By Doug Bandow, Huffington Post.
All religious faiths are victims of persecution somewhere. In this supposedly enlightened, tolerant age, people routinely are brutalized, jailed and killed for their faith — or lack of faith — in God. Hostility to believers is evident even in the West, long home to the strongest advocates for freedom of conscience, expression, and association. Worse, over the last year “a horrified world has watched the results of what some have aptly called violence masquerading as religious devotion” in several nations, observed the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom in its latest annual report.
However, the fact that everyone is persecuted does not mean that everyone persecutes equally, or at all. Authoritarian regimes which fear independent thought and allegiance to anyone or anything beyond the state tend to war against any public expression of faith. But such systems usually are equal opportunity oppressors. It is belief in a transcendent, not what that transcendent looks like, which they usually see as the problem.
In sectarian societies religious minorities often are persecuted for what they believe. They face varying challenges where Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews enjoy a majority, but these states are few (although Hindu India is the world’s second most populous nation). A few at least nominally Christian countries persecute; however, this behavior most often reflects authoritarian politics (in former communist states) rather than theology. In a few cases, though, the Orthodox Church relies on the government for support against other Christian faiths.
In contrast, majority Muslim nations almost uniformly persecute. The only question is how virulent the repression. Believers are mistreated everywhere, but Christians most suffer in the birthplace of Christianity. The Iraq invasion and Arab Spring have loosed a campaign of religious cleansing across the Middle East.
In the case of the Islamic State death is the norm, though Shia Muslims and many others fare little better than Christians. Reported USCIRF: “When ISIL last June overtook Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, it immediately murdered 12 dissenting Sunni clerics, kidnapped Christian priests and nuns, and leveled ancient houses of worship.” Even in relatively tolerant Muslim countries such as Kuwait Islamist radicals call for additional restrictions on non-Muslims.
The Commission highlighted 27 countries for particularly vicious treatment of religious minorities. Eleven are strong Muslim-majority states. Eleven are communist or formerly communist. Two are other kinds of dictatorships, one is a Hindu-majority state, one has a Christian majority, and one has a more equal sectarian division.
Nine states make the first tier, “countries of particular concern,” in State Department parlance: Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.