International Religious Freedom Report, 201217 oct. 2012
The Department of State released its annual International Religious Freedom Report on July 30, 2012; it covers the year 2011.
The summary states,
"In 2011, the world watched as people in North Africa and the Middle East stood up for dignity, opportunity, and civil and political liberty. In countries in political transition, such as Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt, people took the first steps of what will likely be a challenging path toward democracy. In times of transition, the situation of religious minorities in these societies comes to the forefront. 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 tensions.
The interim government of Egypt began to take measures toward greater inclusiveness, such as passing an anti-discrimination law; arresting and prosecuting alleged instigators of sectarian rioting; and allowing dozens of churches previously closed to reopen. Nevertheless, sectarian tensions and violence increased during the year, along with an overall increase in violence and criminality. This report documents both the Egyptian government's failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and its involvement in violent attacks. For example, on October 9, 2011, the Egyptian security forces attacked demonstrators in front of the Egyptian radio and television building in the Maspiro area of Cairo. Twenty-five people were killed and 350 injured, most of whom were Coptic Christians. To date, government officials have not been held accountable for their actions, and there were indications in early 2012 of mounting Coptic emigration.
Following the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi in October 2011, the new government inLibya chose not to enforce some old laws that restricted religious freedom, ceased actively regulating all aspects of religious life, and enshrined the free practice of religion in an interim constitution, which also outlawed discrimination based on religion or sect. Early in 2012, the Libyan Supreme Court overturned a law that criminalized insults against Islam, the state, and religious symbols. Qadhafi-era laws prohibiting certain affronts to Islam, however, remained on the books even though there were no attempts to enforce them.
Transitions were not limited to the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. In Burma, a Country of Particular Concern, the government took steps toward overcoming a longstanding legacy of intense religious oppression. The government eased some restrictions on church construction and generally permitted adherents of religious groups registered with the government to worship as they chose. However, the government continued to impose restrictions on certain religious activities and frequently limited religious freedom. It also continued to monitor the meetings and activities of all organizations, including religious organizations, and required religious groups to seek permission from authorities before holding any large public events. Some of the Buddhist monks arrested in 2007 were released during the year and have not faced harassment since their release, but others were released with conditions attached or remained in prison serving long sentences. The government also refused to recognize the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority as citizens and imposed restrictions on their movement and marriage.
Countries in Europe are becoming more ethnically, racially, and religiously diverse. These demographic changes are sometimes accompanied by growing xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim sentiment, and intolerance toward people considered "the other." The report documents a rising number of European countries, including Belgium and France, whose laws restricting dress adversely affected Muslims and others. In a separate context, Hungary's parliament passed a law that regulates registration of religious organizations and requires a political vote in parliament to secure recognition. The law went into effect on January 1, 2012, reducing the number of recognized religious groups from over 300 to fewer than 32."