The Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American “fact tank”, based in Washington, D.C., released a report on April 12, of ‘Restrictions on religion among the 25 most populous countries, 2007-2015′. It created two indices, one which showed the countries which had the highest government restrictions on religions, and the second one which was termed as ‘social hostilities index’ which looked at religious hostilities done by individuals or groups in the country. India, Pakistan along with Egypt, Nigeria, and Russia were amongst those countries where the highest numbers of restrictions were observed.
Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years, according to Pew study.
The report is interesting given the death of Mashal Khan, last week, in Pakistan, killed by fellow students for allegedly posting blasphemy comments on his facebook page. He is not the first person killed in a country where the vigilante mobs have increasingly taken the law into their hands to dispense ‘justice’ as they see it. Similarly, in India, the last couple of years, we have seen increasing numbers of Hindu mobs killing Muslims for eating beef amongst other things. Ironically, India has recently taken the number one position in being the world’s largest beef exporter.
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The report defined government restrictions as laws, policies, and actions that restricted religious beliefs and practices in those countries. This would include things like banning veils or, in the case of Pakistan, restrictions on the Ahmadiya community in practicing their religion, including identification of themselves as Muslims. Whereas, the social hostilities index is based on hostilities faced by different groups because of their religion; collected by observing acts of religious hostility. The report also classified war and terrorism as social hostility, arguing: “It is not always possible to determine the degree to which they are religiously motivated or state sponsored.”
In Pakistan, from 1987 to 2014, over 1300 people have been accused of blasphemy, whilst Muslims constitute the majority of those booked under these laws, punishment has ranged from fines and life imprisonment to now death awarded.
Government restrictions on religion and social hostilities involving religion increased in 2015 for the first time in three years, according to Pew study. The share of countries with “high” or “very high” levels of government restrictions ticked up from 24% in 2014 to 25% in 2015. Meanwhile, the percentage of countries with high or very high levels of social hostilities increased in 2015, from 23% to 27%.
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Pakistan’s score on the government restriction index is lower than its score on the social hostility index but is on the rise which can be seen as it rose from 2007’s 5.8 to 2015’s 7.2.
India ranks high on the list due to high levels of social hostilities found in society, previously it was ranked lower on government restrictions, but increasingly it is seeing upticks both in government restrictions, and social hostilities indices. Recently Gujrat instituted a ban on killing cows and increased the severity of punishment for those caught to life imprisonment. In Pakistan, from 1987 to 2014, over 1300 people have been accused of blasphemy, whilst Muslims constitute the majority of those booked under these laws, punishment has ranged from fines and life imprisonment to now death awarded.
According to the graph, Pakistan is amongst the countries with the highest scores on social hostility index with a score of 7.2 in December 2015. This may put Pakistan amongst countries with the highest amounts of social hostilities but surprisingly, Pakistan saw a decrease in its score from 2007 when the social hostility index score for Pakistan was 8.9. On the other hand, Pakistan’s score on the government restriction index is lower than its score on the social hostility index but is on the rise which can be seen as it rose from 2007’s 5.8 to 2015’s 7.2.
Read more: ‘Muslim Women Should be Taken from their Graves and Raped’: Where is Uttar Pradesh headed now?
India, on the other hand, was seeing decreasing scores, until the election of Narendra Modi’s government, which has resulted in the rise of both scores on the government restriction index from 4.5 in 2014 to 5.1 in 2015 as well as the social hostilities index which rose from 7.9 in 2014 to a massive 8.7 in 2015.