* Sectarian violence has risen since Mubarak's downfall
* US sees deterioration in religious freedom in China
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON, July 30 Religious freedom in Egypt
appears to be "quite tenuous" and its government has failed to
aggressively prosecute perpetrators of sectarian violence, U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.
Clinton made the comment as the State Department released a
report that found a marked deterioration in religious freedom in
China, where official interference with Tibetan Buddhist
monasteries may have contributed to a dozen self-immolations.
In its annual International Religious Freedom Report for
2011, the State Department also said it discerned a rise in
global anti-Semitism as well as the increased use of
anti-blasphemy laws to restrict the rights of religious
The report gave particular attention to countries where last
year's "Arab Spring" of popular protests unseated authoritarian
rulers such as former Egyptian president and long-time U.S. ally
"I am concerned that respect for religious freedom is ...
quite tenuous" in Egypt, Clinton said in response to a question
after she gave a speech at a Washington think tank, saying
sectarian violence had increased since Mubarak's downfall but
the authorities had been inconsistent in prosecuting it.
"That then sends a message to the minority community in
particular, but to the larger community, that there's not going
to be any consequences," she said.
Clinton got a first-hand taste of the bitterness of many
Egyptian Christians at this year's election of Islamist Mohammed
Mursi as president of the country, with protests by angry Copts,
among others, outside her Cairo hotel.
Unknown protesters also pelted her motorcade with tomatoes,
shoes and water bottles in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria.
The report covers 2011 and therefore does not assess the
authorities' performance since Mursi's election brought an
Islamist to power in the Arab world's most-populous nation.
'EGREGIOUS SITUATION' IN IRAN
The report said it had documented the Egyptian government's
"failure to curb rising violence against Coptic Christians and
its involvement in violent attacks," citing an Oct. 9, 2011
incident in which security forces attacked Cairo demonstrators.
The report said 25 people were killed and 350 injured, most
of them Coptic Christians. "To date, government officials have
not been held accountable for their actions and there were
indications in early 2012 of mounting Coptic emigration," it
The report said conditions worsened in Iran, where it cited
state "imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination
based on religious beliefs," as well as in Pakistan, where
"abuses continued under the blasphemy law."
The State Department also cited "a marked deterioration" in
official respect for and protection of religious freedom in
China, including greater restrictions on religious practice
especially in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries.
"Official interference in the practice of these religious
traditions exacerbated grievances and contributed to at least 12
self-immolations by Tibetans in 2011," the report said.
In Iran, with which the United States has had acrimonious
relations since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, religious freedom
"deteriorated further from an already egregious situation," the
State Department said.
It cited the restoration of 20-year sentences for seven
Bahais charged with spying for and collaborating with Israel as
well as the imprisonment of Yousof Nadarkhani, a Christian
pastor sentenced to death for apostasy.