Pew Research: Arab Spring Adds to Global Restrictions on Religion

Results of a new Pew Research Religion & Public Life Project study on social hostilities toward and global restrictions on religion were released on 20 June 2013. This is the fourth time the Pew Research Center has reported on religious restrictions around the globe.   

From the Report:  “At the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 and early 2011, many world leaders, including U.S. President Barack Obama, expressed hope that the political uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa would lead to greater freedoms for the people of the region, including fewer restrictions on religious beliefs and practices. But a new study by the Pew Research Center finds that the region’s already high overall level of restrictions on religion – whether resulting from government policies or from social hostilities – continued to increase in 2011.  

“Before the Arab Spring, government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion were higher in the Middle East and North Africa than in any other region of the world. Government restrictions in the region remained high in 2011, while social hostilities markedly increased. For instance, the number of countries in the region experiencing sectarian or communal violence between religious groups doubled from five to 10. (See sidebar on the Middle East-North Africa region.)

“The Americas, Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and the Asia-Pacific region all had increases in overall restrictions on religion in 2011. Government restrictions declined slightly in Europe, but social hostilities increased. Asia and the Pacific had the sharpest increase in government restrictions, though the level of social hostilities remained roughly the same. By contrast, social hostilities edged up in sub-Saharan Africa, but government restrictions stayed about the same. Both government restrictions and social hostilities increased slightly in the Americas.

“Globally, the share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religion rose from 37% in the year ending in mid-2010 to 40% in 2011, a five-year high. Because some of the most restrictive countries are very populous, more than 5.1 billion people (74%) were living in countries with high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion, the brunt of which often falls on religious minorities.

“Among the world’s 25 most-populous countries, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia and Pakistan had the most restrictions on religion in 2011. Two countries had record high levels of restrictions or hostilities. Egypt – the most populous country in the Middle East-North Africa region – had a higher level of government restrictions in 2011 than any country in the world previously had in the five years covered by this study. Similarly, Pakistan had the highest level of social hostilities in the world across the five years of the study. Indeed, Pakistan was the first country to score 10 out of 10 points on either of the restrictions indexes, signifying the presence of all 13 types of hostilities measured by the study.”

For details and further information consult the study at the links below.