Research Reveals Most Banned Religions

A Pew Research Center annual study identified 41 independent states that imposed different restrictions on religious groups and organizations. According to the study, government restrictions limit religious expressions by targeting an entire faith, social movements, and political organizations with religious ties.

The annual study published by the Pew Research Center on September 30, 2021, explores the global restrictions on religion and examines 198 countries and territories. Countries with a policy restricting religious expressions and activities on any religion-related groups comprised 21% of all evaluated countries.

Among all religions present within the 198 countries, the Jehovah's Witnesses — a Christan-based group — are considered the most restricted religious organization, with bans across eight countries with varying severity. In 2017, Russia's Supreme Court criminalized the group's activities and labeled the entire faith as a form of extremism.

This October, Russia conducted another crackdown on Jehova's Witness members, charging them with organizing an extremist community.

Baha'is, a recently formed religion in Iran, is banned in six countries across three regions. Members of this religious group are considered "unclean" and are forbidden from working in the food industry. They are also prohibited from obtaining jobs in the government or receiving national pensions.

Ahmadiyya or the Ahmadis, a sub-variant of Islam, claims that their founder Mirza Ghulam Ahmad is another prophet sent by . Pakistan's constitution bans the group from calling themselves Muslims. The second constitutional amendment in Pakistan caused the group to become banned and eventually persecuted as non-Muslims. Ahmadiyya is prohibited in four countries, including Pakistan, according to Pew's study.

According to Pew, 55% of countries in the Middle East and North Africa hold some of the highest shares of bans per region on religion-related groups. 34% of countries in Asia and the Pacific have bans on religion-related groups. Followed by Sub-Saharan Africa with 14%, Europe at 7%, and the Americas at 6%.

Pew reviewed laws from the countries evaluated for the study, including the constitutions from each respective country. Pew also reviewed regional policies that were in effect within the region as of 2019.

The data analyzed by Pew Research Center included policies and reports from the United Nations, human rights groups, conflict and terrorism reports, and reports related to religious freedoms.

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