||The US State Department released its annual International Religious Freedoms report yesterday assessing religious freedoms across the globe. The report includes country-by-country studies on demographics of religious communities, legal protections on freedom of religion, legal cases in defence of the right to freedom of religion and societal attitudes to religious diversity as captured in hate crimes with religion as biased motivation.
The report also notes US policy towards that country and its efforts in promoting religious freedoms.
The executive summary notes in relation to Europe and anti-Muslim attitudes:
“Anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions were clearly on the rise, particularly in Europe and Asia.
“Government restrictions, which often coincided with societal animosity, resulted in anti-Muslim actions that affected everyday life for numerous believers. The impact ranged from education, to employment, to personal safety within communities. Government restrictions on religious attire also remained an issue, as Muslim women faced increasing restrictions on head coverings in schools, in public sector employment, and in public spaces. In Belgium, the Constitutional Court ruled that the nation’s 2011 ban on face-covering attire, with no exception for religious garments, did not violate religious freedom. In India, several educational institutions in Mangalore, Karnataka, reportedly banned Muslim girls from wearing headscarves. Since 2009, schools and colleges run by both Hindu and Christian administrations have prevented Muslim female students and teachers from covering their heads, citing a uniform dress code. In contrast, in November, Turkey lifted a ban on female students wearing headscarves in schools that provided religious education.”
The report notes the growing presence of anti-Muslim bigotry around the world, stating:
“While Christians were a leading target of societal discrimination, abuse, and violence in some parts of the world, members of other religions, particularly Muslims, suffered as well.”
On societal attitudes towards members of ‘minority branches of Islam’, the report observes:
“Societal groups targeted members of minority branches of Islam and smaller faith groups, often those considered by the majority to be heretical or “foreign.””
The report a number of countries deemed ‘of particular concern’. These are Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan.
In the country report on the UK, the report cites a single source of information on anti-Muslim hate crimes, Tell MAMA, and includes a single example of an anti-Muslim hate crime, that of the severed pig’s head left outside a mosque in Newbury, Berkshire.
The report makes mention of official statistics on hate crimes in the UK but offers no analysis on the form or accuracy of recording mechanisms. With the Metropolitan Police Service being the only police force to record Islamophobia as a hate crime, official statistics provide no indication of the actual numbers of anti-Muslim hate crimes. This is sharp contrast to racial and anti-Semitic crimes, which are clearly marked as such.
There have been a number of serious anti-Muslim incidents affecting the ‘status of societal respect for religious freedom’ in the UK, including the case of the Alam family who were forced to flee their home in Bingham, Nottinghamshire after vandals hounded them with verbal abuse and left a ham wrapped cross on their doorstep.
You can read our 2012 submission on anti-Muslim hate crimes to the OSCE here.