Harassment of Particular
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the three-year period from mid-2006 to mid-2009, national, provincial or local
governments harassed or attempted to intimidate religious groups in 142 of the
198 countries or territories included in this study (72%). Harassment of
religious groups by individuals or groups in society was even more widespread,
occurring in 153 countries (77%).
and intimidation take many forms, including physical assaults, arrests and
detentions, the desecration of holy sites and discrimination against religious
groups in employment, education or housing. Harassment and intimidation also
include such things as verbal assaults on members of one religious group by
other groups or individuals in society.24
section of the report looks at the harassment and attempted intimidation of
particular religious groups. It is based on specific, publicly reported acts
motivated by religious hatred or bias. It is important to note, however, that
these data do not measure the severity of the harassment or intimidation, so it
is not possible to say whether one religious group is harassed to a greater or
lesser extent than other religious or ethnic minorities.
of the world’s two largest religious groups, Christians and Muslims, who
together comprise more than half of the global population, were harassed or
intimidated in the largest number of countries.25 Over the three-year period studied, governmental or
social harassment of Christians was reported in a total of 130 countries (66%),
while harassment targeting Muslims was reported in 117 countries (59%).
Buddhists and Hindus – who together account for roughly one-fifth of the
world’s population – faced harassment or intimidation in fewer places;
harassment of Hindus was reported in 27 countries (14%) and harassment of
Buddhists in 16 (8%).
proportion to their numbers, some smaller religious groups faced especially
widespread hostility. Although Jews comprise less than 1% of the world’s
population, government or social harassment of Jews was reported in 75
countries (38%). Members of other world religions – including Sikhs, ancient
faiths such as Zoroastrianism, newer faith groups such as Rastafarians and
groups that practice tribal or folk religions – were harassed in 84 countries
religious groups were more likely to be harassed by governments, while others
were more likely to be harassed by individuals or groups in society. Muslims,
for example, were harassed by government officials or organizations in 100
countries (51%) and by social groups or individuals in 84 countries (42%).
Jews, on the other hand, experienced social harassment in many more countries
than they faced government harassment. Harassment of Jews by individuals or
groups was reported in 71 countries (36%), while government harassment of Jews
was reported in 28 countries (14%).
experienced governmental and social harassment in about the same number of
countries; they were harassed by government officials or organizations in 104
countries (53%) and faced social harassment in 100 countries (51%).
Regional Patterns in the Harassment of Religious Groups
During the period from mid-2006 to mid-2009, harassment
of religious groups was most widespread in the Middle East-North Africa, the
region that also has the highest levels of government restrictions and social
hostilities involving religion. There were reports of government and/or social
harassment of religious groups and individuals in all 20 countries in the
region. Religious groups also faced some form of harassment in 93% of the
countries in Europe (42 of 45 countries); 90% of the countries in the Asia-Pacific
region (46 of 51 countries); 85% of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa (40 of
47 countries); and 77% of the countries in the Americas (27 of 35 countries).
Harassment of Christians, Muslims and Jews was highest in
the Middle East-North Africa. Although this is a predominantly Muslim region,
followers of Islam were harassed in an even higher percentage of countries in
the region than were Jews or Christians. Buddhists and Hindus faced the most
harassment in the Asia-Pacific region, the part of the world with the largest
concentrations of these two religious groups.
were harassed in 80% of the countries in Europe and more than half of the
countries in Asia-Pacific (59%) and sub-Saharan Africa (57%). Christians were
harassed in more than two-thirds of the countries in Europe (69%) and
sub-Saharan Africa (68%). Christians also faced harassment in nearly
four-in-ten countries in the Americas (37%). Jews were harassed in more
countries in the Americas (31%) than Muslims (14%).
each region of the world, members of other world religions and groups that
practice tribal or folk religions faced harassment in a substantial number of
countries. Indeed, these groups were harassed in at least four-in-ten countries
in the Asia-Pacific region (49%), the Americas (46%), sub-Saharan Africa (40%)
and the Middle East-North Africa (40%). In Europe, such harassment was reported
in a third of the countries (36%). In
the Americas, followers of Native American faiths and adherents of other world
religions were harassed in a larger share of countries (46%) than Christians
(37%), Muslims (14%), Jews (31%), Hindus (6%) or Buddhists (3%).
24 This section is drawn from Question
11 on the Government Restrictions Index (“Was there harassment or intimidation
of religious groups by any level of government?”) and Question 1 on the Social
Hostilities Index (“Were there crimes, malicious acts or violence motivated by
religious hatred or bias?”). The latter was a summary question that included
several sub-components, including a question specifically asking about
harassment and intimidation. (return to text)
25 As of 2010, Muslims made up nearly a
quarter (23.4%) of the world’s population, according to the Pew Forum’s January
2011 report The Future of the Global Muslim Population. The Pew Forum is currently compiling
population data on other world religions and intends to publish a series of
reports on the demography of religion in 2011-2012. In the meantime, the
population figures used here are from the World Religion Database at Boston University, which estimates
that Christians comprise about a third (32.9%) of the world’s population. (return to text)