What do Israel, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan have in common? All of them scored a big fat zero on the annual freedom of religion index published by CIRI, the Cingranelli-Richards Human Rights Dataset.
The index, which measures governmental restrictions on freedom of religion and freedom from religion, ranks 195 countries. Of these, fully 52 scored zero, including Russia, Romania, India, Mexico and Turkey. Israel has scored zero on CIRI's scale for several years now.
The index ranks countries on a scale of zero to two, where zero indicates severe and widespread governmental restrictions on religious freedom, one indicates moderate restrictions and two indicates almost no restrictions. The countries that received a score of two included many Western states, like the United States, Sweden, Austria, Belgium and Poland, as well as non-Western states like South Africa, Angola and Lebanon. Countries with a score of one included Italy, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Thailand, Spain and Mongolia.
CIRI has been collecting data on parameters comprising 15 "internationally recognized human rights" annually since 1981. The project is run out of Binghamton University in upstate New York, with funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation. It is headed by two professors, David Cingranelli of Binghamton and David Richards of the University of Connecticut.
Rabbi Uri Regev, president of Hiddush - For Religious Freedom and Equality, said the CIRI index "reveals to the world the sorry fact that when it comes to freedom of religion, Israel is closer to extremist Islamic countries than to the democratic Western world. In no other enlightened democracy is the principle of freedom of religious undermined to such a large extent."
"What causes this shameful situation is the practice of [political parties] buying power in exchange for capitulation to religious coercion, while ignoring the wishes of the majority of people in both Israel and the Diaspora. Israel is becoming famous worldwide as the leader of the democratic world in assailing freedom of religion and conscience, something that is liable to deal a mortal blow to our status in the free world and to Western countries' attitude toward us."