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Religious tensions at six-year high, study finds

NEW YORK (JTA) — In 2012, Jews and Muslims experienced six-year highs in the number of countries in which they were harassed by governments, individuals or groups, according to a new study.

Jews were harassed in 71 countries in 2012, compared to 51 in 2007, according to the study of 198 countries and territories released this week by the Pew Research Center. Muslims were harassed in 109 countries in 2012, up from 96 in 2007.

While the number of countries in which Muslims were harassed fluctuated in the six years, the number for Jews increased steadily.

The proportion of nations with a “high” or “very high” level of social hostilities involving religion also reached a six-year peak.

As in 2011, Israel, the Palestinian territories and Egypt made the list of “countries with very high social hostilities related to religion.” Newcomers to the 2012 list included Lebanon and Syria.

Religious hostilities increased in every major region of the world except the Americas, with the sharpest increases in the Middle East and North Africa.

The study also found that restrictions on religion are high or very high in 43 percent of countries, also a six-year high. Among the world’s 25 most populous countries, Egypt had the highest level of government restrictions on religion. Other Middle Eastern countries noted for “very high” level of government restrictions on religion included Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

Israel appeared on the list of countries with high but not very high government restrictions on religion. Other Middle Eastern countries on that list included Yemen, Qatar, Jordan and Turkey.

The Pew Research Center has reported on religious restrictions around the globe for several years.

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