41 international locations banned religion-related teams in 2019


Authorities restrictions on faith take many varieties all over the world. Notably restrictive governments usually restrict non secular expression by banning sure teams – together with total faiths, social actions or political organizations which have ties to faith.

In truth, 41 international locations – or round a fifth (21%) of these evaluated – banned not less than one religion-related group in 2019, in line with a Pew Analysis Middle evaluation of legal guidelines and insurance policies in impact in 198 international locations in 2019, the newest yr for which complete information is obtainable. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Baha’is had been among the many most continuously banned teams.

The Center East-North Africa area had the very best share of nations (55%, or 11 out of 20 international locations within the area) with bans on religion-related teams in 2019. Asia and the Pacific – the most important area within the research, with 50 nations – had the best quantity of nations with bans (17 out of fifty international locations, or 34% of the area). Sub-Saharan Africa had eight international locations with bans (representing about 17% of the 48 states within the area), Europe had three (or about 7% of the area’s 45 international locations) and the Americas had two nations with such bans in place (representing about 6% of the area’s 35 international locations).

Pew Analysis Middle analyzes authorities bans on non secular teams, religious practices or actions, and political teams with ties to faith as a part of an annual sequence that measures the extent to which governments and societies all over the world impinge on non secular beliefs and practices.

The evaluation is predicated on factual details about legal guidelines, insurance policies and actions coded from a set of publicly out there sources, together with the U.S. Division of State’s annual reviews on worldwide non secular freedom, annual reviews from the U.S. Fee on Worldwide Non secular Freedom, reviews and databases from quite a lot of European and UN our bodies, and several other impartial, nongovernmental organizations. (For a full checklist, learn the report Methodology.)

The research doesn’t embrace bans on teams which can be formally designated as overseas terrorist organizations by the U.S. State Division or banned teams inside a rustic which have been proven to have interaction in systematic violence.

The most up-to-date report on this annual sequence, “Globally, Social Hostilities Associated to Faith Decline in 2019, Whereas Authorities Restrictions Stay at Highest Ranges,” is a part of the Pew-Templeton World Non secular Futures mission, which analyzes non secular change and its impression on societies all over the world. To measure world restrictions on faith in 2019 – the newest yr for which information is obtainable – the research charges 198 international locations and territories by their ranges of presidency restrictions on faith and social hostilities involving faith utilizing a constant methodology. The newest research, the twelfth annual, is predicated on the identical 10-point indexes used within the earlier research.

  • The Authorities Restrictions Index (GRI) measures authorities legal guidelines, insurance policies and actions that prohibit non secular beliefs and practices. The GRI includes 20 measures of restrictions, together with efforts by governments to ban specific faiths, prohibit conversion, restrict preaching or give preferential remedy to a number of non secular teams.
  • The Social Hostilities Index (SHI) measures acts of spiritual hostility by personal people, organizations or teams in society. This contains religion-related armed battle or terrorism, mob or sectarian violence, harassment over apparel for non secular causes, or different religion-related intimidation or abuse. The SHI contains 13 measures of social hostilities.

Right here is the total non secular restrictions report revealed in 2021, and its methodology.

This evaluation is predicated on the Middle’s most up-to-date restrictions on faith report, which examines the extent to which governments and societies impinge on non secular teams and practices. Knowledge is collected from a variety of sources, together with the U.S. Division of State’s Worldwide Non secular Freedom reviews. For the needs of this evaluation, the time period “banned” refers to official prohibitions that forestall a bunch from legally working in a rustic.

Lots of the teams listed as “banned” within the sources consulted additionally depend as “banned” on this evaluation. Nevertheless, some aren’t counted, together with those who the U.S. State Division labels “overseas terrorist organizations” or these which have been proven to have interaction in systematic violence. (Whereas authorities usually cite safety issues, resembling a bunch’s alleged hyperlinks to violence, as a purpose for imposing a ban, some governments use safety issues to focus on teams or those that pose a political menace, or they label non secular teams as being “deviant” or a “cult” when these teams don’t adhere to what the authorities deem to be acceptable non secular practices. These kinds of bans are included on this evaluation.)

In some instances, governments could prohibit or goal particular teams inside their borders however not formally ban them; these teams aren’t counted as banned. The supply paperwork additionally could not cowl each religion-related ban on this planet or seize each nation through which a bunch is banned.

The Middle’s annual restrictions on faith research additionally examines different kinds of authorities limits on non secular exercise, resembling legal guidelines that curtail the non secular exercise of allowed teams; official actions and insurance policies that favor sure teams over others; and harassment of sure teams or people that may quantity to bodily violence. Based mostly on the extent of those restrictions, the report types international locations into classes starting from “very excessive” to “low” ranges of presidency restrictions.

Among the many 41 nations that banned religion-related teams in 2019, 21 additionally had “very excessive” authorities restrictions on faith, accounting for 91% of the international locations within the report with “very excessive” authorities restrictions on faith.

Generally banned teams

Three teams confronted bans in a number of international locations in 2019: Jehovah’s Witnesses, who establish as Christian however differ from different Christians in some methods; Baha’is, a religion originating in Iran that preaches human unity and the continuity of all religions; and Ahmadis, a bunch with roots in India that derives tenets from Islamic teachings.

Jehovah’s Witnesses had been banned in eight international locations spanning the Asia-Pacific area, Europe and the Center East-North Africa area. In Russia, for instance, a 2017 determination by the nation’s Supreme Courtroom banned Jehovah’s Witnesses, criminalizing their actions as being “extremist.” In 2019, a whole lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia confronted detentions, journey restrictions, investigations and raids on their houses.

Baha’is had been banned in six international locations within the Asia-Pacific and Center East-North Africa areas in 2019. In Iran, Baha’is confronted a number of restrictions and had been barred from sure kinds of work, particularly within the meals business, as a result of they had been thought-about “unclean.” Members of the religion additionally had been blocked from authorities jobs, larger training establishments and receiving nationwide pensions. They may not inherit property or have their marriages absolutely acknowledged.

Egypt has had long-standing bans on each Baha’is and Jehovah’s Witnesses, denying them advantages and the power to carry out routine duties – resembling banking or registering for varsity – which can be afforded to acknowledged teams. In 2019, Baha’i marriages weren’t legally acknowledged, and the nation prohibited adherents from designating their non secular affiliation on nationwide identification playing cards. Baha’is and Jehovah’s Witnesses within the nation weren’t permitted to have locations of worship or import non secular literature. Members of those teams reported that the Egyptian authorities allowed them to apply their religion in personal in small numbers, however that authorities prevented them from holding public non secular gatherings.

Ahmadis, in the meantime, had been banned in 4 international locations in 2019, in line with the sources used on this research. Pakistan had legal guidelines that prohibited Ahmadis from calling themselves Muslims and banned them from preaching or proselytizing. Ahmadi group leaders in Pakistan reported that 11 people had been charged for practising their religion and that six of them had been arrested on blasphemy expenses. In line with Ahmadi leaders, some Pakistani authorities businesses additionally used a 2018 court docket determination to disclaim Ahmadis nationwide identification playing cards.

In Brunei, all three teams – Jehovah’s Witnesses, Baha’is and Ahmadis – had been banned in 2019 as they had been thought-about “deviant.”

Members of the persecuted Ahmadiyya community observe Friday prayers on July 16, 2010, in Lahore, Pakistan, at the Garhi Shahu mosque, where the group faced violent targeted attacks in May of that year.
Members of the persecuted Ahmadiyya group observe Friday prayers on July 16, 2010, in Lahore, Pakistan, on the Garhi Shahu mosque, the place the group confronted violent focused assaults in Could of that yr. (Daniel Berehulak/Getty Photos)

Kinds of bans and enforcement ranges

In some international locations, solely sure registered non secular teams are formally acknowledged, and it’s unlawful to stick to another non secular religion.

In Eritrea, solely 4 non secular teams are formally acknowledged: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. Different non secular teams can not register and are handled as unlawful. As an illustration, the federal government solely permits Sunni Islam and bans all different practices of Islam.

Uzbekistan criminalizes actions by unregistered non secular teams, that are thought-about to be “unlawful,” and designates sure Islamic teams to be extremist and due to this fact “prohibited.”  Members and organizers of unlawful non secular teams may be imprisoned as much as 5 years, and people in prohibited teams may be jailed for as much as 20 years. As of 2019, authorities in Uzbekistan had criminalized membership in 22 non secular organizations, citing threats to the federal government’s secular authority and the necessity to forestall “incitement of interreligious instability and hatred,” in line with the U.S. State Division.

Though the federal government of Uzbekistan introduced the closure of a jail identified for incarcerating and torturing non secular prisoners, hundreds had been nonetheless being held in 2019 on “fabricated” expenses for extremism or membership in banned teams, in line with the U.S. Fee on Worldwide Non secular Freedom. Regardless of these ongoing points, the federal government made different notable strikes to cut back restrictions, resembling imposing a prohibition on raids on non secular communities.

In the meantime, the Chinese language authorities criminalizes teams that it considers to be “cult organizations.” These embrace the Falun Gong motion and several other Christian teams, which face detentions and “disappearances,” and in some instances torture and dying, in line with the U.S. State Division. In 2019, a number of reviews additionally detailed the forcible extraction of organs from non secular prisoners – primarily from Falun Gong practitioners – that for years had been carried out for the nation’s organ transplant system.

In some international locations, practices thought-about to be a part of people or indigenous religions are outlawed. In Cameroon, Central African Republic and Tanzania, for instance, practising witchcraft is prohibited.

In lots of international locations, repercussions for membership in banned non secular teams can embrace detention, raids and seizure of property. However a couple of international locations could formally ban teams but tolerate them in apply. In Jamaica, for instance, the nation nonetheless has colonial-era legal guidelines that criminalized the Afro-Caribbean non secular practices of Obeah and Myalism, however they aren’t enforced. Whereas the Bahamas additionally outlaws Obeah practices, the penalties aren’t at all times enforced there both.

A Danish Jehovah's Witness accused of extremism is escorted into a courtroom to hear his verdict in the town of Oryol, Russia, on Feb. 6, 2019.
A Danish Jehovah’s Witness accused of extremism is escorted right into a courtroom to listen to his verdict within the city of Oryol, Russia, on Feb. 6, 2019. (Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Photos)

In some international locations, governments cite safety as a rationale for banning political or social teams with non secular affiliations. Generally the teams are opposition actions to events presently in energy.

In Morocco, a social motion with Islamic roots referred to as the Justice and Charity Group is banned. The group rejects King Mohamed VI’s religious authority and, though unregistered, is ready to function and maintain occasions and demonstrations with some interference from the federal government.

In Bahrain, a Sunni-governed nation the place Shiite leaders have confronted routine detention and harassment, the federal government banned the largely Shiite Al-Wefaq political opposition social gathering in 2016. In 2014, the nation had additionally banned the Islamic Ulema Council, a bunch of Shiite clerics. 

Samirah Majumdar  is a analysis affiliate specializing in faith analysis at Pew Analysis Middle.


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