CAIRO - A US government report on religious freedom has criticized Europe for failing to keep pace with its growing ethnic and religious diversity and imposing restrictions on Muslim minorities to practice their religion.
"Members of faith communities that have long been under pressure report that the pressure is rising," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a press conference in Washington cited by the Miami Herald.
"Even some countries that are making progress on expanding political freedom are frozen in place when it comes to religious freedom. So when it comes to this human right, this key feature of stable, secure, peaceful societies, the world is sliding backwards."
The International Religious Freedom Report, released on Monday, July 30, said many European countries were failing to accommodate their growing Muslim communities.
It said many European countries have witnessed an apparent increase in hostile sentiments against Muslims.
For example, it cited Belgium and France, which have passed laws restricting dress that "adversely affected Muslims
Hungary was also chided after introducing changes making it so difficult to register religious organizations that got the numbers of recognized religious groups from more than 300 to fewer than 32.
Anti-Muslim sentiments have been on the rise in several Western countries.
In Britain, far-right groups as the English Defense League and the British National Party (BNP) use immigration problems to stoke sentiment against Muslims.
In Germany, hostile sentiments against Muslims have grown, with a heated debate on the Muslim immigration into the country.
A recent poll by the Munster University found that Germans view Muslims more negatively than their European neighbors.
The International Religious Freedom Report examines the status of religious liberty in 199 countries and territories around the world during 2011.
It outlines disturbing trends in religious freedom violations around the world, taking the form of violent extremism and increase in anti-Muslim sentiments.
Clinton said that religious freedoms were deteriorating around the world.
The world is sliding backwards, Clinton told the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
I have seen firsthand how religious freedom is an element of personal freedom - and of social advancement.
The new report lists eight countries - Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan - as "Countries of Particular Concern."
These countries are the same eight that received this designation last year.
Countries such as Egypt, which are currently in a period of transition, have "a wonderful opportunity" to include respect for religious freedom in their new constitution, said US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook.
Aware of promises by Egyptian leaders to respect minorities, she said America is "looking at them to protect religious minorities and all citizens and adhere to the universal human rights."
The US has also "raised the religious freedom issue" with China, the ambassador said.
Though missing in US report, American Muslims have been facing obstacles to practice their religious rituals.
In the US, hostility against Muslims has sharply grown over anti-Islam rhetoric used by Republican candidates to lure votes.
All across the US, mosques have been facing fierce opposition recently.
At least 18 mosque projects from Mississippi to Wisconsin have found foes who battle to stop them from seeing light citing different pretexts, including traffic concerns and fear of terrorism.
Even more, some mosques were vandalized including a 2011 Wichita mosque arson case for which a $5,000 reward is being offered.
In multicultural New York, a proposed mosque near Ground Zero site has snowballed into a national public and political debate, with opponents arguing that the Muslim building would be an insult to the memory of the 9/11 victims.Advocates, however, say that the mosque would send a message of tolerance in 9/11-post America.