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U.S. Report on Religious Freedom is Flawed

U.S. Report on Religious Freedom is Flawed

Human Rights Watch, Oct. 26, 2001
http://www.hrw.org/press/2001/10/religious1026.htm Off-site Link

usa, human rights, religion news report provides news of interest to those who work in Christian apologetics and countercult ministries.  It includes information about religious cults, sects, new religious movements, and related issues, such as religious freedom, religious tolerance, and cult crimes.

(New York, October 26, 2001) The State Department's annual report on international religious freedom has failed to single out a number of egregious violators that are members of the U.S.-led "anti-terrorism" coalition, Human Rights Watch said today.

The report, released today, candidly described violations of religious freedom around the world, but failed to designate Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan as "Countries of Particular Concern."

"Clearly, the Administration doesn't want to offend key allies in the coalition through excessive truth-telling," said Tom Malinowski, Washington Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch. "The irony is that getting too close to countries that crush religious freedom may be more dangerous for America right now than keeping its distance-particularly when the religion being crushed is Islam."

Among those countries not named is Uzbekistan, where several thousand non-violent Muslims have been arrested in the last three years for practicing their faith outside state controls. Uzbekistan is hosting U.S. forces involved in operations in Afghanistan.

The State Department report acknowledges that the Uzbek government has committed "abuses against many devout Muslims for their religious beliefs" - arresting people for proselytizing, for private teaching of religious principles, for wearing of religious clothing in public, and for distributing religious literature. It also acknowledges that authorities systematically torture religious prisoners.

"By not designating Uzbekistan a 'Country of Particular Concern,' the Administration missed an easy opportunity to show that the war on terrorism cannot be a campaign against Islam," Malinowski said.

Saudi Arabia was not designated, although, as State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said today, "there is essentially no religious freedom" there. Christians working in the country are forbidden to conduct any form of public worship. The country's Shi`a Muslim minority faces severe discrimination. Conservative Sunni clerics associated with the government have publicly denigrated Shi`a as "apostates" and "non-believers" because some of their religious practices are at odds with the strict Wahhabi doctrine imposed by the country's rulers. In few countries in the world is the denial of religious freedom so integral to the self-conception and ethos of the government.

Also not designated was Turkmenistan, which suppresses all forms of religious practice other than state-sanctioned Islam and Russian orthodoxy. Hundreds of Protestants, followers of Hare Krishna and other minority religions have been harassed, questioned by police, and threatened with arrest for exercising their religious convictions. Turkmenistan is the only state in the former Soviet Union where authorities have confiscated and destroyed houses of worship (Seventh Day Adventist, Hare Krishna, and Muslim).

China was designated a "Country of Particular Concern," and the report's analysis of abuses of religious freedom is generally accurate, with one exception: The reporting on Xinjiang, the mainly-Muslim region of northwest China, is strikingly less critical than last year's.

As is the case with all of America's criticism of what it considers to be human rights violations around the world, the annual report of religious freedom is an example of official U.S. hypocrisy. Aside from the examples noted above, by New York-based Human Rights Watch, the U.S. typically fails to examine its own growing record of human rights abuses (as also documented by, among others, Human Rights Watch).

With regard to religion, it is helpful to note that the U.S. government considers such extremist groups as the Church of Scientology - a hate group it tirelessly supports and defends - to be a ''religion'' merely because Scientologists claim it is.

The publisher of Apologetics Index / Religion News Report agrees with the German government's view of Scientology:

The German government considers the Scientology organization a commercial enterprise with a history of taking advantage of vulnerable individuals and an extreme dislike of any criticism. The government is also concerned that the organization's totalitarian structure and methods may pose a risk to Germany's democratic society. Several kinds of evidence have influenced this view of Scientology, including the organization's activities in the United States.

Religion News Report (RNR) is a newsletter that alerts Christian apologists and counter-cult professionals to news regarding religious cults, sects, movements, world religions, organizations, personalities, and related issues.

Note: our newsletter currently operates under the name Religion News Blog

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U.S. Report on Religious Freedom is Flawed
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