Pew Research Center has been tracking religious restrictions and hostilities around the world since 2007. Our new report found that a third of the 198 countries and territories studied in 2012 had a high or very high level of social hostilities involving religion, the highest share in the six years of the study. These hostilities – defined in the study as acts of religious hostility by private individuals, organizations or groups in society – increased in every major region of the world except the Americas. Here are some top findings:
- The number of countries with religion-related terrorist violence has doubled over the past six years. In 2012, religion-related terrorist violence took place in one-in-five countries (20%), up from 9% in 2007. In March 2012, for instance, a rabbi and three children were killed by an Islamist extremist at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France.
- Women were harassed because of religious dress in nearly a third of countries in 2012 (32%), up from a quarter in 2011 (25%) and less than one-in-ten (7%) in 2007. In Moldova, for instance, two men attacked a Muslim woman in the capital city of Chisinau, calling her a “terrorist” and tearing her headscarf. In 2012, 54 of the 198 countries in the study (27%) had governments that regulate the wearing of religious symbols or attire. This is almost unchanged from the previous year (53 countries, 27%) and significantly higher than in 2007 (21 countries, 11%). While there may not be a direct causal connection between government regulations and social hostilities involving religious attire, our data show that harassment of women over religious dress occurs more often in countries where the wearing of religious symbols or attire is regulated by any level of government.