A report by Minority Rights Group International, State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010, finds that the rise of religious nationalism, the economic marginalization of religious minorities and the abuse of counter-terrorism laws have all led to a growing pattern of persecution against religious minorities globally.
On every continent, religious minorities are facing attack, detention, torture and the repression of their fundamental freedoms. “Religious intolerance is the new racism,” Mark Lattimer, Director of Minority Rights Group International, said. “Many communities that have faced racial discrimination for decades are now being targeted because of their religion.”
According to the report the targeting of minorities on religious grounds is now increasingly becoming a trend in most of Western Europe and in North America while in parts of Asia and Africa religion is fast overtaking race or ethnicity as the key factor driving discrimination and violent attacks against communities. In many States, from the United Kingdom to Ethiopia to Bangladesh, poverty is increasingly correlated with religion.
Minorities, particularly Muslims, across the USA and Europe, have been targets of increased State controls as well as nationalist campaigns by right-wing groups. The report also finds that nearly a decade after 9/11, religious minorities across the world face increased attacks, persecution and a clampdown on their freedoms due to stringent counter-terrorism measures. In Iraq and Pakistan, both countries at the forefront of the “war on terror,” attacks against religious minorities have escalated in recent years. In Iraq, religious groups such as the Christians, Mandaeans, Baha’i and Yezidis, have become targets of violence, including murder, abduction, rape and looting of properties, since the 2003 US-led invasion. In Pakistan, partly as a backlash and response to the US and Pakistani military operations, the Taliban have targeted Christians for attack, through killings, torture, forcible conversions and burning of churches and Bibles, the report says.
In the last decade there has also been an increase in religious profiling as part of counter-terrorism measures introduced by governments. In most cases the targets have been men believed to be Muslim or originating from a Muslim State.
Many religious communities also face difficulties such as lack of citizenship or being unable to adhere to their customs and practices and build places of worship due to national religious registration laws. In Egypt, the government requires all identification papers to list religious affiliation, but restricts the choice to the three officially-recognized religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Baha’i are thus unable to obtain identification papers because they refuse to lie about their religious affiliation and are deprived of access to employment, education, medical and financial services.
Since 2001, a number of countries, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, have either introduced or amended their religious registration laws.
“Although these laws are sometimes presented as responses to security threats or as a means of maintaining public order, they are increasingly being used by States to monitor and control religious communities,” Mr. Lattimer stressed. Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide.
The report can be printed as a PDF of the full text, or downloaded as individual chapters by theme or region.