Leadership Council for Human Rights

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Study finds countries with greater religious tolerance are better off

A distinguished panel met today at Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom to report the findings of their most recent survey, “World Trends in Religious Freedom.” The six-person panel represented a group of at least 79 researchers, authors and experts that helped compile the data, which is set to be included in a book that will be published early next year.

The survey presents information on 100 countries, with a particularly focus on those known for restricting religious freedom, and offers comparisons using charts, scores and trends. It addresses each country within the context of civil liberties, political rights, economic freedom and social wellbeing.

While the study presents many current trends, several in particular were singled out at the discussion. First, the panelists made it clear that while certain trends have emerged with respect to religious freedoms, violations of those freedoms are occurring worldwide and are in many cases intensifying. With that in mind, the panelists argued that the greatest threat to religious freedom today is radical Islam, calling it detrimental to both non-Muslims and moderate Muslims. A large portion of the presentation was also focused on the correlation between countries with a strong economy and countries with high tolerance for religious freedom. Civil liberties and political liberties also had a high association with countries with high religious tolerance, as did countries with a long history of democracy, low military spending, and low levels of violent social conflict. Finally, the point was made that those countries that have a Muslim majority and ingrained Muslim traditions tend to restrict religious freedom more so than non-Muslim nations. This matched low levels of women’s rights, democracy and economic freedoms in Muslim nations, according to the panelists.

Other noteworthy findings included the fact that there is little correlation between church-state relations and national religious freedom. Additionally the study suggested that there is no correlation between religious freedoms and the existence of a secular or non-secular government. Lastly, despite the finding that Muslim nations tend to be associated with religious oppression, there were cases such as Mali and Senegal that are Muslim by tradition and majority, yet boast very high scores on religious freedom.

In addition to general trends, the panel took time to highlight the best and worst countries with respect to religious freedoms. Burma, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Sudan were listed among the worst, while Ireland, Hungary, Estonia and the United States were among the best. Latin America and Eastern Europe also received praise for being the most improved areas of the world.

For country score tables, click here


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