Ads 468x60px

25 March 2011

Defamation of Religion

A 12-year campaign by Islamic countries to have religion protected from “defamation” via a series of United Nations resolutions was brought to a halt in March when Western countries and like-minded states backed a new approach that switches the focus from protecting beliefs to protecting believers.

Since 1998, the 57-nation Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) (now Cooperation) had won approval in the UN Human Rights Council and at the United Nations General Assembly for a series of resolutions to “combat defamation of religion and incitement to religious hatred in general and against Islam and Muslims in particular”.

But critics said the concept ran against international law and free speech, and left the way open for draconian blasphemy laws like those in Pakistan.

They argued that it also allowed states where one religion predominates to keep religious minorities under tight control or even leave them open to forced conversion or oppression.

A poll of 18487 respondents in 20 nations conducted by in 2009 showed that majorities in 13 of the 20 nations supported the right to criticise a religion. See here for full report.

The margins of error range from +/-3 to 4 percentage points. The surveys were conducted across the different nations between April 25 and July 9, 2009.

A summary of the results is given below.

Currently there is a controversy about criticizing religions. Which position is closer to yours:

On average, across all countries polled, 57% of respondents agree that "people should be allowed to publicly criticize a religion because people should have freedom of speech."

However, an average of 34% of respondents agree that governments "should have the right to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion."

Of the seven nations where most people agree with that criticism of religion should be prohibited five have overwhelmingly Muslim populations -- Egypt (71%), Pakistan (62%), Iraq (57%), Indonesia (49%), and the Palestinian territories (51%). Another two -- India (59%) and Nigeria (54%)-- have historically been plagued by sectarian violence.

Support for the right to criticize religion is strongest in the United States, with 89%, compared to just 9% support for government restrictions.

Chile is next with 82% support, followed by Mexico (81%), Britain (81%), Germany (76%), Poland (68%), Azerbaijan (67%), France (66%), Russia (61%), South Korea (59%), Turkey (54%), Kenya (54%), and Ukraine (53%).

In addition, 68% of Taiwanese and 81% in Hong Kong agree the ability to criticize religion should be a right.

The two non-Muslim countries where majorities responded by saying governments should be able to fine or imprison people for criticizing religions are India and Nigeria.

Both were founded in the 20th century with borders that were drawn by former colonial powers in a way that encompassed a variety of religions, including a large Muslim minority. And both have since experienced periodic spates of sectarian violence that have frequently involved Muslims.

This suggests that their support of government restrictions may stem not from a popular push to defend Islam -- Muslims make up roughly half of Nigeria's population but just 13% of India's -- but from a broadly shared desire to maintain order by curbing criticism of religions.

In Nigeria, that is borne out by the fact that Muslims and Christians respond almost identically to the poll question. Fifty-four percent of Christians and 53% of Muslims favor government restrictions, while 45% of Muslims and 43% of Christians say criticism of religion should be allowed.

21 March 2011

Anti-Muslim current in Australia: study

A year-long study of religious freedom in Australia has revealed widespread distrust of Muslims and discrimination against pagans and homosexuals.

The report released Monday by the Australian Human Rights Commission found that acceptance of religious difference had not become easier as the population became more diverse.

After taking more than 2,000 public submissions and consulting with more than 200 religious, secular and community groups, the report found there was a "pressing need" for education about religions to reduce ignorance and fear.

"There is a current of anti-Muslim discourse that suggests an entrenched hostility often related to overseas events," the report said in its conclusion. "Significant distrust of Muslims and Islam was expressed by some," it added, saying there were reports of discrimination against Muslims and other religious minorities. [AFP] Read more

Call to reduce fear of religions THERE'S a pressing need to use education to reduce ignorance and fear about religions in Australia, a new report says. It said there is a current anti-Muslim discourse that suggests entrenched hostility which is often related to overseas events.

The report, entitled Freedom of Religion in the 21st Century, was prepared for the Australian Human Rights Commission.

The researchers said some Christians fear the introduction of sharia law in Australia and believe that governments appease Muslim communities by giving Islam preferential treatment. [] Read more [via National Secular Society]

11 March 2011

Half of Europeans say Islam is a religion of intolerance

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a social democratic foundation based in Berlin, has published “Intolerance, Prejudice and Discrimination: A European Report” covering eight European countries (Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal, Poland and Hungary). It includes the results of a survey of over 8000 Europeans.

Certain views were strongly supported by the peopled surveyed: around 50% percent claim their country hosts too many immigrants, between 17% (Netherlands) and 70% (Poland) supported anti-Semitic statements, and 33% believe in a natural hierarchy between ethnicities.

Islam also plays a large role, with 50% of participants claiming that it is a religion of intolerance.

The full report is available here

The results regarding Muslims are summarised below

Number of Muslims in Europe

Table 1 shows the % of the population that is Muslim in the five countries that have Muslim populations larger than 1% of their total.

Table 1: Migrants & Muslims in Europe

Migrants & Muslims in Europe (% of population)
CountryMuslimsMigrantsMain Countries of origin
France10.010.4North Africa, esp. Algeria
Germany7.012.3Turkey, former Soviet Union, eastern Europe
Great Britain4.09.1South East Asia, Pakistan, Caribbean islands, Poland
Italy2.14.3Balkan states incl. Romania, Africa
Netherlands6.010.1Indonesia, Surinam, Morocco,Turkey

Anti-Muslim Attitudes

After statistical testing, three opinion statements were selected for examination in the survey.

They cover (1) the general impression that there are too many Muslims in the country, (2) the charge that Muslims make too many demands, and (3) broad-brush criticism of Islam as a religion of intolerance.

Four further statements were surveyed in a random half of the sample.

These cover a positive attitude that sees Muslims as an enrichment and the idea that there are great cultural differences between the majority society and Muslims, especially concerning attitudes towards women. We also surveyed the idea that Muslims generally support and condone terrorism.

In most of the countries a majority believe Islam to be a religion of intolerance, with agreement just below 50 percent only in Great Britain and the Netherlands. In almost all the countries more than half of respondents said that Muslims make too many demands.

Table 2: Anti-Muslim Statements - % Agreeing

Anti-Muslim statements (% in agreement)
There are too many Muslims in [country]46.144.736.241.549.7
Muslims are too demanding54.150.052.851.864.7
Islam is a religion of intolerance52.547.252.346.760.4
The Muslim culture fits well into [country/Europe]16.639.049.838.727.4
Muslims’ attitudes towards women contradict our values76.181.578.878.282.2
Many Muslims perceive terrorists as heroes27.937.6-29.228.5
The majority of Muslims find terrorism justifiable17.126.323.319.921.5

* In France the statements were formulated positively and subsequently reverse coded. In these cases the value for France is the percentage of respondents who “somewhat” or “strongly” disagreed with the statement

Britain, Italy and the Netherlands more than 40 percent of respondents complain that there are too many Muslims in their country

A majority of more than 70 percent of European respondents find that Muslim attitudes towards women are incompatible with their own values.

Overall in the surveyed countries about one third think that Muslims treat Islamist terrorists as heroes, although somewhat fewer believe that terrorism finds moral support in the Muslim community (under 20% in Germany and the Netherlands).

It is conspicuous that Europeans are largely united in their rejection of Muslims and Islam.

Survey details

In each country a sample of 1,000 individuals aged 16 or above was selected for landline telephone interviews. The samples were selected to be representative of the respective national population. Deviations from population demographics were dealt with by weighting.

Data was taken from 8,026 European interviewees representing approx. 270 million Europeans aged 16 or above. The samples include only persons holding the citizenship of the surveyed country.

The mean age was just under 47, with the youngest sample in Poland (44) and the oldest in Germany (48). Taking the sample as a whole, 16 percent of respondents had at least one parent or grandparent who was an immigrant, but the countries differed considerably in this respect.

In France almost one third of interviewees belonged to a migrant community in some sense, in Italy fewer than 3 percent.