Islam is world’s most common state religion — study
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Islam is world’s most common state religion — study

Pew Research Center analysis of data from 199 countries finds 4 in 10 have officially endorsed faiths or preferred faiths

Illustrative: Muslim men attend Friday prayers near Rome's ancient Colosseum on October 21, 2016 to protest against the closure of unofficial mosques. (Gabriel Bouys)
Illustrative: Muslim men attend Friday prayers near Rome's ancient Colosseum on October 21, 2016 to protest against the closure of unofficial mosques. (Gabriel Bouys)

Islam is the world’s most common state-endorsed religion, according to a Pew Research Center study published Tuesday.

Of the 199 countries covered in the survey, 43 designate a particular faith as its official state religion. Twenty-seven countries enshrine Islam as its official religion, compared to 13 countries that do the same for Christianity.

However, of  the 40 governments that unofficially favor a particular religion, 28 of them give clear preference to Christianity, the study said.

Over 80 countries, or 4 in 10, have official government faiths or preferred faiths.

Israel is the only country whose state religion is Judaism. Several countries including Russia, Lithuania and Serbia include Judaism as one of their “traditional” favored religions along with Christianity.

A graphic from the Pew Research Center’s October 3, 2017, report on state-sponsored religions around the world. (Screen capture/Pew Research Center)

From the Middle East-North Africa region, only three of 20 countries do not have an official government religion: Lebanon, Sudan, and Syria, though the latter two prefer Islam, the research center concluded.

In 10 countries, such as China, Cuba, North Korea and several former Soviet republics, governments are labeled as “hostile” to religious institutions, researchers said.

In China, for example, religious institutions are strictly monitored and regulated by the government.

The majority of governments, though, are what Pew referred to as “neutral” toward religion. Over 100 of them have no official or preferred religion. These include the United States, which gives benefits to particular religious groups, but “generally does so without systematically favoring a specific group over others,” researchers said.

A Pew study released earlier this year found that with the highest fertility rate of any religious group worldwide, the Muslim population will achieve parity with the Christian population within less than 50 years.

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