WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — A new data analysis finds that the onset of the Arab Spring in late 2010 did not spark new freedoms for people of the region, but instead, has led to more global restrictions on religion.
A Pew Research Center study finds that in the years since the Arab Spring, both social and governmental intolerance has impeded religious freedoms across the Middle East and North Africa. Both “Government Restriction” and “Social Hostilities” indexes on religion saw a steady rise in opposition to religious freedom.
Worldwide, the share of countries with high or very high restrictions on religion rose from 37 percent in the year ending in mid-2010 to 40 percent in 2011 — a five-year high.
According to Pew, because some of the most constricting countries have the largest populations, more than 5.1 billion people (74 percent) were living in countries with high government restrictions on religion or high social hostilities involving religion, the brunt of which commonly falls on religious minorities.
Both index measures calculate factors such as banning of particular faiths, conversion prohibitions, preferential treatment, harassment, sectarian violence, and other religious abuses and intimidation.
Two countries rose to record high levels of restrictions or hostilities. Egypt – the most populous country in the Middle East-North Africa region – had the highest level of government restrictions in 2011 than any country in the world.
Pakistan was the first country to score 100 percent (10 of 10) of the points on both the social restrictions and hostilities indexes. The Middle Eastern country also had the highest level of social hostilities in the world across all five years of the Pew study.
Over the five years analyzed by the Pew study, the number of countries with very high government restrictions on religion doubled, increasing from 10 countries as of mid-2007 to 20 in 2011.