The United States has listed China and Pakistan as countries of “particular concern” for serious violations of freedom of religion and religious observance and tolerance. The list also includes North Korea, Myanmar, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
The US State Department published the list in a statement signed by Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken on Sunday.
Incidentally, in 1998, the United States Parliament Congress passed a law called the International Religious Freedom Act. The act was passed to advance religious freedom and tolerance in the United States and around the world.
In a statement on Sunday, the US State Department said the list, prepared under the International Religious Freedom Act, included several other countries in the ‘special surveillance’ category. Those countries are Algeria, Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Comoros and Vietnam.
Besides the country, the US State Department has also listed some Islamist political groups as ‘of particular concern’. These groups are al-Shabaab, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, IS-Sahel, IS-West Africa, the al-Qaeda-backed Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimeen, and the Taliban. But the Foreign Ministry said many countries not on their list were also accused of violating religious freedom and tolerance.
US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said in a statement, “Governments of countries listed as states of particular concern must take steps to stop attacks and persecution of religious minorities.” Along with this, they should be strict in protecting places of worship, preventing communal riots and stopping all intolerant behaviour. Because religious intolerance is a major obstacle to democratic governance, peace and stability.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, one of the countries on the list of special concern, rejected the US State Department’s statement as “biased” and “one-sided”.
In a counter statement issued by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday, Islamabad said, “Pakistan is a pluralistic country.” The issue of maintaining communal harmony has been given considerable importance in the constitution of Pakistan and there is a rich tradition of maintaining inter-religious harmony.’
“We are deeply disappointed that the US State Department has included Pakistan in its list of States of Special Concern. Islamabad completely rejects this biased and one-sided list.