August 9, 2011

Rising Restrictions on Religion – Levels of Social Hostilities

Countries with very high social hostilities have severe levels of violence and intimidation on many or all of the 13 measures that make up the Social Hostilities Index. In Iraq, for example, ongoing sectarian conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims frequently led to terrorist acts, including attacks on important religious sites in the country. For instance, more than 60 people died and more than 100 were injured on April 24, 2009, when two female suicide bombers attacked an important Shiite shrine in Baghdad, the Imam Musa al-Kadhim mosque. Many parts of the country also continued to have a lot of public animosity directed at religious minorities, including Christians, Yazidis and Sabean-Mandaeans.1

Countries with high social hostilities have severe levels of violence and intimidation on some of the 13 measures or more moderate levels on many of them. In Thailand’s southernmost border provinces, for example, tensions between ethnic Malay Muslims and the majority Buddhist population sometimes erupted in violence. For instance, gunmen killed 11 people and wounded a dozen more during evening prayer services at a mosque in the province of Narathiwat on June 8, 2009. This reportedly triggered a series of violent reprisals. On June 22, for example, gunmen fired into a Buddhist temple in Narathiwat, wounding eight people.

Countries with moderate social hostilities have severe levels of violence and intimidation on a few of the 13 measures or more moderate levels on several of them. Some countries in this category have moderately strong levels of public tensions involving religious minorities. For instance, this category includes several Western European countries that have growing Muslim populations, including Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, France and Italy.2 Some countries with moderate levels of social hostilities have a high number of isolated incidents of violence and intimidation. In the United States, for example, law enforcement officials reported at least 1,300 hate crimes involving religion to the FBI in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Countries with low social hostilities generally have moderate or low levels of violence and intimidation on a few of the 13 measures. In Japan, for example, tensions between religious groups are generally low, but there were some reported tensions involving groups that are considered cults in Japanese society, such as the Unification Church. The Church announced in February 2008 that one of its members had been held against his will by family members for more than a dozen years. After his release, the man returned to the Unification Church.


Footnotes:

1 For background on religious minorities in Iraq, see the May 15, 2008, Pew Forum Q&A, The Plight of Iraq’s Religious Minorities(return to text)

2 For background information, see the Pew Forum’s 2011 report The Future of the Global Muslim Population.(return to text)