Freedom House, a leading human rights watchdog group, publishes a yearly world survey entitled Religious Freedom in the World, ranking countries on a scale of 1 (free) through 7 (unfree). In the Middle East, the 2001 report confirms what most of us already know. Not one predominantly Muslim country is classified as religiously "free." Only four Muslim countries are classified as "partly free": Lebanon (4), Morocco (4), Egypt (5), and Turkey (5). Many of the region's states - Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Sudan - are deemed completely unfree, with a rating of 7.
Yemen, Algeria, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Iraq are not covered in this study, but conventional wisdom suggests that these countries were too bad to survey. Israel, lambasted by the United Nations, maintains the only "free" rating in the Middle East, with a 3.
The political rankings that appear in Freedom in the World are not much different. Of the world's eleven worst-rated countries (entirely "not free"), six are Muslim: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Syria. Egypt, considered one of the most liberal Muslim countries receives a "not free" status with political rights of 6 and civil liberties of 5. Iran, a country that some analysts claim is cleaning up its act through a painful process of democratization, is nonetheless deemed "not free" with rankings of 6/6. Jordan was the most impressive among Muslim countries with a ranking of 4 /4, just barely beating out the evolving democracy of Turkey, which earned a surprisingly low 4/5. Finally, Israel emerged the top achiever in the region, with a ranking of 1/3.
America's ally, Saudi Arabia, hit the repression jackpot with triple sevens (religious, political, and civil liberties). Additionally, Washington recently eased sanctions against Sudan, a known haven for terrorists, and another country to earn the dubious honor of 7/7/7. The same goes for Syria, another possible member of the antiterrorism coalition. The above numbers should serve as a reminder for American policymakers that some "friends" have little interest in the ethical, religious, and political standards espoused by the United States.