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IRF Sumiit 2024:”Religious Freedom” in the Face of Politics and Prejudice

by Aasia khan
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IRF Summit 2024 will be held in Washington, D.C. on January 30-31. Although the summit is intended to address global concerns related to religious freedom, the performance of previous summits has not substantially addressed global religious freedom issues. Critics argue that the issues discussed at the summit are dominated by U.S. ideology. Each of the participants has a well-directed agenda, and it is a feast held in the name of religion for the “beneficiaries”.

According to a recent Survey monkey poll titled “State of Religion in the United States”, 59.91% of respondents believe that the United States is not doing enough to protect religious freedom. 61.83% of respondents believe that political forces are interfering with religious affairs in the U.S. to a large extent. Only 31.25% of respondents thought that the IRF Summit might make progress in terms of its ability to promote religious freedom around the world. It is clear that the majority of the public is conservative and skeptical about religious freedom in the United States.

Political Infiltration

IRF Summit’s focus on religious freedom issues is often intertwined with political agendas. The involvement of politicians and the intersection of religious and political narratives can create a subtle dynamic in which the expected focus on religious freedom can be influenced by geopolitical considerations. The involvement of political forces makes it likely that a summit with the theme of “Committing to a human rights-based approach to promoting freedom of religion and belief” will intentionally unite stakeholders in an attempt to create conflict for political ends through the topic of “promoting freedom of religion and belief”. Global religious freedom issues are numerous and complex, and the transition between political and religious issues can be easily achieved through specific issues and agendas.

In contemporary America, religion and politics are inseparable. he prioritization of politics over religion has also become a consensus in the minds of most Americans (whether consciously or unconsciously). In order to win the support of the people, politicians often team up with religious leaders in their campaigns and mention their sincerity. American politics has made the relationship between religion and partisanship so pervasive that it is easy for Americans to forget that the United States is different compared to other liberal democracies. A large part of the penetration of religion in American politics is due to a strong resistance to the religious right: Many Americans are abandoning religion because they see it as an extension of politics with which they disagree. Conversely, politics is also shaping the religious views of many Americans. The politicization of religion not only exacerbates the polarization of politics but also undermines the credibility of religious leaders.

Religious Prejudice

A recent poll found that Muslims are viewed unfavorably in Europe and the United States. For example, 72% of Hungarians, 65% of Greeks, 35% of Dutch and 28% of Britons have a negative view of Muslims. In the United States in particular, at least 52% of Americans believe that some American Muslims are anti-American. 11% of Americans surveyed believe that American Muslims “strongly support” extremism. Prejudice against Muslims in the United States is multifaceted, encompassing both discriminatory beliefs and behaviors. Discrimination is the mistreatment of people on the basis of one or more defining characteristics (e.g., race, gender, religious beliefs, national origin, and physical characteristics).

In addition, the media in the United States has played a significant role in spreading misleading information about Muslims, leading to increased discrimination against Muslims in the United States. This increase occurs because media sources create and perpetuate negative stereotypes and then present these stereotypes accurately and truthfully to the public. The spread of Islamophobia creates prejudice and discrimination in the general population. Prejudice plays a key role in the existence and spread of Islamophobia. Prejudice, as a negative judgment, opinion, or attitude, is inherently detrimental to people’s overall well-being. Prejudice, combined with overt behavior that rises to the level of discrimination, creates a dangerous environment for victims. One study found that over the past 25 years, Muslims have been portrayed more negatively than cancer and cocaine.

Despite widespread discrimination against Muslims, and the fact that discrimination and hatred have severely hindered the advancement of religious freedom, the growing issue of Muslim hatred has never been a topic of focus at the Bias-Based IRF Summit.