The Obama administration is highlighting concerns over laws against blasphemy and apostasy that limit religious freedom in Muslim and other nations where they are on the books.
The State Department said in its annual report on global religious freedom released Wednesday that these laws, notably in Muslim countries, can abet societal and religious passions that often encourage death sentences for the accused.
“Such laws conflict with and undermine universally recognized human rights,” it said. “False accusations, often lodged in pursuit of personal vendettas or for the personal gain of the accuser, are not uncommon. Mob violence as a result of such accusations is disturbingly common.” The report also said “courts in many countries continued to hand down harsh sentences for blasphemy and apostasy, which were used to severely curtail the religious freedom of their residents.”
The report noted particular problems with blasphemy laws in Afghanistan, Mauritania, Pakistan, Sudan and Saudi Arabia.
In releasing the report, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom David Saperstein pointed out that about a quarter of the world’s countries have blasphemy laws but that they are often unenforced in non-Muslim states.
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