U.S. warns that Arab revolts are exposing religious intolerance
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that Arab revolts are exposing religious intolerance.
September 13th, 2011
06:42 PM ET

U.S. warns that Arab revolts are exposing religious intolerance

By Elise Labott, CNN

Washington (CNN) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tuesday about an often overlooked downside to the Arab Spring.

The popular revolts against longtime dictators in the Middle East and North Africa may have given hope to millions of Arabs, but the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report found that the uprisings have exposed ethnic and religious minorities to new dangers.

Growing religious intolerance, Clinton warned, threatened to undermine these fragile democratic transitions.

“People have been killed by their own neighbors because of their ethnicity or faith. In other places, we have seen governments stand by while sectarian violence inflamed by religious animosities tears communities apart.”

Urging nations in the region to embrace the freedom to worship for all faiths as they embrace political pluralism for the first time in generations, Clinton warned them not to “trade one form of repression for another.”

In particular, the report, which reviewed religious liberties in 198 countries, singled out Egypt, where there have been clashes between Muslims and Christians and there been several attacks against Copts. The U.S. called on the military government to pass laws protecting all religions. It also noted significant problems in Iraq, where religious minorities and Shiite pilgrims have been the targets of devastating attacks.

Clinton noted Monday's attack by gunmen on Shiite pilgrims in Iraq, calling it a “hateful, senseless” act that had “no aim other than to undermine the fabric of peaceful society.”
Elsewhere in the region, the U.S. has expressed concern about treatment of ethnic minorities in Libya and sectarian violence in Syria.

In Pakistan, the report cited the government for using a blasphemy law that to prosecute religious minorities and, in some cases, Muslims who promote tolerance or to settle personal vendettas. Several politicians and officials have been assassinated for calling for report of the law.

As the worst offenders, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan remained “countries of particular concern.”

The designation means the countries engaged in or tolerated “severe violations of religious freedom,” including persecution, harassment, abuse, discrimination and detention of religious minorities or activists and the prohibition of practicing religions not sanctioned by the government.

Countries of particular concern are subject to U.S. sanctions if they fail to take greater steps to protect religious freedom. The U.S. has slapped six of the eight on the list with sanctions, but Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan were exempted.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent that monitors religious liberties worldwide, had urged the U.S. to add Iraq, Egypt and Pakistan, along with Vietnam and Nigeria, to the watch list. Other countries cited for religious intolerance were Afghanistan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Venezuela.

State Department officials said the Iraq and Pakistan have taken significant measures to protect religious freedom over last year. While more needed to be done, officials who prepared the report felt it would be unfair to punish those countries while they were trying to improve their records and wanted to encourage them.

But those nations aren't exactly getting a free pass. Michael Posner, assistant secretary for democracy, human rights and labor, urged countries with problems to continue to address them. The U.S. was prepared, he warned, to add countries to the blacklist "if the situation warrants."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Church and state • Egypt • Foreign policy

soundoff (198 Responses)
  1. Darinr Stankox

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    July 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  2. trxsuspension

    Hello. everyone.
    would like to make new friends with you guys.

    November 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
  3. JNdluli

    This recent attack on Copts highlights the huge crisis faced by Christian communities throughout the Arab countries. In what is touted as an “Arab Spring”, it appears that Christians are facing renewed discrimination from Muslim extremists. If unchecked this will lead to the next phase – "Shariah Autumn."
    I and many of my African colleagues strongly demand – that in the case of the attacks on Egypt’s Christian community – there should be an immediate international investigation committee formed. Failure by the State in question to support such a committee – should result in Western sanctions of the severest kind. Equal human rights are for all citizens, not only for those of the Muslim faith!
    Additionally, the plight of Christian communities throughout Arab countries should be addressed by world leaders, at UN level. This ongoing discrimination & ‘apartheid’ wrought by Muslims extremists on Christians – has gone on for too many years & is unacceptable in a modern and civilized world.

    October 15, 2011 at 1:40 pm |
  4. fucallah

    We accept all. That is our religion of peace. Of course, we can't accept that 1/2 the population is our equal, because women are less than goats. We also must kill 5/6 of the world's population because they aren't muslim. Then, it will be a golden time where we will live like the Prophet Muhammad. In other words, we will kill those muslims that are "less muslim" than the rest of us. We'll also let 56 year old men marry 6 year old girls and practice male-male relations as often as possible to protect the purity of women before we marry several of them and cover them from head to foot, restrict their movement, disallow legal protection of them, etc. Oh Allah, that moment of pure Islam can't happen soon enough!

    September 29, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • InfidelHere

      You get it...unfortunately there are many who still believe that ISLAM is of pieces, I mean "peace" (HA!!)

      October 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • bmtampa

      lol, yeah, how do tolerate the intolerable?

      October 8, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • Tourn

      I hardly think the U.S. can speak about religious intolerance. They have taken God out of every aspect of our lives here except our private lives. All b/c of one non-believer. If you don't believe, don't pray... simple. When we ask for a moment of silence, it's so those of us who believe in God may ask for his blessings and give thanks. You are free to simply do nothing for a moment.

      October 9, 2011 at 5:19 am |
  5. eyesopened

    Muneef you know these people are so quick to call out the radicals, they dont know what radical is, there for they cant identifiy it if they wanted to.Why is that because the truth is a work in progess and if someone at sometime in their life claimed to have recieved it there will be a good difference in their lives that will effect those around them, and if there is not,and all you have is someone repeating scriptures and playing a role Well thats all you have. And what my heart is descerning across the board is that, We so called Christians are doing it. Im sure if I believed in Allah Im sure that reverence would hold true, as it does with my Father Abba. We are not them or Him what have you, Yet we as so many christians especialy the born again ones cause their so out spoken, because of their false teaching or lack of understanding or thinking for themselves. They HAVE all authority and they are holy and they are rightous! and heres the real radical stuff as they are in complete disobeidince jugding everyone and their brother, they are assuming not only His rightousness, they are assuming His word, the only time they are speaking the truth is when they are repeating Gods word. and the rest of the time well? And you wonder why so many Christians are Hated as Jesus prophisied, We assumed His rightousness then and we are assuming it now, this wasnt a prophisie to tell you that you were in the right place if they do, this was a WARNING to warn us of our hypocrcy our sinful nature, but no we are born again we are God we can Judge, NOT, You came here for freedom and liberty, to hang on to your faith not a faith that enslaves you, perfect peace is in the eye of the beholder,not in what it casts it sight on. try not to set your mind on your feelings Muneef, as I am reading that you are, as the enemy will cater to them that you may not know peace.

    September 20, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • RodRoderick

      So is it your view that if people are tortured or killed for their religious beliefs that if one claims to be Christian we are to turn a blind eye to this injustice? Should we rattle sabers as other religions, or should we seek a non-violent mean to end the suffering of our fellow beings around the globe?

      September 29, 2011 at 5:38 am |
  6. eyesopened

    Muneef I share in your frustration,I love the way you stated us people being the ones, and your country. You know if more people could only see what you see maybe they would be able to fix the situation in their own heart or backyard or household. And then they would be able to realize the root of their fear,

    September 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
  7. Muneef

    Dear Mrs.Clinton.

    Beg from you to support and stand by the legally elected ruling party against those militants within the opposition who are breaking down our country and killing the youth...those if they come up to rule will incur bloodshed every where and will stretch their bloodshed to reach every corner of this Arabian Peninsular...take my word for it they are evil and worse than that who you dumped into the sea....

    September 19, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  8. Muneef

    Am sick and tired of this talk about the religious and the non religious things being taken as an excuse to squeeze crashing down those nations or countries....innocent peaceful people are the first to pay the price in such conflicts and wars..

    What did the revolts brought to the people in those countries any thing other than continuos unending revolts and demonstrations scarcity of essential commodities and products adding to the sky high prices... While other essential needs such as electricity power supply,water,gas,diesel,petrol are being used as a pressure tool by the opposition or the ruling party to keep people mad on the streets rather than going home seeing to their daily living making and minding their own businesses...but what business will continue with such chaos and disorder...? Students are not allowed to go to their schools and universities with out being surrounded and beaten up...?! Businesses are dismissing staff and becoming exhausted towards bankruptcy and the closure down....!?

    September 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Muneef

      Feel my head is going to explode thinking about all those facts that am suffering my self facing all these things and an exhausted business that is heading towards that end sooner than later for this stand still motion for the past 8 months of heavy demonstrations,chaos and disorder that is increasing by the day...! Imports/Exports are stand still, the banks have stopped taking any fixed assests and lands as bank guarantee towards taking loans to over come this situations where you can not find buyers paying good towards what you sell when you need financial liquidity...but these time you cannot sell unless you will sell it at the lowest ever in the market...!?! Honestly tired of that now more than was tired before all that started but at least things were stable although many were deprived but managed to live by those upper hands/classes giving charity..unfortunately today those now are being exhausted into becoming all deprived from every things in life "no peace,no justice,no future"....

      September 17, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Muneef

      I bet you the more of that take place the more you will find people going into exposing religious and non religious intolerance towards life and every living thing since might have nothing to care for or be optimistic about...!!! Guess the global financial and economical crises or hardship are adding oil to fire since that slows growth to providing jobs and employment opportunities to the growing youth of their generations...! There will only be few opportunities for them to make a living and that is by joining terrorist militants or pirate activities at sea or high way roads..!
      We became prisoners of our neighborhood due demonstrations,we became prisoners at our cities due the Tensions created by the extreme oppositions "socialists&islamists" what a combination they make that warns of a war between them soonest they finish the task of over throwing the ruling party...! The whole country is divided as political parties,as tribal,as armies... All just as waiting for the hour to explode due these pressures applied...!! Well if that is our destiny and faith then let it be but by applying such acts on the populations by those Political Parties playing their dirty games is not Islamic at all and if that what is applied by those Muslim to Muslim then what can you non Muslims expect to be treated at any other MidEast country?! 

      September 17, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
    • Muneef

      These are men greeds and are unrelated to religion nor it is in favor of religions...religion is a direct spritual connection between the Servent and his GOD...that was what most of us knew before we were spoiled by the "Islamic Belt Idea" that the West had introduced and marketed it in our MidEast area towards encouraging youth to join militants in "Jihad"  establishing that belt surrounding and fighting the communists in Afghanistan and some Asian countries... Well now that has spoiled our life coming back on us and you but I do not see why should we innocents pay for your "Political Games"...!?

      September 17, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • *frank*

      Better get out while you can, Muneef! Move to Brazil and open a beachfront restaurant so you can sit and watch the women and chew coca leaves all day. Maybe a nip or two of coconut rum at lunch too, when in Rome, eh old chap?

      September 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Muneef

      My late father told me during the early 90's that those youth who faced some shock such as an emotional shock ,they become extremely religious...so if that is true then imagine what shocks has the Arabian Spring brought and what shocks will keep on coming to all those MidEastern countries...!
      No wonder now the shocks on Somalia and the countries that followed after 911 keep on breeding endless terrorist militants....!!!
       Some body has really spoiled the whole map based on a false dream and Fox's Islam-o-phobia....!!!
      Oh mighty GOD have mercy upon us,GOD ease our hardship,GOD bring us back Peace & Prosperity in this life and the life after...Amen

      September 17, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
    • Muneef

      Why you got your self between my posts thread?! You spoiled it..! Any way old chap no country population wants any more immigrants pouring into it specially if a Muslim...! So better I live and die in my country as honorable as I could rather than taking for immigration and living in other people's countries afraid and humiliated...it is enough what I read here about America&Europe ill treatment to Asian/MidEastern Muslim immigrants...!! It is your people babbling about our countries being infested by terrorists that has made investors leave and your supporting the revolts against the ruling party has created all these commotions that we are now obliged to live with since 8 months ago..!

      September 17, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  9. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    While the report is right on on religious and ethnic persecution in most Muslim nations, IT's HIGHLY REGRETTABLE THAT PAKISTAN DOES NOT APPEAR IN THE LIST OF WORST OFFENDERS, purely b'coz we BELIEVE Pakistan to be a key ally (ALL-LIE?) in our fight against al-Qaeda & the Taliban.

    September 17, 2011 at 10:07 am |
  10. Amit-Atlanta-USA


    That's NOT only happening in Muslim countries, but also in parts of Christian EUROPE, and INDIA. In the Indian state of Kashmir the entire Hindu community who have lived there for 1000's of years have been wiped out, and even in other parts of India where Hindus are in a majority Hindus are increasingly being threatened to leave.

    September 17, 2011 at 9:37 am |
  11. Travis

    Frankly, I don't think this should surprise anyone. As racist as this is going to sound, these people have been killing each other for ages and they will continue to do so in the future if permitted because it is the only thing they know.

    The Middle East does not have a concept of live-and-let live unless it is forced upon them by a dictator. For hundreds of years, most of the region was under the control of the Ottoman sultans who ruled with an iron fist and ensured that the diverse ethnic and religious groups didn't fight amongst themselves. When the British and French redrew the map after the Ottomans' defeat in World War I, they didn't consider the fact that they were dividing tribes and putting historic enemies under the same flag. For a more recent example, look to Iraq – the only thing that kept the Sunnis and Shiites from going to war was the fact that Saddam Hussein brutally repressed any semblance of rebellion.

    This is a land where the following axiom holds true – "I and my brother against my cousin, I and my cousin against the stranger". Basically, it means that an Arab is in a state of perpetual conflict with anyone outside of his family. Combine that with centuries-old feuds, a draconian justice system, the rise & fall of successive tyrants, and the legacy of colonialism, and you have a situation that will inevitably result in bloodshed. This not to say that the Western world doesn't have its own history of social upheaval, but at least we have learned from our past mistakes and learned (for the most part) that killing anyone who goes to a different church is not the way to solve our problems.

    September 17, 2011 at 1:12 am |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      Yous are absolutely right when you said "The Middle East does not have a concept of live-and-let live unless it is forced upon them by a dictator. "

      That is also true with Muslim communities everywhere including right here in the US and also India.

      For example right here in the US even as there are countless Muslim organizations, Muslims behave as a monolith when it comes to any issue that even remotely concerns Muslims. That includes BLIND SUPPORT for terrorists etc. Even CNN's Mr. FAREED ZAKARIA covertly & overtly supports all such acts, while castigating naive & gullible Americans and taking them on a GUILT TRIP!

      And in India,Muslims listen ONLY to their MULLAHs who are in negotiations to gleen maximum concessions from teh political parties in return for the communities' support. This happens even until the previous night of the elections. Once the decison is made the SHAHI IMAM OF JUMMA MASJID in Delhi conveys that to all Muslims directly & also through other Mullahs.

      No wonder, India pampers their Muslims like no other country in the world. Until recently inspite of the TREMENDOUS HINDU MAJORITY SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL India had been firmly in the Palestanian camp. That's also true with HINDU support for the US, while most Indian Muslims just as their brethern all over the world HATE THE US.

      September 17, 2011 at 9:52 am |
    • RodRoderick

      very well spoken.

      September 29, 2011 at 5:45 am |
    • hankers

      "most Indian Muslims just as their brethern all over the world HATE THE US."... now why would that be?

      September 29, 2011 at 10:23 pm |
  12. Irene

    For now, he continues to reign over those who are without Christ. Yet his power over believers was broken at Calvary. As Christians, we are not of this world, but rather, we're part of God's kingdom (John 17:16). Therefore, the Lord has sole control of our destiny.


    September 16, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  13. oneone

    Jesus doesn't believe in religious tolerance.

    He sends people to hell for not believing in him.

    September 16, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
    • Mathilda

      @Oneone, only because you deserve justice.

      September 17, 2011 at 7:00 am |
    • Pandora

      @oneone...a small correction. Jesus is not god. So, please don't bring Jesus into picture and deviate from the actual topic.

      September 18, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  14. sami

    How ironic it is to see that Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan are exempted from the US sancations... Is it because they are super human beings or is it because they the noble ones and or is it because they are rich in oil. So what we call this? a double standard US policy? I leave it for you judgement. Sami

    September 16, 2011 at 1:11 pm |
    • Muneef

      Position Paper – Uzbekistan Organization of the Islamic Conference 2010 (OIC)

      September 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm |
  15. ColoredMountains

    Muslims don't know what religious freedom is. They need the Bible, the same Book that educated the barbaric Europeans into the most superior humans who created America.

    September 16, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Adelina..you can be free from religious intolerance too.. by thinking and turning rational.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:37 pm |
    • Mathilda

      Rationale indicates DNA never evolves but is distinctly designed and programmed by the Creator God. Truth is intolerant. Why have all these Americans become so stupidly Hindu this century? Please get defeated by China.

      September 17, 2011 at 7:03 am |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Mathilda..There is no creator god, or devil or satan.. these are all figments of your mind instilled by our ancestors..you will never see the return of the gods , or see the wrath of the gods you crave because none of it exists. Set your mind free, and understand the world the way it is,

      September 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  16. Azathoth

    What about all this religious intolerence at home? We've got christians trying to push their points of view on everyone in our own country. Forget everyone else, let's straighten out our own country first =D And by straighten out I mean strict separation of church and state.

    September 15, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      We live in a country where many groups are trying to push their views. When a Atheist group fights a kid giving out Christmas cards during the Christmas season is no different than a Christian group declares that "Mickey has two mommies" should be removed from the schools.

      Unless you fight intolerance from all sides, then all you have is one group imposing their view on the rest. If you want to fight intolerance then strive for tolerance for all. 🙂

      September 15, 2011 at 5:49 pm |
    • EvolvedDNA

      Mark From Middle.. well, while religions put Prophets before people it will not happen. What you failed to mention is that it is the supposed more moral religious who are less tolerant of each other. Catholics, Protestants, Jew, Muslin, Christian, Baptist.. all have issues with each other and exercise violence to achieve their point of view. If you kept the concept of god behind locked doors and valued a human for themselves rather than what myth he believed it would be a start. I actually do not agree with what that atheist group did, I am sure that another religious group would have done it eventually... how many Christmas concerts are cancelled, trees not put up, Christmas songs not sung.. that had nothing to do with atheists.

      September 16, 2011 at 11:58 pm |
    • Reality

      But there are things one cannot tolerate:

      Some examples:=============================>

      1a) 179 killed in Mumbai/Bombay, 290 injured

      1b) Assassination of Benazir Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh

      2) 9/11, 3000 mostly US citizens, 1000’s injured

      3) The 24/7 Sunni-Shiite centuries-old blood feud currently being carried out in Iraq, US troops killed in action, 3,483 and 925 in non combat roles. 99,901 – 109,143 Iraqi civilians killed as of 3/3/2011/, mostly due to suicide bombers, http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ and http://www.defenselink.mil/news/casualty.pdf

      4) Kenya- In Nairobi, about 212 people were killed and an estimated 4000 injured; in Dar es Salaam, the attack killed at least 11 and wounded 85.[2]

      5) Bali-in 2002-killing 202 people, 164 of whom were foreign nationals, and 38 Indonesian citizens. A further 209 people were injured.

      6) Bali in 2005- Twenty people were killed, and 129 people were injured by three bombers who killed themselves in the attacks.

      7) Spain in 2004- killing 191 people and wounding 2,050.

      8. UK in 2005- The bombings killed 52 commuters and the four radical Islamic suicide bombers, injured 700.

      9) The execution of an eloping couple in Afghanistan on 04/15/2009 by the Taliban.

      10) – Afghanistan: US troops 1,141 killed in action, 242 killed in non-combat situations as of 03/03/2011. Over 40,000 Afghan civilians killed due to the dark-age, koranic-driven Taliban acts of horror

      11) The killing of 13 citizen soldiers at Ft. Hood by a follower of the koran.

      12) 38 Russian citizens killed on March 29, 2010 by Muslim women suicide bombers.

      13) The May 28, 2010 attack on a Islamic religious minority in Pakistan, which have left 98 dead,

      14) Lockerbie is known internationally as the site where, on 21 December 1988, the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 crashed as a result of a terrorist bomb. In the United Kingdom the event is referred to as the Lockerbie disaster, the Lockerbie bombing, or simply Lockerbie. Eleven townspeople were killed in Sherwood Crescent, where the plane's wings and fuel tanks plummeted in a fiery explosion, destroying several houses and leaving a huge crater, with debris causing damage to a number of buildings nearby. The 270 fatalities (259 on the plane, 11 in Lockerbie) were citizens of 21 nations.

      15 The daily suicide and/or roadside and/or mosque bombings in the terror world of Islam.

      16) Bombs sent from Yemen by followers of the koran which fortunately were discovered before the bombs were detonated.

      17) The killing of 58 Christians in a Catholic church in one of the latest acts of horror and terror in Iraq.

      18) Moscow airport suicide bombing: 35 dead, 130 injured. January 25, 2011.

      19) A Pakistani minister, who had said he was getting death threats because of his stance against the country's controversial blasphemy law, was shot and killed Wednesday, 3/2/2011

      20) two American troops killed in Germany by a recently radicalized Muslim, 3/3/2011

      21) the kidnapping and apparent killing of a follower of Zoraster in the dark world of Islamic Pakistan.

      22) Shariatpur, Bangladesh (CNN 3/30/2011) – Hena Akhter's last words to her mother proclaimed her innocence. But it was too late to save the 14-year-old girl. Her fellow villagers in Bangladesh's Shariatpur district had already passed harsh judgment on her. Guilty, they said, of having an affair with a married man. The imam from the local mosque ordered the fatwa, or religious ruling, and the punishment: 101 lashes delivered swiftly, deliberately in public. Hena dropped after 70 and died a week later.

      September 17, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.