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US: Religious freedom low in Afghanistan, Pakistan

Posted: July 30, 2012 12:00 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2012 12:00 p.m.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is criticizing allies Afghanistan and Pakistan for poorly defending religious freedom.

A State Department report says Afghanistan's courts interpret Islamic law to punish non-Muslims for exercising their faith.

And it cites Pakistan for issuing death sentences for blasphemy. Despite increased extremist attacks on minorities or even tolerant Muslims there, it says, authorities have rarely investigated perpetrators.

Monday's report particularly highlights blasphemy and religious "defamation" laws.

The department lamented long prison sentences and lashings for people in Saudi Arabia charged with insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

Government efforts against "violent extremists" also came under scrutiny. The report says Bahraini, Russian, Iraqi and Nigerian authorities don't always distinguish terrorism from peaceful religious practice.

It also criticized chronic religious liberty violators China, North Korea, Iran and Eritrea.


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