The State Department criticizes crackdowns on religious freedoms

Muslims are confronting a growing backlash in the West, a new report finds.
August 10, 2016, 4:50pm
Muslims attend a Mass in Rome's Saint Mary in Trastevere church, Italy, Sunday, July 31, 2016. (Massimo Percossi/Ansa via AP)

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the US State Department largely ignored anti-Muslim discrimination in Europe in its 2015 International Religious Freedom Report. The body of the report, in fact, did mention numerous specific acts of anti-Muslim discrimination and violence across Western Europe. We regret the error.

The US State Department, in its latest report on religious freedom around the world, finds that many religious minorities remain as oppressed as ever.

The International Religious Freedom Report for 2015 highlights 23 countries where religious freedom has been endangered in the past year, including the targeting of Christians by the Chinese government, the violence suffered by Sunni Muslims in Iraq at the hands of Shiite militias, and religious persecution in Eritrea. It also mentions other brutal persecutions against religious minorities, including the executions of Yezidis, Christians and Shiites by the Islamic State.

"In Europe, some governments expressed concern over entry of migrants and asylum seekers on religious grounds," the report says. "In Hungary, for example, the prime minister repeatedly emphasized the importance of defending the 'Christian values of Europe,' and some Slovak Republic officials portrayed Muslims as potential threats to Slovak security, culture and society and threatened to select only Christian refugees for resettlement".

"The president and other politicians, at both the national and local level, continued to make intolerant remarks about Muslims," the State Department report said of the Czech Republic.

In 2015, Australia has also seen an increasing number of clashes between anti-Islam and anti-racism demonstrators.

The State Department report's executive summary does, however, mention "positive developments" in the European Union, citing the appointment of two coordinators tasked with fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hatred in Europe.