Malaysia: The newspaper that can’t print “Allah”

(Image: Aleksandar Mijatovic/Shutterstock)

(Image: Aleksandar Mijatovic/Shutterstock)

It is said that the Muslim jurist al-Shafi’i so revered the name Allah that he wore a ring inscribed with a message to himself from God. One might think, then, that the name would be universally celebrated in those countries where the doctrine of al-Shafi’i is the predominant school of Islamic jurisprudence. But this is not the case in Malaysia. In June, the federal court turned down an appeal by a Catholic bishop against a decision of the ministry of home affairs to impose limits on certain uses of the word Allah.

The story dates back to 2009, and a letter from Che Din bin Yusoh, a civil servant working for the ministry, to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Murphy Nicholas Xavier Pakiam. It approved a permit to publish The Herald, a weekly Catholic newspaper available in English, Chinese, Tamil and Bahasa Melayu, the official language of Malaysia. On the face of it, the letter contained good news: renewed permission to publish The Herald, in print since 1994. But it also stipulated two conditions: that Pakiam and the Bishops of Peninsular Malaysia confine their distribution of The Herald to the church and its adherents; and that they refrain from printing the word Allah in the Bahasa Melayu version.

The first condition was inconsequential as far as the bishops were concerned: The Herald had only ever been distributed amongst the congregants of the country’s three archdioceses. Furthermore, since the 1970s and 80s, the church had adopted a largely ecumenical posture towards the other religious establishments in Muslim-majority Malaysia, partly in response to the rise of the Islamic dakwah, or missionary, movement. (Proselytising Muslims is also an offence under Malaysian Federal law.)

The second condition, however, was intolerable to the bishops. Allah, from Arabic, is the Bahasa word for God irrespective of the religious context in which it is used — just as it is for Bahasa-speaking Sikhs, Indonesian and Arabic-speaking Christians, Mizrahi Jews, Maltese Catholics, and many other non-Muslim groups — and it appears in Al-Kitab, the Bahasa translation of the Bible. The second condition effectively forbade the use of the word Allah in the Bahasa version of The Herald in reference to any God but the Islamic deity.

And so Pakiam went to court, seeking judicial review of the government’s decision to impose the second condition. He asked for an order of certiorari, quashing the decision. He also asked for a series of judicial declarations: that imposing such a condition violated certain fundamental freedoms enshrined in the constitution — the rights to freedom of speech and to practice non-Islamic religions in peace and harmony — and, in a bold move that invited the Malaysian judiciary to pronounce dispositively on a matter of considerable religious sensitivity, that the word Allah is not exclusive to the Islamic faith. The bishops also asked the Court to find that the decision was irrational and unreasonable, contravened the laws of natural justice, and had been made in bad faith.

The ministry’s decision to impose the Allah condition can only be understood in the light of a series of laws passed by ten of Malaysia’s thirteen state legislatures. These enactments — each called some variation on the Control and Restriction of the Propagation of Non-Islamic Religions — proscribe the use of any of 25 words or 10 phrases in reference to a religion other than Islam. (The Johor state enactment doesn’t include a list of words or phrases but imposes a blanket ban on the use of words of “Islamic origin”.) The list of words could double as a glossary of key terms for any student of Islamic theology: Allah, Fatwa, Hadith, etc.; and the list of phrases contains such Islamic maxims as Alhamdulilah and Allahu Akbar. The laws vary in their severity — what might in Terengganu lead to a fine of 1000 ringgits could in Kelantan result in a five-year jail term and/or whipping — but so sacrosanct are they in the eyes of many that five states, as well as the prefecture of Kuala Lumpur and the Chinese Muslim Association of Malaysia, attempted (unsuccessfully) to join the government as defendants in Pakiam’s action.

But on the final day of 2009, the high court found in favour of Pakiam and the Bishops of Peninsular Malaysia, marking either a victory for freedom of speech or a lamentable triumph of secular values over democratic choice in a majority Muslim country, depending on one’s view. The issue, however, was far from resolved. For one thing, the government appealed against the decision of the high court, as did the five states. For another, the high court had not been asked to review the legality of the various non-Islamic religions enactments — merely the decision to impose the condition contained in bin Yusoh’s letter — and so, they remained good law.

This would prove troublesome for Malaysia’s Christians. In early 2011, it was reported that the Islamic affairs departments of certain states had raided the premises of various Christian organisations, including a Bible-import business called Gideon, and impounded tens of thousands of Bahasa and Iban-language Bibles, citing the Non-Islamic religions enactments as justification. This prompted the prime minister of Malaysia, Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak, to write to the chairman of the Christian Federation of the country, proposing a ten-point solution to defuse the welling inter-religious tension. The letter affirmed that Bibles in any language could be imported into the country, but stipulated that Bahasa-language Bibles, whether imported or locally-produced, must have a crucifix and the words Christian publication printed on their front.

The inclusion of this proviso made clear the strength of the government’s fear of non-Islamic and secular proselytising encouraged by the ready availability of Bahasa-language Bibles — fear of the “naked public square”, increasingly devoid of Islamic speech and thus increasingly hostile towards Islam in general, to paraphrase the American Catholic writer John Neuhaus. Given this anxiety on the part of the Government one might think that all the parties would have embraced the ten-point proposal as a much-needed compromise. But for various reasons — the peculiarities of Malaysian domestic politics and the procedural limitations of the justice system, to name two — the proposal was never enshrined in law and the various state enactments remained untouched. Preserving the status quo, however, meant that incidents of Bible-seizing continued; the most recent widely reported case occurred earlier this year, in Selangor province.

And then, as if to rub salt in the Bible-seizing wound, the court of appeal ruled unanimously in favour of the ministry and set aside the decision of the high court. The bishops were given leave to appeal but, on 23 June of this year, the Federal Court of Malaysia turned down their application and upheld the decision of the court of appeal, thus drawing the case to an unsatisfactory close.

The decision of the federal court — decided by a narrow four-to-three margin — is disappointing not only in the result but in the reasons given, too. Like many administrative law cases, the judgment is preoccupied with questions of procedural, rather than substantive, unfairness. This would be tolerable if the decision taken by the ministry had not impacted on fundamental rights enshrined in the federal constitution: Article 3 asserts that while Islam is the official religion of the federation, this should not impinge on the rights of non-Muslims to practice other religions in peace and harmony.

But, in banning the use of the world Allah in a weekly newspaper, the decision clearly affected the rights of individuals to freedom of speech and religion. The questions put before the court were held by the three dissenting judges to be of such constitutional importance that all three chose to write opinions setting out their reasons, an incredibly rare occurrence in judicial review proceedings of this kind: “too weighty to suffer indifference,” wrote Justice Zainun Ali.

The majority opinion of Justice Arifin Zakaria, by comparison, is preoccupied by the far more incidental question of whether the appropriate standard in evaluating the reasonableness of a decision taken by the ministry should be objective or subjective. And Justice Zakaria also concludes that the decision of the Court of Appeal must be correct because Pakiam had not sought to challenge the various state enactments before the high court. As the enactments were not the object of judicial review, Zakaria can only conclude that the decision to impose a condition on the propagation of non-Islamic religion was in keeping with the letter and spirit of those laws and not, therefore, an abuse of power. If put forward in a contextual void this argument might be persuasive. However, Zakaria also upholds the decision of the court of appeal on the basis that Pakiam would have erred if he had sought to challenge the various state laws before the high court, as the only appropriate forum in which to bring such a challenge would have been the federal court. Pakiam and the bishops were predestined to lose, it would seem.

If there were a southeast Asian regional court of human rights, we might think that the Bishops of Peninsular Malaysia would have good grounds to get on its cause list. Presuming the existence of some regional charter of fundamental rights, similar in content, say, to the European and American Conventions on Human Rights, the bishops would surely be able to rely either on a breach of the fundamental rights or on the denial of an effective remedy at law. And given the relative willingness of supra-national courts to scrutinise governmental arguments premised on public order and/or national security with greater force, we might even imagine such a regional court to declare the various non-Islamic religions enactments in breach of such a charter.

Then again, such a court might equally take into consideration the fact of Malaysia’s Muslim-majority population and conclude that the government had acted to protect the religious rights of the majority from the tyranny of a minority. In the now-famous European case of Lautsi v. Italy, the European Court of Human Rights held that the display of crucifixes in Italian state schools was not in breach of Article 9 ECHR (the right to freedom of conscience and/or religion). But whereas in Lautsi it was held that the “negative” right to freedom of religion did not endow individuals with the right to be always and ever free from encountering religious imagery, in Malaysia the various state laws actively impinge on the exercise of a minority religion. The result of Titular Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur vs. The Government of Malaysia has led many to conclude that questions of religious coexistence and the true ownership of the word Allah cannot be resolved through the courts. That is undoubtedly true. But in the meantime, if Archbishop Pakiam and the Bishops of Peninsular Malaysia feel that they have been the victims of a miscarriage of justice, then that would be true, too.

This article was posted on August 19, 2014 at

Indonesia’s democracy is no guarantee to freedom of faith

(Photo illustration: Shutterstock)

(Photo illustration: Shutterstock)

Listening to Indonesian politicians campaigning for this year’s elections you could be forgiven for thinking that freedom of religion is not a problem in the country with the world’s largest Muslim population and that all is well when it comes to interfaith relations.

You couldn’t be more wrong.

Just because freedom of religion rarely makes an election theme doesn’t mean that everything is all right. And don’t take the word of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono either, who in May received an award from the New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation for promoting “religious tolerance”.

Speak instead with the followers of Ahmadiyah, the Muslim Shias, various Christian denominations and other minority religious communities. They will tell you, mostly in private, of their fears along with stories of persecution and harassment, sometimes involving violence by hard-line Islamic groups, and often with the tacit approval of the government.

To religious minorities, the fact that no politician has bothered to take up the issue and that the majority of Sunni Muslims are keeping silent, Indonesia is anything but tolerant. The problem is growing due to this official and public denial in Indonesia that it even exists.

The religious minorities also know they are missing out on the opportunity to make their case before the nation during this election year because most politicians would consciously avoid talking about religious freedom in their campaigns.

Indonesians will be voting twice this year, first for their representatives in April and second for their president in July. A new government will be installed October.

This will be the nation’s fourth democratic elections since it deposed strongman Suharto in 1998. Indonesia has since won accolades as one of the few successful countries to make the transition from authoritarianism to democracy.

Its leaders often boast that Indonesia is the world’s third largest democracy after India and the United States, and the largest democracy among Muslim-majority countries. Religious tolerance has even been touted as one of the recipes for the country’s success.

Indonesian diplomats have been involved in establishing and promoting interfaith dialogues at bilateral, regional and international levels. In August, Indonesia will be sure to showcase its democracy and religious tolerance when it hosts the annual meeting of the UN Alliance of Civilizations.

Indonesia’s democracy, however, has one big flaw: It is quickly turning into a simple majority rule, and this means that when it comes to religious issues, the voices of religious minorities are drowned out by the voice, or even the silence, of the Muslim majority.

While religious moderation still prevails, religious minorities feel that often the Muslim majority stretches their tolerance too far to include tolerating religious intolerance. Their silence in the face of reported religious persecution is disturbing.

Muslims, predominantly Sunnis, make up about 86% of Indonesia’s population of 250 million.

Religious minorities coming under persecution have learned that sometimes it is better to keep silent and not draw too much public attention to themselves. In some instances, those who have spoken out against their ill-treatment have earned the wrath of more Muslims and the government.

Typically the victims were blamed and came off worse. Some Ahmadiyah, Shiah and Christian leaders have gone to jail on various pretexts. Charges have ranged from blasphemy for preaching their beliefs to building permit violations in connection to places of worship. Worst of all, some religious minorities have been targeted for disturbing the peace by their mere existence.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of Ahmadis have been lingering in makeshift shelters for years in East Java and West Java because their homes, schools and mosques have been vandalized or even razed to the ground by radical Islamic groups.

Dozens of Shia followers in East Java are living in shelters after they were hounded out of their village in 2012. The provincial government has told them that they would be able to return on condition of renouncing their Shia beliefs and “return to the right path”.

A Shia leader last year saw his jail term doubled to four years by the High Court and later upheld by the Supreme Court for spreading his teachings, something that the court considered blasphemous to the “real Islam”. Two men who led the mob to vandalize his house and attack his followers in Sampang received eight months imprisonment.

This is a repetition of the 2011 controversial court verdicts that sentenced an Ahmadiyah follower, whose house in the Cikeusik village in West Java was raided in a fatal attack, to six months imprisonment, the same or higher than what the assailants got.

Last year also saw Palti Panjaitan, a priest with the HKBP Filadelfia Christian church in Bekasi, just outside Jakarta, tried in a court for “assailing” a Muslim leader who had joined a mob to taunt and harass him and the Church followers outside his church.

This has resulted in the congregations of HKBP Filadelfia, and that of GK Yasmin Christian church in Bogor, another township adjacent to Jakarta, conducting their Sunday prayers outside the Presidential Palace in Jakarta every week in protest of the government’s failure to protect and uphold their rights to conduct services.

President Yudhoyono has obviously not heard their prayers yet.

In both cases, the local government has refused to reopen their churches in defiance of Supreme Court rulings that supported the presence of the church and the right of the people to conduct prayers there.

Religious minorities in Indonesia may have given up hope on President Yudhoyono helping their case. But at least they have some comfort knowing that, come October, a new president will be in power: Yudhoyono cannot return for a third term.

Freedom of religion may not be an election issue, but no doubt the new president will be reminded that their oath of office includes a pledge to uphold the constitution, which clearly stipulates an obligation to guarantee and protect freedom of religion.

Democracy still gives some hope.

This article was originally published on 6 February 2014 at

Pakistan’s religious kidnappings: Forced conversions and marriages

Hindu women protest in favour of Rinkle Kumari who was forced to convert to Islam in 2012 (Image: Rajput Yasir/Demotix)

Hindu women protest in favour of Rinkle Kumari who was forced to convert to Islam in 2012 (Image: Rajput Yasir/Demotix)

December 21 will forever be etched on the memory of Sapna and her family. Belonging to a poor Hindu family, Sapna and her older sister Sabita were teachers in a neighbourhood school in Paharipura, Peshawar, the capital city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. They were the sole breadwinners for the family after their father, who worked for Radio Pakistan, retired four years ago.

On that cold wintry day Sabita stayed after school to give extra tutoring while Sapna walked home alone. During her walk a car suddenly pulled up alongside her- out jumped a man who placed a cloth doused in an unknown chemical over her face. Sapna passed out.

When she regained consciousness she found herself in unfamiliar surroundings. A man, whom she had never seen before, asked her to marry him. But first Sapna would have to convert to Islam.

On her refusal, the man placed the intoxicant-doused cloth over her nose and she fainted once again. This routine carried on for 16 days.

Sapna narrated her account of the kidnapping to the judicial magistrate earlier this month after she was rescued.

“The police traced her through a phone call she made to us asking us to rescue her,” Ramesh Kumar, her brother-in-law told Index on Censorship during a phone interview. He, along with his wife, Sapna’s older sister, had accompanied the police and found her in a village in Bahawalpur, in Punjab province some 680 km from Peshawar.

“Unfortunately, the person who kidnapped her, Zahid Nawaz, got a tip-off and escaped,” said Kumar. Nawaz wasn’t a complete stranger to Sapna. Kumar believes that his sister’s kidnapper had managed to ensnare Sapna by calling her a few times before the snatching took place.

“When he learnt that she was a Hindu, he told her that he didn’t have a sister and looked on her as one,” he added.

Despite being the first case of its kind in the area Sapna’s kidnapping has spread fear among the Hindu community in Peshawar- since the day her sister was abducted Sabita has not been allowed to step out of her house.

However, the kidnapping of Hindu girls is nothing new in other parts of the country.  According to Ramesh Kumar Vankwani, head of the Pakistan Hindu Council and a legislator: “We hear of three to four such cases every month from Sindh [province].”

More worrisome to the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) is the forced coercion of these Hindu girls to Islam before marriage takes place. The majority of these cases have been reported in the Sindh area with the HRCP calling it one of the “most outrageous human rights violations one has to deal with.”

I.A. Rehman, of the HRCP, blamed both the state and society for the escalation: “Both are getting more and more caught in the frenzy of religiosity, a process accelerated by the increase in Al-Qaeda/Taliban/Salafi influence on Pakistan’s Muslims.

“Hard-line Islam is supposed to liquidate non-Muslims and Shias and people belonging to other sects, such as Barelvis who enjoy music and visit shrines,” referring to the recent killings of devotees at a sufi shrine in Karachi earlier this month.

At the same time, he pointed out, the “zealots” among the society hoped to secure a “place in paradise” by converting non-Muslims to Islam. Hindus account for just over one per cent of the Pakistan’s population of 180 million.

Rehman deplored how the judiciary had been unable to intervene in such cases, noting how such lack of action reassures the culprits and depresses the communities of the victim.

Most religious minority members sitting in the assemblies are selected, as opposed to elected, and are therefore not the true representatives of their communities. Instead, they often toe the party line that has given them the ticket to their seat.

For their part, people like Vankwani say: “The main political parties pay lip service to our problems but have consistently failed to protect our lives or our rights,” arguing that until fair representation of minorities occurs in the assemblies their issues will never be resolved.

Amar Guriro, a journalist from a Hindu community, had a different take on the issue of coerced conversion. “There are cases where girls have converted of their own will or have eloped because, unless their parents can pay the heavy dowry that is demanded by the groom’s side, they cannot be married off,” he said.

Muslims have often been accused of preying on Hindu girls of marriageable age, forcing families to marry off their daughters at an earlier than desired time. “If they don’t there is a danger they may be kidnapped and asked to renounce their religion,” Guriro reported.

According to Amarnath Motumal, a lawyer with the HRCP, young Hindu girls may easily get “influenced” by their Muslim paramour: “In a country where even in schools Islam is the only religion taught and where religious freedom is negligible, young minds can easily be moulded.

“In Pakistan a Muslim woman cannot be married without the consent of the waali (her guardian — a father, uncle, or brother). Why didn’t the same hold true for the Hindu girl who had converted?”

Motumal has appeared in several cases of forced conversions. He told Index that during these hearings there is immense pressure on not just the young girls but also the judge as hundreds of protesting clergy can gather outside the courtroom. “The girls often do not have the courage to speak how or what they feel about the predicament they are in. And if the woman converted of her free will, why is she not allowed to meet with her parents?” he asked.

In 2012, the cases of Rinkle Kumari from Ghotki and Dr Lata Kumar in Karachi were taken up by the court after concerns arose in the media that they were forcefully converted to Islam.

Today, Motumal said, both women live with their respective Muslim husbands, but, he added: “They may be apparently happily married, but who knows what is going on in their hearts. They know what their fate will be if they have a change of heart and mind — they may be shunned by their own community and never find a match!

“Most believe themselves to have been polluted beyond redemption and prefer to stay with their abductors to returning home.”

This article was posted on 22 January 2014 at

The worst countries for religious freedom


Rohingya Muslim refugees from Burma at a protest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Image: Khairil Safwan/Demotix)

Rohingya Muslim refugees from Burma at a protest in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Image: Khairil Safwan/Demotix)

At its core, freedom of religion or belief requires freedom of expression. Both fundamental rights are protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, yet nearly half of all countries penalize blasphemy, apostasy or defamation of religion. In 13 countries, atheists can be put to death for their lack of belief.

The U.S. State Department names and shames eight “Countries of Particular Concern” that severely violate religious freedom rights within their borders. These countries not only suppress religious expression, they systematically torture and detain people who cross political and social red lines around faith. The worst of the worst are:

1. Burma

Burma’s population is 90 percent Theravada Buddhist, a faith the government embraces and promotes over Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. Minority populations that adhere to these and other faiths are denied building permits, banned from proselytizing and pressured to convert to the majority faith. Religious groups must register with the government, and Burmese citizens must list their faith on official documents. Burma’s constitution provides for limited religious freedom, but individual laws and government officials actively restrict it. Most at risk in Burma are Rohingya Muslims, 240 of whom were killed this year in clashes with Buddhist mobs. Burma has refused to grant citizenship to 800,000 Rohingya, 240,000 of whom have fled their homes in recent clashes.

2. China

The ruling Chinese Communist Party is officially an atheist organisation. China’s constitution provides for freedom of religious belief, but the government actively restricts any religious expression that could potentially undermine its authority. Only five religious groups — Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, Catholics and Protestants — can register with the government and legally hold services. Adherents of unregistered faiths and folk religions often worship illegally and in secret. Uighur Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists and Falun Gong practitioners have faced particularly severe repression in recent years, including forced conversion, torture and imprisonment.

3. Eritrea

The Eritrean government only recognizes four religious groups: the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. These groups enjoy limited religious freedom while adherents of other faiths face harassment and imprisonment. Religious persecution in Eritrea is generally driven by government rather than social concerns. Jehovah’s Witnesses and other conscientious objectors who refuse to enroll in compulsory military training are subject to physical abuse, detention and hard labour. People of non-recognized religions are barred from congregating in disused houses of worship and have trouble obtaining passports or visas to exit the country.

4. Iran

Iran’s constitution offers some religious freedom rights for recognized sects of Islam along with Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. Baha’is, who the government considers apostates and labels a “political sect,” are excluded from these limited protections and are systematically discriminated against through gozinesh provisions, which limit their access to employment, education and housing. Evangelical Christians and other faith groups face persecution for violating bans on proselytizing. Religious minorities have been charged in recent years and imprisoned in harsh conditions for committing “enmity against God” and spreading “anti-Islamic propaganda.” Government-controlled media regularly attack Baha’is, Jews and other minority faiths to amplify social hostilities against them.

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Index on Censorship is a nonprofit that defends people’s freedom to express themselves without fear of harm or persecution. We fight censorship around the world.

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[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][gravityform id=”20″ title=”false” description=”false” ajax=”false”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_separator color=”black”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]5. North Korea

North Korea’s constitution guarantees religious freedom, but this right is far from upheld. The state is officially atheist. Author John Sweeney says the country is “seized by a political religion” and that it considers established religious traditions a threat to state unity and control. North Korea allow for government-sponsored Christian and Buddhist religious organizations to operate and build houses of worship, but political analysts suspect this “concession” is for the sake of external propaganda. A Christian group says it dropped  50,000 Bibles over North Korea over the past year. If caught with one, citizens face imprisonment, torture or even death. Given the government’s extreme control over the flow of reliable information, it is difficult to determine the true extent of religious persecution in North Korea.

6. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s constitution is not a standalone document. It is comprised of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, which do not include religious freedom guarantees as spelled out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In Saudi, it is illegal to publicly practice any faith other than the state’s official religion Sunni Islam. Members of other faiths can worship privately, but non-Muslim houses of worship may not be built. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as Saudi’s morality or religious police, enforce Shariah law on the streets. Apostasy and blasphemy against Sunni Islam can be punished by death, as several high-profile Twitter cases have reminded global media in recent years.

7. Sudan

Sudan’s interim constitution partially protects religious freedom but restricts apostasy, blasphemy and defamation of Islam. Muslim women are also prevented from marrying non-Muslim men. The country’s vaguely worded apostasy law discourages proselytizing of non-Muslim faiths. Christian South Sudanese living in Sudan are subject to harassment and intimidation by government agents and society at large, but untangling the religious and ethnic motivations for this persecution can be difficult. Muslims generally enjoy social, legal and economic privileges denied to the Christian minority population. Government authorities have reportedly destroyed churches in recent years, and Christian groups have reportedly been subject to disproportionate taxes and delays in building new houses of worship. Read more about Sudan’s crackdown on Christians.

8. Uzbekistan

Proselytizing is prohibited in Uzbekistan, and religious groups must undergo a burdensome registration process with the government to enjoy what limited religious freedom is permitted in the country. More than 2,000 religious groups have registered with the government, the vast majority of which are Muslim but also include Jewish, Catholic and other Christian communities. Registered and unregistered groups are sometimes subject to raids, during which holy books have been destroyed. Individuals and groups deemed “extremist,” often for national security concerns rather than specific aspects of their faith, are imprisoned under harsh conditions and tortured, sometimes to death.

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