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Freedom falling

70% of the world's population live in countries with high levels of religious restrictions or hostility, according to research by the Pew Forum, and for almost half of them has this increased over the course of three years.

The report Rising Restrictions on Religion, published in August, considers government measures against religious practices and accounts of attacks between 2006 and 2009.

The UK receives a rating of moderate, but registers as one of the ten countries where hostility has substantially increased over the period. This was a result of Islamophobic incidents including arson and slurs from soccer crowds, and anti-Semitic episodes connected to events in Gaza. Of these ten countries, five were in Europe.

Of the ten countries ranked as very high for restrictions or hostility, seven are Islamic. The other three are Communist China, Buddhist Burma, and Christian Eritrea. North Korea would presumably make the premier league, but not enough information was available.

37 countries are ranked as high,  of which 28 are Islamic. The other nine include Israel, India, Russia and Vietnam.

Among those classed as high or very high, nine saw significant increases, while none decreased. Among the low group, seven saw decreases and only one, Hong Kong, increased.  

As the authors of the report say: 'This pattern suggests that a gradual polarization could be taking place, with restrictive countries growing even more so. Whether this is a long-term trend or a short-term phenomenon is not yet clear.'

The report found that Christians were harassed in 130 countries, Muslims in 117, Jews in 75, Hindus in 27 and Buddhists in 16.

The highest-ranked country overall was Egypt,  the only one to feature in the top ten for both government restrictions and social hostilities.
Read the report at pewforum.org.