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Religious Tolerance logo

Active religious intolerance

A brief overview of
intolerance outside of North America

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Religious intolerance outside North America:

In spite of UN declarations on religious freedom, there is still massive room for improvement in some countries.

bullet Wars: Religious intolerance is a driving force behind many of the world's armed conflicts and centers of civil unrest. A few current and recent conflicts are listed below:

bullet "The Troubles:" Protestants vs. Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. The violence has now been essentially eliminated.

bullet Muslims, vs. Serbian Orthodox Christians in Kosovo.

bullet Christians, Jews, and Muslims in the Middle East. The Christian population is rapidly diminnishing through assassinations and emigration. High levels of conflict between the two main traditions of Islam -- Sunni and Shiite -- continue. The Sufis -- a mystical Muslim tradition -- are heavily persecuted in some countries.

bullet Hindus, Muslims, Christians, and Sikhs in India.

bullet Christians and Muslims in East Timor. Active conflict has ended after the extermination of about one third of the Christian population.

bullet Christians, Muslims and Animists in Nigeria. This conflict continues with the northern part of the country predominately Muslim, and the southern part mainly Christian.

bullet Christians and Muslims in the southern Philippine islands. This conflict has lasted for centuries.

bullet Hindus and Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Active conflict has ended with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers who are predomniately Hindu.

bullet Christians, Muslims and Animists in Sudan. The conflict continues in border regions in spite of the splitting of the country into Sudan and South Sudan.

We maintain a listing of current civil wars and civil unrest which are at least partly based on religion.

bullet Missionaries: Religious missionaries are severely persecuted in some areas of the world. Most victims are Christians; most perpetrators are national governments and the majority religion.

bullet Conversion: Some predominately Muslim countries have declared that a religious conversion from the state religion to another belief system is a criminal act, sometimes punishable by death. Such extreme sentences are very rarely applied.

bullet Overview: Robert Seiple of the U.S. State Department reported to a congressional hearing on 1999-OCT-6 on religious freedom around the world. Unfortunately, the report did not include religious abuses inside the U.S. They found that seven countries exhibited "particularly severe" violations of religious freedom over the year year:

bullet Afghanistan's previous government, led by the Taliban, persecuted and killed Shiite Muslims in programs of mass murder that meet some definitions of genocide. The police often impose "severe physical punishment and imprisonment for deviations from codes of worship and dress." The Taliban were expelled from Afghanistan by NATO forces. A deade later, the Taliban is poised to take over after Nato forces leave.
bullet Myanmar (Burma) has imprisoned Buddhist monks who promote human and political rights. This persecution by the anti-democratic military continues today.

bullet China suppresses unregistered religious activity "through harassment, prolonged detention and incarceration in prison or 'reform-through-labor' camps." This also continues today.

bullet Iran seriously persecutes the Baha'i Faith by imprisonment of its members, denial of their right to assemble, and confiscating or desecrating their holy places. This also continues today. While most of the rest of the world considers the Baha'i faith to be a small world religion, the religious leaders in Iran view it as a Islamic heresy.

bullet Iraq, under dictator Saddam Hussein, arbitrarily imprisoned, and murdered some individuals from their Shi'a and Kurdish Muslim minorities. As a result of the invasion of Iraq, Hussein was captured and executed, a civil war was triggered, on the order of 110,000 civilian deaths resulted (reaching a peak in 2006 and 2007), 3 on the order of two million Iraqis fled to Jordan and Syria, about three million were internally displaced, 4 and the Middle East was destabilized. The number of American military deaths is on the order of 4,500; with from 33,000 to 100,000 wounded, and on the order of 18 suicides a day by American veterans. 5

Since the military action by the U.S. was never properly budgeted, the country's deficit rose precipitiously. This triggered a recession in mid-2008 under the George W. Bush administration. The recession still lingers.

bullet Serbia's government (primarily composed of Serbian Orthodox Christians) killed, tortured, raped, and forced the emigration of ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslims) in Kosovar.

bullet Sudan's government has engaged in killing, arbitrary imprisonment, violence, extermination by military action, and forced conversions of members of minority faiths, including Christianity, Aboriginal religions, and minority Muslim groups. 1,2 The violence continued until a peace settlement was reached and implemented in 2011. Conflicts continue in border areas between Sudan and the newly created country Southern Sudan.

The U.S. federal Religious Freedom Act requires the President to react to this report by selecting "from 15 policy responses that range from private diplomatic protest to economic sanctions." 

We have prepared a review of religious intolerance in various countries. It is a random sampling of some of the most important events that have been covered in the media in recent years.

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Universally found intolerance that is partly religiously based:

Interactions between religious faith, culture, and traditions have resulted in widespread intolerance of women, gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transgender persons, transsexuals and other minorities in many countries. These instances of intolerance are often driven more by cultural influences than religious beliefs and traditions. However, organized religions could probably do more to eliminate these injustices than any other institution, if they were so motivated.

In some areas of the world women, are forced into marriage years before they can safely bear children. They are denied educational and employment opportunities. In Northern Africa, female children of Animist, Christian, and Muslim parents often undergo Female Genital Mutilation. Rape by husbands is not considered a crime in some countries.

Although there is a worldwide shift towards tolerance and acceptance of sexual minorities, same-sex sexual behavior remains a capital crime in six Muslim countries. Asassination, physical attacks, discrimination, and bullying that victimize sexual minorities are common worldwide.

A few examples of religious intolerance In the U.S. are:

  • Women are still discriminated against due to sexism:
  • Sexual minorities face much higher levels of discrimination due to homophobia:
  • Some religious minorities face some discrimination due to religism: 6
    • Wiccans, Druids, and other Neopagans who are incarcerated in California prisons are not permitted to practice their religion. The state government in cooperation with Wallbuilders -- a dominionist Christian religious group -- are arguing in court that followers of such faith groups are not deserving of elementary religious rights and freedoms.
    • Some groups are promoting hatred of Muslims. Islamophobia has surfaced in many localities where Muslims have tried to get building permits for new mosques. It also was present in New York City when a Muslim group of the Sufi tradition attempted to construct a community center some five blocks from the ground zero where the World Trade Center towers once stood. This discrimination is ironic in that the Sufis are a peaceful, spiritual wing within Islam. They are the victims of discrimination and extermination by the Wahhabi sect of Mulsims. Wahhabism is the religion of Al-Qaeda who were responsible for the 911 attack on New York City and Washington.
    • There is a widespread fear by many conservative Christians of future loss of religious feeedom. They fear being forced to marry same-sex couples, being charged with a hate crime for reading Bible passages in church, etc. These fears appear groundless because of the guarantees of freedom of religion and speech in the U.S. Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees their freedom to discriminate and to direct hate speech against minorities.


  1. Religion Today news summary for 1999-OCT-7
  2. "U.S. lists China among worst violators of religious freedom," Newsroom, 1999-OCT-7 at:
  3. "Iraq Body Count," as of 2011-SEP-30, at:
  4. "Healing the Wounds: Iraq," Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC)," at:
  5. "Casualties in Iraq," as of 2001-SEP-30, at:
  6. Religism is a new word not found in dictionaries yet. It is a word in the same class as sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. We suggest the definition: "the expression of fear towards, hatred towards, or discrimination against, persons of a specific religion affiliation, usually a minority faith."

Copyright 1997 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2011-SEP-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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