Why are a majority of Islamic nations considered a living hell for minorities? Do Islamic countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia etc really restrict religious freedom? While the constitution provides for religious freedom, other laws, policies and practices in the majority of the Islamic Nations restrict religious freedom for the minorities according to a latest report.
On Tuesday, the United States added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom. Pakistan had previously been on a special watch list for the same. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington was obliged to exert pressure to end freedom violations.
According to Sam Brownback, the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom said the decision to blacklist Pakistan was largely the result of criminal blasphemy laws in the country, with the most recent being the Asia Bibi case.
News Channel6 highlighted him saying half of the world’s population of prisoners jailed for blasphemy are in Pakistan. “It’s our hope that the new leadership in Pakistan will work to improve the situation. There are some encouraging signs seen recently on how they have handled some the recent protesting against the blasphemy laws, and we continue to watch very carefully what’s happening to Asia Bibi.”
The US State Department in a statement said the countries were added to the list under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated ‘systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom’. The statement highlighted that individuals in far too many places across the globe continue to face harassment, arrests and even death for simply living their lives in according to their beliefs. “The United States will not stand by as spectators in the face of such oppression.”
Pompeo acknowledged the fact that several blacklisted countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom. “I welcome such initiatives and look forward to continuing the dialogue.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan has rejected the US decision to blacklist, describing it as ‘unilateral and politically motivated’. Islamabad released a statement saying Pakistan is a multi-religious and pluralistic society. “Around four per cent of our total population comprises citizens belonging to Christian, Hindu, Buddhists and Sikh faiths. Ensuring equal treatment of minorities and their enjoyment of human rights without any discrimination is the cardinal principle of the Constitution of Pakistan.” The statement also highlighted that the Parliament has special reserved seats for the minorities.
Religious freedom is embedded in major international human rights conventions and can be derived from the value of religion itself. The Religious Freedom Institute states that Islam is often portrayed as inherently hostile to religious freedom. It describes incidents such as the murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Muslim in the fall of 2004, the protests over Danish cartoons published in 2005 and the most latest, the shootout at the offices of Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France.
“For critics like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, this religious intolerance represents the very essence of Islam and requires nothing less than a forceful reformation of the religion to make it compatible with liberal values.”
Daniel Phipott, professor of political science says Islam is not necessarily the reason behind the dearth of religious freedom. “Secular repressive governments are a widespread source of repression in the Muslim world.” Phipott said that even Islamist regimes often have their origin in historical circumstances than belie an easy linkage of Islamic teachings with religious repression giving an example of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.
Overall, Islam is the most common government-endorsed faith, with 27 countries officially enshrining Islam as their state religion. The blacklist also includes China, Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The Special Watch List consists of Uzbekistan (upgraded), Russia and Comoros Islands.
The EurAsian Times is an English Language Digital News-Site, which specializes in reporting News and Editorials on South Asia, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and the Eurasian Region. EurAsian Times has a strong editorial presence in New Delhi, Dubai, Karachi, and Toronto and have expertise in penning editorials on Defence, Politics, Health, Education and International Relations. The views of the article do not necessarily reflect the view of the EurAsian Times.