WASHINGTON – The State Department cited Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for denying religious freedom to non-Muslims and found fault to a lesser degree with other allies including Israel, Belgium, France, Germany and Pakistan.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will be going to Saudi Arabia at the end of the week as part of a trip to the Middle East, released the report.
"Freedom of religion does not exist," the report said. "Islam is the official religion and all citizens must be Muslims."
In Israel, the report said, some non-Jews, primarily Arab Muslims and Christians, experience discrimination in education, housing and employment.
"Tensions between Israeli Jews and Arab Muslims and Christians remained high due to the institutional, legal and societal discrimination against the country's Arab citizens," the seventh annual report to Congress said.
In France, where mayhem is sweeping impoverished neighborhoods with large African and Arab communities, and in Belgium and Germany, the State Department mildly criticized the branding of certain religions as dangerous cults and sects.
Pakistan was faulted for discriminatory legislation and failing to intervene in cases of violence against minority religious groups.
The citation of Saudi Arabia for not recognizing religious freedom and denying it to all but those who adhere to the state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam could be an irritant during Rice's visit to the Arab kingdom.
In September, she postponed punishing the Saudis with trade or other restrictions by giving the country's rulers 180 days to show progress in the treatment of religious minorities.
Burma was accused of severe violations of religious freedom. China was faulted for showing insufficient respect for freedom of religion, Cuba for controlling and monitoring religious activities, and North Korea for not permitting religious freedom at all.
Listed as hostile toward minority or nonapproved religions were Eritrea, Iran, Laos, Sudan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, as well as Saudi Arabia.
The State Department said that in Iran, Sunni Muslims, Baha'is, Jews and Christians reported imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on religious belief.
Religious freedom declined in Uzbekistan while there was some improvement in respect for religious freedom in Vietnam and Egypt, the report said.
Still, in Egypt, discrimination against non-Muslims continued and in India the government responded slowly to counterattacks against religious minorities, according to the report.