Signs of Progress in Religious Freedom in Muslim World

According to Camille Eid, Contributor to New Report

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ROME, JUNE 28, 2004 ( Despite the terrorism in Iraq, the Holy Land and Saudi Arabia, a Middle East expert says that Arab countries are making progress in religious freedom.

The progress was highlighted by Camille Eid, a Lebanese journalist living in Italy, at the presentation of the «2004 Report on Religious Freedom,» written by the pontifical association Aid to the Church in Need.

Eid, who collaborated in the writing of the document, especially in regard to the Arab world, said that in Muslim «areas there are discriminations based on Islamic law, ranging from the prohibition for Muslims to convert to another religion, to submitting other citizens to the dictates of the Islamic juridical rules.»

«Over the past three to four years, there has been a considerable improvement as far as reforms in the democratic sense are concerned, as well as equality between men and women, and it is hoped that these may lead over a brief period of time to improvements also in freedom of worship,» Eid said.

«This includes, for example, the approval in Morocco of the ‘mudawwana’ — the new family law — and the new provisional Iraqi Constitution,» he said.

«However, according to a recent ranking on religious freedom in Arab countries, published by The Economist, the Gulf countries were at the bottom of the list with ‘0’ marks for Saudi Arabia and ‘4’ for all the other countries,» Eid said.

The state of Qatar showed an important mark of openness with the organization last May of an Islamic-Christian Dialogue Conference on Freedom of Worship, during which the emir expressed the hope that he would be able to also invite the Jews next time.

«In Kuwait, instead,» Eid said, «while on one hand there has been an improvement in the Shiite community’s status, on the other the law forbids non-Muslims from organizing catechism courses.»

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