“Many communities that have faced racial discrimination for decades are now being targeted because of their religion,” says Mark Lattimer, director of Minority Rights Group International (MRGI) - whose disturbing new report illustrates a growing global problem.
According to MRGI, the targeting of minorities on religious grounds is now increasingly becoming a trend in most of Western Europe and in North America - as previously reported on Ekklesia - while in parts of Asia and Africa religion is fast overtaking race or ethnicity as the key factor driving discrimination and violent attacks against communities.
In many states, from the United Kingdom to Ethiopia to Bangladesh, poverty is increasingly correlated with religion.
Minorities, particularly Muslims, across the USA and Europe, have been targets of increased state controls as well as nationalist campaigns by right-wing groups.
The report also finds that nearly a decade after 9/11, religious minorities across the world face increased attacks, persecution and a clampdown on their freedoms due to stringent counter-terrorism measures.
In Iraq and Pakistan, both countries at the forefront of the ‘war on terror’, attacks against religious minorities have escalated in recent years.
In Iraq, religious groups such as the Christians, Mandaeans, Baha’i and Yezidis, have become targets of violence, including murder, abduction, rape and looting of properties, since the 2003 US-led invasion.
In Pakistan, partly as a backlash and response to the US and Pakistani military operations, the Taliban have targeted Christians through killings, torture, forcible conversions and burning of churches and Bibles, the report says.
In the last decade there has also been an increase in religious profiling as part of counter-terrorism measures introduced by governments. In most cases the targets have been men believed to be Muslim or originating from a Muslim state.
In the aftermath of the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009 by a Nigerian Muslim, the US authorities targeted citizens of 14 countries – 13 of them predominantly Muslim – for special scrutiny at airports. In January 2009, thousands of people protested in Uttar Pradesh, India, accusing police of arresting young Muslim boys on terrorism charges with minimal evidence.
Many religious communities also face difficulties such as lack of citizenship or being unable to adhere to their customs and practices and build places of worship due to national religious registration laws.
In Egypt, the government requires all identification papers to list religious affiliation, but restricts the choice to the three officially-recognised religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism. The Baha’i are thus unable to obtain identification papers because they refuse to lie about their religious affiliation and are deprived of access to employment, education, medical and financial services.
Since 2001, a number of countries, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Serbia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, have either introduced or amended their religious registration laws.
"Although these laws are sometimes presented as responses to security threats or as a means of maintaining public order, they are increasingly being used by states to monitor and control religious communities," says Mark Lattimer.
State of the World’s Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2010, Minority Rights Group International, 2010. http://www.minorityrights.org/