2021 Report on International Religious Freedom


For Prelims: 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom For Mains: Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests, Religious Freedom in India and relation Issues

Why in News?

Recently, the 2021 Report on International Religious Freedom (IRF) was released by the US Department of State.

  • The document is distinct from the IRF report released by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

  • USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity while the IRF is part of the US State Department. The former’s report holds a statutory obligation.

What is the US Office of International Religious Freedom?

  • History:

  • In 1998, the then-US President Bill Clinton signed the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA, 1998) into law.

  • The Act led to the creation of the Office of International Religious Freedom headed by an Ambassador-at-Large within the State Department of the US government, and the establishment of a US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

Purpose:

  • The US Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) monitors religiously motivated abuses, harassment, and discrimination globally.

  • Additionally, it recommends, develops and implements policies and programs to address the mentioned concerns.

  • The IRF also mentions that it assists emerging democracies globally to implement freedom of religion and conscience.

  • Further, identify and denounce regimes that persecute on the basis of religion and assist NGOs globally in promoting religious freedom.


What are the Key Highlights of the Report?

  • India:

  • Rising Attacks:

  • India has seen an increase in attacks on people (due to religious intolerance) and places of worship.

  • Attacks on members of religious minority communities, including killings, assaults, and intimidation, occurred throughout the year.

  • These included incidents of ‘cow vigilantism’ against non-Hindus based on allegations of cow slaughter or trade in beef.

Anti-Conversion laws:

  • The India segment also highlights anti-conversion laws in the country, noting that 28 states have these laws and arrests were made under them.

  • It also notes that several State governments announced plans to introduce anti-conversion laws.

Arrests by Police:

  • Police arrested non-Hindus for making comments in the media or on social media that were considered offensive to Hindus or Hinduism.

Suspected Terrorists Targeted:

  • There have been attacks in Jammu and Kashmir targeting and killing civilians and migrants, including Hindu migrant workers from Bihar.

  • As per reports, this caused extensive fear in the Hindu and Sikh communities, leading to an exodus of migrants from the area.

Lynching:

  • Incidents of lynching of Muslims in Tripura, Rajasthan, and Jammu and Kashmir in 2021 are also mentioned.


  • Foreign Contributions Regulations Act:

  • Foreign Contributions Regulations Act was used by the government to constrain the functioning of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

  • The government claims that the Act is used to strengthen oversight and accountability of foreign NGOs.

World:

  • About:

  • Vietnam and Nigeria have been cited as countries where religious expression was being curtailed.

  • Another set of examples of countries with religious freedom restrictions cited include US ally Saudi Arabia, as well as China, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

  • China continues its genocide and repression of predominantly Muslim Uyghurs and other religious minority groups.

  • In Pakistan, many persons have been accused of blasphemy, or sentenced to death by courts in 2021.


  • Progress Made:

  • Morocco, Timor Leste, Taiwan and Iraq as examples of countries where progress had been made on religious freedom.

  • Some countries were not respecting the “basic rights” of citizens - including by using apostasy and blasphemy laws and curtailing religious expression - such as by restricting religious attire.


What is the State of Freedom of Religion in India?

  • Freedom of religion in India is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 25-28 of the Constitution of India.

  • Article 25 (Freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion).

  • Article 26 (Freedom to manage religious affairs).

  • Article 27 (Freedom as to payment of taxes for promotion of any religion).

  • Article 28 (Freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions).


  • Further, Article 29 and 30 of the Constitution deal with the protection of interests of minorities.