Thursday, August 9, 2012

USCIRF Comparative Study of Constitutions of OIC Countries

The USCIRF has released a special report that compares the constitutional protections of religious freedom in member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).  The report's front page is here, the full report here, and the two-page summary here.

From the two-page summary:
The study shows that:

  • Approximately 44% of the world’s Muslim population live in 23 majority Muslim countries that have declared Islam to be the state religion; the remaining 56% live in countries that either proclaim the state to be secular or make no pronouncements concerning an official state religion.

  • Approximately 39% of the world’s Muslims live in 22 countries whose constitutions provide that Islamic law, principles, or jurisprudence should serve as a source of, or limitation on, general legislation or certain select matters. This is the case in 18 of the 23 countries where Islam is the religion of the state, as well as four majority Muslim countries where Islam is not the declared state religion.

  • Only 6 of the countries surveyed, in all of which Islam is the declared state religion, provide no constitutional provision at all concerning religious freedom specifically.2 Other countries, including ones in which Islam is the declared state religion, provide constitutional guarantees of the right to freedom of religion or belief, which comply in varying degrees to international human rights norms. For example, some provisions compare favorably in clearly specifying that the right to freedom of religion or belief is to be extended to every individual, or in protecting individuals against coercion in matters of religion or belief. Others do not compare favorably, for example by only protecting particular religions or class of religions, only encompassing worship or the practice of religious rites, or allowing limitations by any ordinary law.

To be sure, religious freedom abuses occur in countries whose constitutional provisions compare favorably with international standards. Constitutional text alone may not necessarily reflect actual practice, especially in the field of human rights. Nevertheless, constitutional text remains important, not only as a statement of fundamental law and national aspirations, but also as tool for those seeking to enforce its promises.

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