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Using religious repression to preserve nondemocratic rule

Religious repression—the nonviolent suppression of civil and political rights associated with religion—is a growing and global phenomenon. Though it is most often practiced in authoritarian countries, it nevertheless varies greatly across nondemocratic regimes. In my work, I’ve collected data from more than 100 nondemocratic states to explore the varieties of repression that they impose on religious expression, association, and political activities, describing the obstacles these actions present for democratization, pluralism, and the development of an independent civil society.

The nondemocratic countries of the world can be divided into four categories based on the number of religious groups they target with religious repression (All, All But One, Some, and None). Knowing how many and which groups states target helps us to understand how rulers in countries with different levels of political competition and religious divisions use regulations on religion to repress, co-opt, and prevent potential political opposition from challenging their rule.

The color-coded map below shows the degree to which nondemocratic countries repress religions. Click on the larger markers with a symbol for more detail on that particular country.

Featured image credit: Photo by Saint-Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy. CC BY-ND 2.0 via Flickr.

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