When Sharia is accepted to any extent as the law of the land, even putatively tolerant regimes can rapidly become less “respectful of minority faiths.” Constitutions define the relationship of the people to their government, the rights of citizens, and limitations (sometimes more, sometimes less) on the government’s power. If Islamic law is a basis for those boundaries, whether broadly or specifically construed, any additional rights granted by the government (by legislation or simple inaction) are subject at any time to a Sharia trump card. In nations like Algeria and Jordan where things “suddenly” appear to be getting worse, it is only because there has arisen sufficient political will to enforce Islamic law more aggressively, and, obviously, there is no constitutional limitation on the reach of Sharia law. And similar situations can arise where localized populations reject the authority of an existing secular system in favor of Sharia.
One wonders if the cognitive dissonance at the State Department ever reaches a breaking point, when the party line is that Islam is fundamentally tolerant, but problems of the same nature crop up from Algeria to Iran. “Religious freedom worsens in Jordan, Algeria: US,” from Agence France-Presse, September 19:
WASHINGTON (AFP) “” Religious freedom took a turn for the worse in the last year in China, Egypt and Iran, but also in normally more tolerant countries like Jordan and Algeria, the State Department said Friday.
The State Department’s annual report on religious freedoms around the world for the period between July 2007 and July 2008 also singled out North Korea again as among the worst violators of religious freedom.
But there were new concerns about Jordan and Algeria, “which traditionally have been more respectful of minority faiths,” according to John Hanford III, the ambassador at large for religious freedom.
“The government’s de factor and de jure policies have precipitated a decline in the status of religious freedom during this reporting period,” the report said.
In February, the government began enforcing an ordinance which “makes proselytizing a criminal offense,” it said.
It said that the ordinance mandates “that anyone who makes, stores or distributes printed documents, or audiovisual materials with the intent of ‘shaking the faith‘ of a Muslim may also face a maximum of five years’ imprisonment” and a fine equivalent to 7,100 dollars.
“In Jordan, a Sharia Court found a convert from Islam to Christianity guilty of apostasy, annulled his marriage, and declared him to be without any religious identity,” said Hanford, who oversaw the report.
“The Jordanian government also harassed individuals and organizations based on religious affiliation,” he said. […]
In Egypt, the report said that “several government measures and practices undertaken during the reporting period contributed to a decline in government respect for religious freedom.”
It cited in particular the restriction of the right to convert to only non-Muslims.
In Saudi Arabia, “there were incremental improvements in specific areas, such as better protection of the right to possess and use personal religious materials,” it said.
Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Uzbekistan maintained the status quo. Along with China, these countries are on the State Department blacklist, or the Countries of Particular Concern, which incur sanctions.
And yet Saudi Arabia is in many ways as bad or worse than the official “Countries of Particular Concern.”
The blacklist is renewed at the end of the year on the basis of the report.
In presenting the report, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice rejected what she said were attempts by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to criminalize “defamation” of religions, such caricatures or other images of the prophet Mohammed, which is forbidden in Islam.
The OIC represents 57 Muslim countries around the world.
“We’re concerned by efforts to promote a so-called defamation of religions concept, which has been the focus of numerous resolutions passed at the United Nations,” Rice said.
“Instead of protecting religion practice and promoting tolerance, this concept seeks to limit freedom of speech, and that could undermine the standards of international religious freedom,” she said.