Sweeping Religious Persecution under the Rug; State Department Turns Blind Eye toward Oppression in Muslim Countries

Article excerpt

Byline: Deborah Weiss, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The State Department recently released its annual reports on human rights violations around the world. In an unprecedented move, it conspicuously omitted any mention of religious persecution, oppression of religious minorities or violations of religious freedom. Instead, the State Department referred readers to the most recent U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom reports, which cover 2010 but not 2011, and the 2010 International Religious Freedom Report, which is obviously two years outdated. This is significant.

The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act mandated that the State Department take several actions in furtherance of human rights. This included the creation of an Office of International Religious Freedom and the preparation of annual human right reports, to be supplemented with details of violations of religious freedom listed country by country. The State Department must also indicate those countries whose violations are most egregious as Countries of Particular Concern and to take actions to counter these transgressions as part and parcel of U.S. foreign policy.

Religious freedom is considered a fundamental human right. If one is denied the right to worship his god and maintain his own conscience, what other freedom can be had? The Founding Fathers, some of whom fled other countries due to religious persecution, held up religious freedom as paramount. It therefore constitutes a basic underpinning of the very existence of the United States, and its importance is reflected as the first freedom in America's founding documents.

Countries that persecute, restrict or oppress religious minorities often pressure people to recant their faith, deny them the right to worship publicly and to erect houses of worship, and discriminate against them in education, housing and employment. More egregious abuses include torture, flogging, financial fines, imprisonment and even execution.

Approximately 50 percent of the world's population lives under religiously oppressive regimes. Virtually all of the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) the largest Islamic organization in the world, are among them.

The OIC is comprised of 56 United Nations member states plus the Palestinian Authority. Though it claims to be a moderate organization, it fights to promote its skewed views, consisting of Islamic values which are in contradiction to the values of equality, plurality and freedom of speech or religion (except for the practice of state-sanctioned interpretations of Islam).

An ardent advocate for the rights of Muslims in the West, the OIC has ignored the rights of non-Muslims in the OIC countries. Indeed, the OIC supports the imposition of state-sponsored Shariah law, which holds Islam supreme over all other religions. OIC countries abstained from supporting the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which provides for both freedom of speech and freedom of religion to all. Instead, they supported the Cairo Declaration of Islamic Human Rights (never introduced by the U.N. for a vote), which limits those rights in accordance with the Shariah.

Numerous OIC members, including Saudi Arabia and Iran, are among the world's greatest enemies of religious freedom. …