USCIRF Report Shows Islamic Countries Are Worst Violators of Religious Freedom; 12 Muslim-Majority Nations Top the List

(Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville)A woman holds a placard during a march and rally in east London, December 13, 2013. They were participating in a rally organized by British Islamist Anjem Choudary condemning use of alcohol and promoting Shariah law.

The annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom shows that 12 of the 17 nations with the worst record of religious freedom are Islamic or Muslim-majority countries.

USCIRF, an independent federal government advisory body, has recommended that the State Department add eight more nations and retain nine existing nations to its list of "countries of particular concern," or CPCs, where particularly severe violations of religious freedom are perpetrated or tolerated.

Of the eight new additions to the CPC list, seven are Islamic or Muslim-majority nations: Central African Republic, Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria and Tajikistan. The other nation is Vietnam.

Of the nine nations USCIRF recommended should remain CPCs, five are Islamic or Muslim-majority: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The other four are Burma, China, Eritrea and North Korea.

USCIRF has also placed 10 countries on its "Tier 2" list, where governments engage in or tolerate violations that are serious but not CPC-level. Of these six are Islamic or Muslim-majority: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Turkey.

The other four are: Cuba, India, Laos and Russia.

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(Photo: The Christian Post)Commissioner Leonard Leo of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom speaks at the press conference for the release of the 2009 Annual Report in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2009.

USCIRF has also highlighted religious freedom concerns in six countries that do not meet CPC or Tier 2 thresholds, but should also be the focus of concern. Of these, three are Islamic or Muslim-majority: Bahrain, Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan.

The other three are Belarus, Cyprus and Sri Lanka.

"Not a day goes by without at least one country from these lists appearing on the front page of a major newspaper. Humanitarian crises fueled by waves of terror, intimidation and violence have engulfed an alarming number of countries over the past year," USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett said in a statement.

"With serious religious freedom violations occurring all around the world, these horrors speak volumes about how and why religious freedom and the protection of the rights of vulnerable religious communities matter. All nations should care about abuses beyond their borders not only for humanitarian reasons but because what goes on in other nations rarely remains there. In the long run, there is only one permanent guarantor of the safety, security and survival of the persecuted and vulnerable. It is the full recognition of religious freedom."

In some of the Central Asian nation, former Soviet nations also persecute Muslims.

The trend of Islamic and communist persecution of religious denominations, particularly Christian minorities, continues, but the intensity of attacks on Christians and others has increased.

The report notes that non-state actors, such as transnational or local organizations, are some of the most egregious violators of religious freedom, and mentions violence by the terror groups Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, in Iraq and Syria, and Boko Haram in Nigeria.

ISIS and Boko Haram have killed numerous Christians.

"ISIL has unleashed waves of terror upon Yazidis and Christians, Shiite and Sunnis, as well as others who have dared to oppose its extremist views," the report says. "In Nigeria, Boko Haram has attacked both Muslims and Christians. From mass murders at churches and mosques to mass kidnappings of children from schools, Boko Haram has cut a wide path of terror across vast swaths of Nigeria."

The Obama administration has come under severe criticism for not acknowledging and doing enough to protect Christians and other minorities, particularly in the Middle East and Africa.