Clinton: Repression of Religious Freedom Emboldens Extremists

Posted September 13th, 2011 at 11:45 am (UTC-5)
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says ongoing repression and violations of religious freedom around the world “embolden extremists” and “fuel sectarian strife.”

Clinton made the comments Tuesday in Washington at the release of the biannual International Religious Freedom Report

She cited Monday's attack by gunmen on Shi'ite pilgrims in Iraq, calling it a “hateful, senseless” act that had “no aim other than to undermine the fabric of peaceful society.”

In the religious freedom report, the U.S. labels Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as the worst offenders, or the “countries of particular concern.” This designation indicates these countries have engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” including persecution, harassment, abuse, discrimination and detention of religious minorities or activists, and the prohibition of practicing religions not sanctioned by the government.

The U.S. government has sanctioned six of the eight countries designated as countries of “particular concern.” Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan were exempted from those sanctions.

The report investigated religious freedom in 198 countries and territories from July through December of last year.

Other countries cited for religious intolerance were Afghanistan, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

The report also listed active government violations of religious freedom and impunity, such as in Iran and North Korea, and it cited violent extremist attacks in regions like South Asia.

It also pointed out the use of apostasy and blasphemy laws in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and others, and the repression of religious minorities in countries including Egypt and Sudan. It said anti-Semitism and restrictions in many European countries on Muslim attire and expression are challenges to religious freedoms.