Study sees decline in religious freedoms

Sept. 20, 2012 at 1:49 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Even before the "Arab Spring" outbreak, North Africa and the Middle East led the world in religious hostility and restriction of religion, a new report says.

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a demographic social science survey organization, said that as of mid-2010, before the outbreak of revolutions in the Mideast, the share of countries it regarded as having high or very high restrictions on religion rose from 31 percent at the end of 2009 to 37 percent in mid-2010.

"The Middle East-North Africa had by far the world's highest levels of social hostilities involving religion," a Pew Forum statement, released Thursday, said.

Three-quarters of the world's population now lives in countries with what the Forum considers high restrictions on religion, it said, up from 70 percent a year earlier.

It added that the United States moved from its "low" category on religious restrictions to "moderate" due to incidents on the state and local level involving government limits put on wearing certain religious symbols, zoning permits controlling establishment of houses of worship and a spike in religion-related terrorist attacks.

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