will soon use human Government depicted as the wild beast with seven heads and ten horn mentioned in the bible book of revelation for the distruction of the empire of false regions around the worl depicted as "HARLOT". the God who promised these things is the the alive God!

    July 31, 2012 at 12:45 am | Reply
    • Diogenes of Mayberry

      Seriously? Dude, you should be kept away from sharp objects.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:48 am | Reply
  20. Paul Y

    In short, this report states that countries in Asia, Africa and Europe are all oppressive hell, America is still top of the world.

    So, be happy.

    July 31, 2012 at 12:05 am | Reply
    • Sodomite

      We have the best propaganda.

      July 31, 2012 at 10:49 am | Reply
  21. Shasho

    Rather we should look forward to ban all religions.. God is the worse invention of mankind..

    July 30, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Reply
    • Megan Grawe

      ....and God feels the same way about man, except he's got proof!

      July 31, 2012 at 3:57 am | Reply
      • lostkanadian

        except for proof and god do not belong in the same sentence.

        July 31, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  22. Bavarian

    Sharia does not tolerate religious freedom and prohibits it.

    July 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm | Reply
    • Tarek from Syria

      Islam commands its followers to respect Christians and Jews as "people of the book".

      This report is trash, even Eygpt's most radical islamists understand this principle and know that the Christians living among them must be treated with respect.

      Egyptian Muslims must campaign gestures of unity with Christians immediately before artificial sectarian strife can get a foothold.

      July 31, 2012 at 12:30 am | Reply
      • Hooks

        Are you serious? Name one Muslim-majority country where religious minorities are truly treated equally?

        July 31, 2012 at 1:51 am |
      • Trevor

        So can you ask the Christian pastor in Iran that refused to renounce his faith and not proclaim allegiance to Islam? That's right, you can't because he's 6 feet under. EXECUTED by Iranian authorities...look it up.

        July 31, 2012 at 3:01 am |
      • Sodomite

        Hooks, if it makes you feel better, India treats its Muslims and anyone else who isn't Hindu, like crap.

        July 31, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  23. OffTheWorldPolitics

    The Body politic has a mind of its own. It's like a mob mentality, once people get angry they just don't care. Try explaining multiculturalism and tolerance to someone who just had their wife, mother or son blown up....

    July 30, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Reply
  24. PaxChristi2U

    I agree, the Obama State Department has the nerve to comment on "religious freedom" in other countries when it is in the midst of one of the biggest assaults on such liberties in the United States ("CNN Poll: Half oppose Obama birth control insurance plan").

    July 30, 2012 at 10:24 pm | Reply
  25. bigs

    What about poor personal freedoms in the US?

    What about being tbe 25th rated country UN education?

    July 30, 2012 at 8:55 pm | Reply
  26. G.O.

    "The report criticizes Russia, Iraq and Nigeria for cracking down on peaceful religious practice under the guise of fighting terrorism." Yesh, those illiterate muslims in northern Nigeria Called Boko Haram (meaning 'No to Western Education") killing Christians and trying to enforce Sharia law over secular Nigeria, are doing peaceful religious practise.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:35 pm | Reply
  27. George

    Everyone has the freedom to worship in their own heart and no one can take that away. These people want to do it openly, and so they have to pay the price. It's really pretty stupid to openly profess a religion that you know the government will arrest you for.

    It's the same thing in American schools, graduations, etc. Anyone can pray as much as they want as long as it is done silently. I believe it was Jesus who said do not pray so that others can hear you, rather, go into your closet, where God alone hears and pray there. Many people just want to put on a big show rather than worship sincerely, in their heart, where only God hears.

    July 30, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Reply
    • Bavarian

      His name is Teebow.

      July 30, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Reply
    • Trevor

      There's a difference between "praying" (which is a private conversation between you and God), worshiping or telling others about the Good New of Christ . Telling others, if done with humility and respect as the Bible advocates, this is one of the most important directives that Christ asked his followers to do. To be the "Body of Christ", by being his hands (serving others), his feet (going to the most lost and darkest places on this earth), his voice (to tell others who he is and what he did for them and how much God loves them), and his ears (to listen and empathize with people's concerns and troubles).

      July 31, 2012 at 3:18 am | Reply
  28. Moshaib

    Where is Saudi Arabia? This report is a kind of crap. America always try to save Saudi Arabia and blame Iran.

    July 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Reply
  29. ddpp

    yeah like people really care!

    July 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Reply

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