President-elect Donald Trump may have raised eyebrows when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S., but he isn't alone when it comes to politicians targeting Islam in an effort to limit religious freedoms. The parliament of predominantly anti-migrant Slovakia passed a law on Wednesday making it difficult for Islam to qualify as a recognized religion in the former Communist state, Reuters reported.
The law raised the number of adherents to a particular religion to 50,000 from 20,000 in order for the sect to receive state funding, operate its own schools and be considered an official religion by the Slovakian government. There are approximately 2,000 Muslims in Slovakia, where Prime Minister Robert Fico has said “Islam has no place” in the country.
With Wednesday’s legislation, passed easily by a two-thirds majority, Slovakia joined several other nations in attempting to impose limits on religious freedom. Neighboring Hungary, another reluctant European Union recipient of refugees from the Middle East and Africa, recently faced criticism from a prominent national Muslim group when a southern town banned mosque construction at the end of November.
A little more than a year earlier, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban received backlash after writing in an op-ed in a German newspaper that Muslims must be kept out of the country as a way to “keep Europe Christian.” In a more direct plea shortly after the editorial was published, Orban said at a news conference that Hungary has “a right to decide that we do not want a large number of Muslim people in our country.”
Further east, the oppressed Muslim minority of Myanmar, known as the Rohingya, have dealt with not only a lack of official recognition of their religion, but, for the most part, a lack of citizenship as well.
In June, a secret Myanmar government letter surfaced, calling for a ban on the use of the group’s name, insisting that the Rohingya, whose million members live in the northern region of the Rakhine state, should be referred to as “people who believe in Islam.” Ethnic Rakhine residents of the province should be officially labeled “people who believe in Buddhism,” it added. Myanmar’s Buddhist nationalists prefer to categorize the group as “Bengalis,” or citizens from nearby Bangladesh, rather than to use the moniker describing them as a Burmese minority. But while the Myanmar government has decidedly emphasized the difference in religion of the Rohingya people, the stateless group faces discrimination mostly on a basis of ethnicity.
Like that of Slovakia, the government of Angola also does not formally recognize the Muslim religion. While the notion that the majority Catholic southeast African nation has imposed an outright ban on Islam has been debunked, the government closed and even demolished several mosques over the past couple of years that it claimed were built without permission.
Nestled in the South Pacific — far from the refugee crisis stirring anti-Islam sentiment in much of Europe — predominantly-Christian Samoa’s National Council of Churches called on the prime minister in May to reevaluate the country’s constitutional religious freedom laws and potentially ban the Muslim faith. The religious group’s call came after Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi indicated his intentions were to review the nation’s constitution and potentially tweak its language to further embrace Christianity.
Though it’s not clear whether Malielegaoi made the changes, Muhammad Yahya, the leader of Samoa’s Muslim League and one of the nation’s 120 or so adherents to Islam, told the local Samoa Observer he didn’t expect his government to make such a move, as it would place Samoa’s prime minister in the same extremist league as Trump.
“This is a way of inhuman thinking,” he told the paper. “They are acting like herds… People nowadays have to separate between religious people and terrorists.”
UPDATED: 8:54 a.m. EST, Dec. 2 — This story has been updated to add context about the Rohingya people of Myanmar.