And the following incidents occurred just in the past week:
• Sectarian riots 127 km northwest of India's capital New Delhi killed at least 31 people and forced hundreds to flee from their homes in a sign of rising tension between Hindus and Muslims. Mehrana, a 6-year-old girl injured in the sectarian clashes (pictured), gets treatment at a district hospital in Muzaffarnagar.
- A Catholic priest was attacked with acid in Zanzibar, Tanzania. This follows similar attacks on two British volunteer teachers also in Zanzibar. The attacks come as Islamist extremism is reportedly rising in the area.
- English football fans who chant a word which has been deemed anti-Semitic have been warned that they face criminal prosecution if they continue.
- France posted a list of rules that remove all signs of religion from classrooms - a move some say is in response to growing Muslim visibility.
- A dozen Vietnamese followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement were reportedly detained and severely beaten by authorities in China.
- Police arrested a man accused of desecrating a religious icon at an Ethiopian church in northwest Washington D.C. last Sunday.
- A fresh wave of sectarian conflict killed more than 40 people across Iraq last week. This and the sectarian nature of Syria's civil war and "unprecedented" rise in attacks on Coptic Christians in Egypt are examples of the type of violence Jordan's King Abdullah recently said threatens to “destroy” the Arab and Islamic world.
1. As the incidents from last week mentioned above show, harassment and intimidation by governments or social groups take many forms, including physical assaults, arrests and detentions, the desecration of holy sites and discrimination against religious groups in employment, education and housing. Harassment and intimidation also include such things as verbal assaults on members of one religious group by other groups or individuals.
2. Overall, across the five years of the Pew Research study, religious groups were harassed in a total of 185 countries at one time or another. Adherents of the world’s two largest religious groups, Christians and Muslims – who together comprise more than half of the global population – were harassed in the largest number of countries, 145 and 129 respectively. Jews, who comprise less than 1% of the world’s population, experienced harassment in a total of 90 countries, while members of other world faiths were harassed in a total of 75 countries.
For instance, the European Court of Human Rights recently found that British law does not adequately protect an employee’s right to display religious symbols in the workplace – such as wearing a cross. In France, a Rabbi and several Jewish school children were gunned down in a brazen act of terror. In Russia, the Mayor of Moscow has limited the number of mosques to four despite a growing Muslim population, which numbers more than 1 million due to migration. This means – per mosque – hundreds of thousands of people would have to squeeze into spaces meant only for hundreds.
Finally, although it is much more common for Jews to be harassed by individuals and groups in society, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of countries where government harassment occurred. Government harassment of Jews occurred in 22% of European countries in 2011, up from 4% in 2007.
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