Aggressive nationalism fuelling hatred against religion

Aggressive nationalism is fuelling the rise in violence and intimidation against religious minorities, and Islamophobia and anti-Semitism are on the rise in the West.

Furthermore, the West is failing to convert words of concern into action, a report by Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need says.

John Pontifex, editor-in-chief of the biannual Religious Freedom in the World 2018 Report, says overall “Aggressive ultra-nationalism – be it by hard-line governments or violent extremist groups – means many minority faith groups feel like aliens in their own country. They are easy targets in a new era of ignorance and intolerance.

“True, there are some like the Rohingya Muslims, whose plight has received due attention in the West, but so many others – such as Christians in Nigeria, Ahmadis in Pakistan and Baha’is in Iran – feel abandoned by the West where religious freedom has slipped down the human rights priority rankings.”

The report says “ultra-nationalism” by governments and other players has caused an increase in hatred against faith minorities. This is being felt in many of the world’s 196 countries, including India, China, Pakistan and Burma.

Religious illiteracy, including within the media, and a lack of political action in the West exacerbates the problem. Many faith minority groups suffer behind a “curtain of indifference” the report’s authors say.

The report also notes that despite displaced minority faith groups’ specific requests, most Western governments have not offered to enable them to return home to northern Iraq and elsewhere following the ousting of ISIS and other militant groups.

In addition, media coverage about militant Islam has focused almost exclusively on the fight-back against ISIS and affiliate groups during the period under review – 2016-18. It has largely ignored the spread of militant Islamist movements in parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

A main driver behind the growth in extremism is the growing clash between Sunni and Shia, rival branches of Islam, the report says.

In the 2016-18 25-month review period, the situation for minority faith groups deteriorated in 18 of the 38 countries classed as having significant violations of religious freedom.

Worsening intolerance towards religious minorities meant that for the first time in the report’s 19-year history, Russia and Kyrgyzstan were placed in the “discrimination” category.

In addition, the report says that in a number of cases, such as Saudi Arabia and North Korea, the situation was already so bad that in the period under review “it was difficult to imagine it could get any worse.”

A surge in extremist attacks by militants against targets in the West has been noted during the past two years, with the report’s authors’ noting the danger from such terrorists is “universal, imminent and ever-present.”

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News category: World.

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