An outraged Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), the state-run news outlet of North Korea, accused the United States on Friday of promoting the desecration of the Quran in response to the publication of the State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2017.
The report accused North Korea of widespread human rights abuses, particularly against Christians and those suspected of having an interest in learning about the Christian faith. KCNA responded, in turn, accusing the United States of violating the rights of Muslim Americans.
“The U.S. speaks volumes about ‘religious freedom’ but historical facts about religious persecution and abuses in the country prove it is not entitled to say anything about it,” the KCNA article asserts, claiming that calls for religious freedom and respect for human rights are “aimed to destabilize sovereign states and create pretexts for invasion and intervention for regime change.”
The article then goes on to claim, citing no sources, that Washington “branded Islam, one of three religions in the world, as a bellicose one, openly claiming that the only way of eliminating it is to ‘reform the entire Islamic forces and lead them to Western democracy.'” It is unclear where KCNA found this quote or who said it. The sentence also appears to reveal that North Koreans are taught that the world is home to only three religions.
“As a result, the Mid-east has turned into a region troubled by daily occurrences of disputes among countries, nations, ethnic groups and religious factions,” the article continues. “Rampant are such bullying acts of burning holy Koran or throwing it into toilet and committing violence against women Muslims which add to the religious abuses committed by the U.S. worldwide.”
KCNA does not cite any individual examples of individuals burning the Quran or throwing it in the toilet in observance of any demands by the U.S. government. It also cited no instances of violence against women for being Muslim in response to American wishes.
“Such motivation-driven acts, guided by old perspective, in disregard of the true picture in the DPRK where the people’s beautiful dream and ideal are brought into a reality by dint of the single-hearted unity among the leader, the party and the masses, would not bring any proper solution to any problem,” the article concludes, calling the State Department’s Religious Freedom Report “a foolish farce.”
The report that incensed the North Korean regime outlined an extensive range of human rights abuses targeting individuals suspected of interest in religion. Pyongyang, the report concluded, “considered Christianity a serious threat, as it challenged the official cult of personality and provided a platform for social and political organization and interaction outside the government.”
Among the abuses against Christians detailed in the report were “arbitrary executions, political prison camps, and torture amounting to crimes against humanity.” North Korea is believed to house up to 120,000 people in its prison camps, many born within the camps and incarcerated without having been accused of any crimes. The regime imprisoned individuals for any sign of allegiance to anything other than the Kim family, who are to be revered as gods, worshipped and prayed to on a daily basis. Reports citing the experiences of escaped defectors have found that, under North Korea’s strict songbun caste system, an entire family could remain imprisoned in a labor camp for up to three generations after the government accuses one person in that family of disloyalty to the Kims.
Defectors have also accused the regime of systematically imposing forced abortions on women who could not prove that the father of their child was Korean to ensure the racial purity of the nation. Women who gave birth before abortion was possible were often forced to watch the murder of their child, some defectors have said.
The State Department concluded in its 2017 report, released this week, that North Korea is likely guilty of crimes against humanity, which would allow Kim Jong-un to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC).
While KCNA expressed concern for Muslims in the United States, it did not issue a similar condemnation for North Korea’s closest ally and largest trade partner, China, which has increased its persecution of Muslims under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.
“It is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Uighur Muslims have been forcibly sent to re-education centers, and extensive and invasive security and surveillance practices have been instituted,” the State Department report’s chapter on China stated. “Many of these camps have been registered as ‘career development centers’ to circumvent legal problems. Reports indicated authorities sent Muslims and some Christians from ethnic minority groups to re-education.”