"France's Interior Ministry reported that anti-Muslim incidents more than tripled in 2015, including cases of hate speech, vandalism and violence against individuals," the report noted.
Thirty-two countries in the continent showed "social hostilities toward Muslims" in 2015, more than the 26 countries reported in 2014. Meanwhile, the number of European countries where there were social hostilities shown towards Jews remained high.
"The widespread harassment of Jews is notable because about eight-in-ten of the world's Jews live in just two countries – the United States and Israel – but Jews continue to be harassed in a relatively large number of nations (74 in 2015)," Pew stated.
However, government officials also showed hostility to religious groups either through restrictive laws or rhetoric.
France and Russia in particular showed a spike, with over 200 "cases of government force against religious groups," the report noted. These were mostly due to laws aimed at specific religious groups targeting the public exercise of religion, from France's burqa ban to Russia's treatment of some Muslims and groups like Jehovah's Witnesses as extremists, jailing them without due process.
Some governments have been particularly restrictive of religious freedom for years, like those of China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, and Uzbekistan, the report noted. Others have more recently shown greater hostility, like Iraq, Eritrea, Vietnam, and Singapore in 2015.
Some of the government restrictions on religion were supposedly in reaction to terrorism. For instance, Muslim women in Cameroon and Niger were barred from wearing full-face veils after militants wore those veils to conceal bombs.
Both Christians and Muslims saw a sizable increase in the number of countries where they experienced harassment in 2015. Christians "were targeted by the highest number of governments in the Asia-Pacific region, where 33 countries harassed Christians in 2015," the report said.
Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.