In most Muslim-majority nations, “religious liberty is either crushed altogether or it barely exists,” wrote Catholic League president Bill Donohue Monday.
Commenting on the findings of the U.S. State Department’s “International Religious Freedom Report,” which was released on May 29, Donahue said that when rulers of a world religion like Islam oppress people of faith “in the name of God or their spiritual leader” it is “disturbing.”
While we expect this sort of behavior from “communist nations like North Korea,” Donahue said in a statement titled “Muslim Nations Sunder Religious Liberty,” it is troubling when leaders behave this way in the name of religion.
All in all, the findings of the report “are not encouraging,” he said, since only a minority of Muslim-dominated nations in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia provide for “some semblance of religious liberty.”
While the religious freedom record of the two other monotheistic religions, Christianity and Judaism, “is quite good,” Donahue observes, that of Islam is deeply defective.
“When people are punished for converting to another religion—including imposition of the death penalty—we are dealing with evil,” he said.
The most recent report from the U.S. State Department provides a country-by-country analysis of the state of religious freedom worldwide, and the results from many Muslim nations do not inspire confidence.
In the case of Iran, for instance, the constitution defines the country as an Islamic republic and the penal code “specifies the death sentence for proselytizing and attempts by non-Muslims to convert Muslims, as well as for moharebeh (‘enmity against God’) and sabb al-nabi (‘insulting the prophet’),” the State Department reported. The law also “prohibits Muslim citizens from changing or renouncing their religious beliefs.”
In Saudi Arabia, the Basic Law of Governance establishes that the country’s official religion is Islam and the constitution is the Quran and Sunna. “Freedom of religion is not provided under the law,” the report states, and the Saudi government “does not allow the public practice of any non-Muslim religion.”
Oppression of religious freedom occurs in Pakistan as well, the report found, where the courts continue to “enforce blasphemy laws, whose punishment ranges from life in prison to the death sentence for a range of charges, including ‘defiling the Prophet Muhammad.’”
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights is the America’s largest Catholic civil rights organization and works “to safeguard both the religious freedom rights and the free speech rights of Catholics whenever and wherever they are threatened.”
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