According to a major new study, global violence is on the decline, with one glaring exception—so-called "social hostilities" related to religion. These social hostilities, the report explains, include harassment of women over religious dress, sectarian fighting, religion-related terrorism and religion-driven mob violence. As reported by the Pew Research Center: There … was an increase in the level of harassment or intimidation of particular religious groups. Indeed, two of the seven major religious groups monitored by the study—Muslims and Jews—experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by national, provincial or local governments, or by individuals or groups in society. As in previous years, Christians and Muslims—who together make up more than half of the global population—were harassed in the largest number of countries. The numbers also reveal the scope of government restrictions on religion worldwide: In nearly three-quarters of countries, some level of government has interfered with worship or other religious practices. As the study points out, "Europe had the biggest increase in the median level of government restrictions in 2012, followed closely by the Middle East-North Africa—the only other region where the median level of government restrictions on religion rose." Meanwhile, the United States is continuing a five-year trend of rapidly increasing restrictions, largely thanks to incidents of correctional facilities hampering individuals' religious expressions and the difficulties some religious groups faced in obtaining zoning permits. And for the first time, one of the study's primary sources also found that the U.S. government had imposed limits on conversion—in this case, a prisoner in Elmira, N.Y. reported being denied the right to change his religious designation to Muslim.
Andrew Mortazavi is a Spring 2014 editorial intern. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewmortazavi.