Religious freedom in Egypt appears to be "quite tenuous" and its government has failed to aggressively prosecute perpetrators of sectarian violence, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday.
Clinton made the comment as the State Department released a report that found a marked deterioration in religious freedom in China, where official interference with Tibetan Buddhist monasteries may have contributed to a dozen self-immolations.
In its annual International Religious Freedom Report for 2011, the State Department also said it discerned a rise in global anti-Semitism as well as the increased use of anti-blasphemy laws to restrict the rights of religious minorities.
The report gave particular attention to countries where last year's "Arab Spring" of popular protests unseated authoritarian rulers such as former Egyptian president and long-time U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak.
"I am concerned that respect for religious freedom is ... quite tenuous" in Egypt, Clinton said in response to a question after she gave a speech at a Washington think tank, saying sectarian violence had increased since Mubarak's downfall but the authorities had been inconsistent in prosecuting it.
"That then sends a message to the minority community in particular, but to the larger community, that there's not going to be any consequences," she said.
Clinton got a first-hand taste of the bitterness of many Egyptian Christians at this year's election of Islamist Mohammed Morsi as president of the country, with protests by angry Copts, among others, outside her Cairo hotel.
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