Arab Muslim veiled hijab nikab niqab mask 311 (R).
(photo credit: Ali Jarekji / Reuters)
WASHINGTON - Nearly a third of the world's population lives in countries where it is becoming more difficult to freely practice religion, a private US research group reported on Tuesday.
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The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion and Public Life said government restrictions and public hostility involving religion grew in some of the most populous countries from mid-2006 to mid-2009.
"During the three-year period covered by the study, the extent of violence and abuse related to religion increased in more places than it decreased," according to the report "Rising Restrictions on Religion."
Only about one percent of the world lives in countries that saw more religious tolerance during those years, it said.
The Pew Center review of 198 countries found those deemed restrictive or hostile in the previous report were growing even more so, while the opposite was found for those with more religious tolerance.
A substantial rise in public hostility toward religious groups was seen
in China, Nigeria, Thailand, Vietnam and Britain, while government
restrictions rose substantially in Egypt and France.
The Pew Center looked at laws or other government policies aimed to ban
particular faiths, limit preaching, give preference to particular
religions or prohibit conversions. To measure hostility, it looked at
sectarian violence, harassment over religious attire and other types of
The countries most restrictive or hostile toward certain religions
included India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, China, Myanmar,
Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, Nigeria and Bangladesh -- although most of
these did not show much change in the three years.
Christians and Muslims, the world's two largest religious groups, were
harassed in the most countries. Other religions also saw harassment, but
Jews, who make up less than one percent of the world's population, saw
restrictions or harassment in 75 countries.
In five European countries -- Britain, Denmark, Russia, Sweden and
Bulgaria - religious tension focused on the rapidly growing Muslim
population, but there was some rising anti-Semitism and antagonism toward
minorities such as Jehovah's Witnesses.