This beheading of a convert from Islam to Christianity in Tunisia didn't make the State Department's human rights report.
The U.S. State Department removed the sections covering religious freedom from the Country Reports on Human Rights that it released on May 24, three months past the statutory deadline Congress set for the release of these reports.
The new human rights reports--purged of the sections that discuss the status of religious freedom in each of the countries covered--are also the human rights reports that include the period that covered the Arab Spring and its aftermath.
Thus, the reports do not provide in-depth coverage of what has happened to Christians and other religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries in the Middle East that saw the rise of revolutionary movements in 2011 in which Islamist forces played an instrumental role.
Former U.S. diplomat Thomas Farr says it’s possible that the move to totally separate religious freedom from the human rights reports could simply be a bureaucratic maneuver.
But another possibility is much more likely.
“The other possibility is the Obama administration is downplaying international religious freedom,” Farr said.
Former USCIRF Chairman Leo says the fact is the administration no longer makes the proper distinction between freedom of religion and freedom of worship.
“Going all the way back to the president’s speech in Cairo, they seem to be satisfied with Arab Spring countries and Middle Eastern countries providing freedom of worship, but not pressuring them on the broader freedom of religion.
I never recognized a distinction but it comes down to furtive, secret worship vs. public displays of religion -- a distinction that sounds as if it comes right out of Islamic law.
“In Saudi Arabia, and in some of these countries, you may be able to draw curtains in your home and pray--but don’t take it outside your house. And certainly don’t imbue other aspects of your life with your religious sentiments,” Leo said.
Muslim religious sentiments are OK, however.