China, Egypt accused of intolerance

UPI, 20 March 2012

WASHINGTON, March 20 (UPI) — China, Egypt and Iran are among 16 countries accused of trampling on religious freedom, a U.S. watchdog group said.

A report released Tuesday by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom recommends U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton name the three countries, along with Burma, Eritrea, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam, as “countries of particular concern.”

“It’s no coincidence that many of the nations we recommend to be designated as CPCs are among the most dangerous and destabilizing places on Earth,” USCIRF Chairman Leonard Leo said in a statement.

He said countries “that trample upon basic rights, including freedom of religion, provide fertile ground for poverty and insecurity, war and terror, and violent, radical movements and activities.”

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act requires that the United States annually review and designate countries whose governments have engaged in or tolerated systematic and egregious violations of the universal right to freedom of religion or belief. The law also requires the watchdog group to suggest ways the U.S. government can constructively engage the issues.

“Over the past year, while economic woes captured world headlines, an ongoing crisis of equal breadth and scope frequently went unnoticed,” the report said.

The report said Egypt’s transitional government has failed to protect religious minorities, especially Coptic Christians, from violent attacks at a time when minority communities have been increasingly vulnerable.

Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims in Iran have been subjected to intensified attacks, harassment, detention and imprisonment, the report said.

In China, conditions for Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims have declined and a crackdown on Protestants and Catholics was reported.

Afghanistan, Belarus, Cuba, India, Indonesia, Laos, Russia, Somalia and Venezuela were placed on the group’s official Watch List.