WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Wednesday the state of religious freedom in Europe, as Washington highlighted policies and attitudes toward Muslim veils and Islam as a whole.
“Several European countries have placed harsh restrictions on religious expression,” Clinton said, without elaborating as she unveiled the State Department’s report on international religious freedom for the last year.
Her assistant secretary for human rights, Michael Posner, cited France’s ban on wearing the niqab and other face coverings in public places and a Swiss motion passed last year that bans building new minarets.
Both measures have been criticized as intolerant moves stigmatizing Europe’s growing Muslim population.
Posner acknowledged “growing sensitivity and tension in Europe” over Islam. “What we are urging our European friends to do is to take every measure to try to alleviate that tension,” he added.
The different attitudes toward Muslims in Europe and the United States are the source of frequent tensions and misunderstandings between both sides of the Atlantic.
“We have gone to court in the United States to enforce the right of Muslim women and girls to wear a burqa, and on the streets, in schools, et cetera,” said Posner.
“That’s our position. It’s a position we articulate when we talk to our European friends.”