||The Guardian today covers the report released by the Pew Research Center, The Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion, which measures the “extent and direction of change in religious restrictions from the year ending in mid-2009 to the year ending in mid-2010.”
The report uses two types of indices to measure restrictions on religion:
“The Government Restrictions Index (GRI) measures government laws, policies and actions that restrict religious beliefs or practices. The GRI is comprised of 20 measures of restrictions, including efforts by governments to ban particular faiths, prohibit conversions, limit preaching or give preferential treatment to one or more religious groups.
“The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations and social groups. This includes mob or sectarian violence, harassment over attire for religious reasons and other religion-related intimidation or abuse.”
The reports notes that “Restrictions on religion rose not only in countries that began the year with high or very high restrictions or hostilities, such as Indonesia and Nigeria, but also in many countries that began with low or moderate restrictions or hostilities, such as Switzerland and the United States.
“The rising tide of restrictions in the latest year studied is attributable to a variety of factors, including increases in crimes, malicious acts and violence motivated by religious hatred or bias, as well as increased government interference with worship or other religious practices. For instance, a November 2009 constitutional referendum in Switzerland banned the construction of minarets on mosques in the country. In Indonesia, more than two dozen churches were forced to close due to pressure from Islamist extremists or, in some instances, local officials. And in Nigeria, violence between Christian and Muslim communities, including a series of deadly attacks, escalated throughout the period.”
The Guardian looks at the ranking of the UK and US in the two indices noting that:
“In the survey the UK is second among countries marked "high" – on a scale from very high, the top offending countries, to low – with regard to "social hostility", one of the two indices used to evaluate levels of intolerance.
“The ranking puts the UK, on the table of descending scores, in the next place down below Kenya, and at one place above Burma. The ranking marks a rise for the UK since the last survey. In Europe only Russia fared worse.
“In the second index – covering government restrictions – the UK remains on the "moderate" list.
“Commenting on the UK's social hostility placing, a lead researcher, Brian Grim, said the rise had been driven by several issues. "That included Christians voicing concern about being able to talk about their religion, a spike in antisemitic incidents and also anti-Muslim sentiment. It also included concern about issues within the Muslim community itself and honour killings."
“Among other countries showing marked increases in religious intolerance for the first time, though still classed only as "moderate", is the US, which also registers a rise for the first time on both scales, moving from a low category of religious limits to moderate.
“"From mid-2009 to mid-2010," the report's authors note, "a number of the sources used in the study reported an increase in the number of incidents at state and local level in which members of some religious groups faced restrictions on their ability to practise their faith."
“A more marked increase was recorded in the social hostilities index, moving the US from the lower end of the moderate range of hostilities to the upper end of the moderate range. This was largely driven by an increase in religion-related terrorist attacks in the year to mid-2010.
“The report also noted legislation by some states to ban "sharia law", or prevent construction of mosques.
“Not all religions, however, faced harassment in the same way.
“"Christians," the survey reports, "were harassed by government officials or organisations in 95 countries in the year ending in mid-2010 and by social groups or individuals in 77 countries.
“"Muslims also were more likely to be harassed by governments (74 countries) than by social groups or individuals (64 countries). Jews, by contrast, experienced social harassment in many more countries than they faced government harassment."”
It is noteworthy that the research drawing attention to the increase in the US in social hostility towards groups comes as BBC News reports on a series of advertisements stating - "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel Defeat Jihad" – are to be placed in New York subway stations.
The Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion report is available to read here.