A new report that was presented yesterday by the UN special investigator on religious rights shows that 70 countries around the world restrict the religious freedoms of minority groups. According to the UN expert, these countries have anti-blasphemy laws that violate the international standards of human rights.

Jewish men in London

Jewish men in London Photo Credit: Reuters/Channel 2 News

About 75 percent of the world’s population live in countries where either their freedom of religion or belief is restricted or they are persecuted because they belong to a religious minority, according to a report released Tuesday by the UN special investigator on religious rights.

Ahmed Shaheed told the UN General Assembly’s human rights committee that as of today, there are anti-blasphemy laws that are used in violation to the international standards of human rights to quash the religious views of minorities in 70 countries. Shaheed called on the countries to nullify these laws and adopt “criminal sanctions penalizing violent and particularly egregious discriminatory acts perpetrated by state or non-state actors against persons based on their religion or belief.”

He added that intolerance is a large-scale phenomenon that is spreading across the world. “Increases in unlawful government restrictions against religious groups remain one of the primary and most fundamental factors resulting in higher levels of religious intolerance in any given society,” Shaheed explained.

Shaheed also noted that while some forms of discrimination, such as bans on religious ceremonies, are direct, others are indirect, such as bans on the construction of particular houses of worships in certain areas because of “national security reasons.”