Restrictions on religion have increased globally since Arab Spring

The World

Governmental restrictions on religious freedoms and social hostilities related to religious differences have increased globally since the Arab Spring, according to a recent Pew Research Center study.

Despite hope expressed by people all over the world that the revolutionary political movement would bring increased personal freedom and regional peace, the Pew Center reports that this has not been the case.

Before Arab Spring protests swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2010, religious freedom restrictions and social hostilities were already higher in those regions than any other in the world, and they remained high throughout 2011.

According to Pew, in 2011 the percentage of countries with high or very high restrictions on religion rose from 37 percent to 40 percent, a five-year high. Governmental restrictions on religion include efforts to ban particular faiths, limit conversions, and giving preferential treatment to specific religious groups over others.

Social hostilities, which include religion-related terrorism, harassment and sectarian violence, also increased between 2010 and 2011. Countries experiencing such hostilities doubled from five to ten.

Two countries reached five-year, worldwide highs in either governmental restrictions or social hostilities – Egypt and Pakistan. The report also listed China, Syria, Bahrain and Myanmar, among other countries, as having unusually high levels of religious restriction and social hostility.

5.1 billion people — 74 percent of the world’s population — were found to be living in countries with high religious restrictions and high levels of social hostilities involving religion. Many of the countries with the highest levels of restrictions and hostilities are also the most populous.

This is the fourth Pew report conducted on global religious restrictions and hostilities. The study used the same two indices as previous reports to score 198 countries and territories.

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