Government restrictions on religion have increased worldwide over the past decade but particularly in Europe, a new study by the Pew Research centre has found.
The Washington-based think-tank surveyed 198 countries for its latest annual report into religious restrictions and found that over the decade between 2007-2017, laws, policies and actions by state officials that restrict religious beliefs and practices have increased “markedly”.
It highlighted that although religious restrictions remain higher in the Middle East-North Africa region, the biggest increases over the last decade have been in Europe and in sub-Saharan Africa.
It flagged, for instance, the growing number of European governments placing limits on Muslim women’s dress. In 2007, there were five countries reported to have such restrictions in Europe, by 2017, that number had quadrupled to 20.
France implemented a ban on full-face coverings in 2011, while in Bosnia-Herzegovina, employees of judicial institutions are prohibited from wearing “religious insignia” at work, including headscarves.
The number of European governments interfering in worship or other religious practices has also risen. The report noted in Germany and Slovenia, Muslim and Jewish groups protested against authorities describing child circumcision for nonmedical reasons as assault or criminal offence.
Meanwhile, a new law in Hungary implemented in 2012 changed the registration process for religious groups and deregistered more than 350 groups, “adversely affecting their finances and the ability to offer charitable social services,” the report said.