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Politics, Religion, and Governance News 2022

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As 2022 draws to a close, several governments around the world have been in the news that are controlled by religious organizations, groups, individuals, and political parties. These religious leaders have varying degrees of tolerance for dissent.

Afghanistan, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and other countries have law enforcement agents tasked with ensuring that public behavior adheres to guidelines of appropriate conduct. [Source] This is usually based on religious interpretations.

Some countries, like China, enforce social conduct based on secular humanist standards, with some religious practice viewed as undesirable and a punishable offense. [Source: BBC, 17 Sep 2020]

This document provides some news reports relating to the topic of governments run by religious groups. Entries below are listed in chronological order with the most recent at the top. The source and date are used as the entry header.

There is some commentary at the top of the page.

Praise and Concern

News of religious groups taking over governments is cause of praise and celebration among those who belong to the religious groups in power.

However, this trend is viewed as a problem for those who believe that plurality, ecumenicalism, diversity, tolerance, and democracy are desirable.

Islamic Regimes

If you are living in Afghanistan, Iran, or Qatar right now under strict Islamic rule, and if you agree with the views and theology of the governing religious rulers, you may think it’s a wonderful situation.

Other people may find it to be repressive. The recent World Cup events in Qatar brought these issues into the news.

On 4 Dec 2022, Iran abolished the ‘morality police’ [Sources: Al Jazeera and Deutsche Welle] — presumably after determining that it was immoral to force morals and cultural behavior on citizens.

Other predominantly Muslim countries are doubling down on punishing those who don’t conform to accepted practices. Enforcement can happen at the government level or in a society as independent groups enforce religious rules.


In Israel, on 1 Dec 2022, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu reached a coalition deal with the far-right Religious Zionism Party. Others who are further right of the far-right have also been welcomed into this new coalition. [Source: France 24]

In the past, right-wing groups were at odds with far-right-wing groups. Working together they now have significant control.

This has been cause for great celebration, dancing, singing, and elation among religious conservatives in Israel and their allies around the world.

Reporting from Jerusalem, Financial Times coverage referred to the outcome as possibly “the most rightwing government in Israeli history.” [Source]

There has already been some talk, among some religious zealots, of enforcing modesty laws and gender-based regulations of conduct.

Some people see this recent development in Israel as a bit ominous. Israel is known for having many different political parties including religious and non-religious groups. The many people not represented in the new majority coalition will feel disenfranchised. Israel’s shift to a more religious conservative government could embolden allies in the United States to make a similar move.

Secular Oppressive Regimes

It’s not just religious theocracies where these circumstances create instability. The other side of the coin is equally troubling: countries where religion is oppressed or prohibited.

In China, government authorities are concerned about the influence of religion on their citizens. So, ‘education camps’ have been established to ‘help’ people think and live in ways that are secular and more acceptable. [Source: BBC, 17 Sep 2020]

In secular regimes, instead of being indoctrinated into a religion by the ruling powers, people are indoctrinated out of religion by the ruling powers.

It’s About Power and Control

We can see that extremism in government, whether religious or non-religious, can empower leaders who want to control how the masses think and live.

The U.S. as a Stable Democracy

The United States, is generally considered to be a stable democracy. The country is founded on the ideal of pluralism, so there is not an established religion that determines cultural practices.

However, the country is not without times of social upheaval. Volatility in the United States centers around different views about public policy and personal practice.

Some groups hold to beliefs that are almost religious in nature.

People opposed to war don’t want their tax dollars being spent on regime-change military operations that primarily serve corporate interests. Whenever people on ‘the left’ come out to protest the latest war (or pipeline), police in riot gear are joined by state military to squash dissent and arrest the protestors.

The same flashpoint exists on the right. If militant extremists on the right are upset about something, they are joined by heavily armed militia groups and take to the streets to demand what they want or don’t want.

News coverage of uprisings and civil unrest in the United States appears similar to what we see in other countries.

The United States has the ongoing challenge of finding a balance where political, religious, and social freedoms can coexist and thrive without clashing.

It’s not easy to find the middle path, but advocates of democracy believe it’s better than making religion mandatory or illegal. There are some popular self-deprecating quotes about democracy that acknowledge its weaknesses, but conclude it’s the best we have. [Examples]

National Security Threat

The conditions described above create a national security threat for the countries where religious or secular extremism is taking a hold. Civil unrest is at a boiling point. Tension makes countries vulnerable to false flag operations.

We see riots in Iran. Much of that is likely organic and well founded, but it results in a country where a little covert incitement can result in a serious crisis — similar to mixing vinegar and baking soda.

Over history, there have been many examples of leveraging the energy of conflict to achieve outcomes such as CIA activities in Guatemala.

So, an external group may choose a side that is favorable to their own goals, or an external group may support both sides if regional conflict is desired.

Sometimes the tension of conflict is leveraged internally within a country — such as the FBI informant responsible for providing weapons to the Black Panthers and radicalizing the group. [Source: Center for Investigative Reporting] Another example of leveraging tensions would be Operation Northwoods.

There is some speculation regarding recent tensions and violence in the United States. Some of it is probably organic, but there is concern that extremism and polarization in the United States is being fueled by state sponsors through social media and other means. Isolationism, extremism, and sectarianism weaken the United States.

As individuals, we can try to promote cooperation, respect, and tolerance among groups of differing views.


The news stories below focus mainly on the problems that can arise when religious groups take control of governments and countries. The commentary above explains the broader context of the issue. The news below primarily relates to news from Iran, Israel, and Qatar relating to the influence of religion on politics. More news will be included here as available.

PBS (29 Dec 2022)

“Netanyahu once again prime minister with most far-right government in Israel’s history” — Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in Thursday as prime minister of Israel, but his cabinet and his government’s platform are controversial. David Makovsky is a long-time Israel watcher and director of the Project on Arab-Israel Relations at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Makovsky joined John Yang to discuss the new Israeli government. [Source]

FRANCE 24 (23 Dec 2022)

“Netanyahu’s new far-right coalition on the precipice of ‘tensions and friction’ at home and abroad” — For more on Israel’s most right-wing government in the history of the country, FRANCE 24 is joined by Yossi Mekelberg, Professor of International Relations and Associate Fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. [Source]

Deutsche Welle (22 Dec 2022)

“Benjamin Netanyahu forms new right-wing government” — Israel’s veteran leader Benjamin Netanyahu has succeeded in forming a right-wing religious government coalition. Leader of the right-wing conservative Likud party, Netanyahu won the majority of seats in parliament in November’s election, the country’s fifth ballot of its kind in four years. Netanyahu’s government is expected to be the most right-wing government in Israel’s 74-year-history. Wednesday’s statement comes after weeks of negotiations with his partners, who still have need to finalize their power-sharing deals with the Likud Party. [Source]

FRANCE 24 (22 Dec 2022)

“Netanyahu’s new government is the most right-wing govt in Israel’s history” — Netanyahu made the announcement in a phone call to President Isaac Herzog moments before a midnight deadline. His Likud Party released a brief video clip of the smiling Netanyahu and a recording of the conversation. FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem Irris Makler tells us more. [Source]

Deutsche Welle (20 Dec 2022)

“Taliban bans higher eduaction for women ‘until further notice’”— The Taliban has closed universities for female students, the Ministry of Higher Education said on Tuesday in Afghanistan. “You are all informed to immediately implement the mentioned order of suspending education of females under further notice,” read a letter issued by the Ministry to all goverment and private universities. A spokesman for the Education Ministry also tweeted the letter, with the ban meaning that girls and women have been effectively locked out of classrooms after 6th grade. The ban on higher education comes less than three months after thousands of women took university entrance exams across the country, with many aspiring to become teachers or medical practitioners. Universities had remained open to women since the Taliban swept back into power in August 2021, so long as they attended classes separated from male students. The Taliban-led government in Afghanistan also reportedly specified subjects that women could choose to study at their universities. [Source]

Deutsche Welle (6 Dec 2022)

“How serious is the country’s conservative turn?” — In Indonesia the parliament has passed sweeping reforms to the country’s criminal code, including jail time for extramarital sex. And there’s a ban on insulting the president and on religious blasphemy. The prior penal code dated back to Dutch colonial rule. Critics have slammed the new laws as moral policing. But Indonesia’s human rights minister defended the parliament’s efforts. [Source]

Al Jazeera (4 Dec 2022)

“Iran prosecutor general signals ‘morality police’ suspended” — Iran has suspended its morality police as the country continues to deal with two months of protests, the Iranian prosecutor general has suggested.
The protests erupted shortly after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman who was arrested by a unit of the morality police in Tehran for allegedly not adhering to the country’s mandatory dress code for women. [Source]

Deutsche Welle (4 Dec 2022)

“Iran said to abolish morality police: What does it mean?” — Local media in Iran are reporting the country has abolished its morality police. The announcement comes after months of nationwide demonstrations triggered by the arrest of Gina Mahsa Amini. The young woman died after being taken to police custody for violating Iran’s strict female dress code. Iran’s Attorney General told a major state news agency, “Morality police have nothing to do with the judiciary.” [Source]

France 24 (4 Dec 2022)

“Iran’s morality police dissolved, says prosecutor general” — Iran has scrapped its morality police after more than two months of protests triggered by the arrest of Mahsa Amini for allegedly violating the country’s strict female dress code, local media said Sunday. [Source]

NY Times (4 Dec 2022)

“Iran Has Abolished Morality Police, an Official Suggests, After Months of Protests” — A senior Iranian official said this weekend that Iran had abolished the morality police, the state media reported, after months of protests set off by the death of a young woman who was detained by the force for supposedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress laws. The morality police “was abolished by the same authorities who installed it,” Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said on Saturday during a meeting at which officials were discussing the unrest, according to state media reports. [Source]

France 24 (3 Dec 2022)

“Iran civil uprising is a ‘turning point in the history of Iranian people'” — For decades, celebrated Iranian-American Author, Professor and Activist Azar Nafisi has been “at the forefront’ in the fight for democracy and human rights. She joins FRANCE 24 to offer analysis and perspective on the unprecedented civil uprising in Iran that began in September, following the death of Mahsa Amini. [Source]

Deutsche Welle (2 Dec 2022)

“‘Double standards’ – Is western criticism of Qatar’s World Cup unfair?” — Is criticism of Qatar’s World Cup unfair? In the run up to the tournament, many Western politicians and jounralists criticised Qatar. Qatar’s foreign minister fired back, saying that he is “annoyed by the double standards.” That feeling of being treated unfairly resonates with many Qataris. [Source]

France 24 (2 Dec 2022)

“Netanyahu reaches coalition deal with far-right Religious Zionism party” — Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu reached a coalition deal with the far-right Religious Zionism party, bringing him closer to securing a new government after an election last month, Netanyahu’s Likud party said on Thursday. [Source]

BBC (28 Nov 2022)

“How a new Christian right is changing US politics” — A new battle of faith is being driven by some pastors and politicians in the United States. Their central message is that the country’s conservative Christian way of life is under threat, and American society is moving in the wrong direction. The BBC’s Barbara Plett Usher explores the impact of this growing movement on US politics. [Source]

Deutsche Welle (23 Nov 2022)

“Qatar: Between tradition and modernity” — On the surface, Qatar is a dazzling and colorful Arab country, home to sheikhs and big business. But migrant workers without Qatari citizenship make up nearly 90% of Qatar’s total population – the highest such rate in the world. Anyone traveling to Qatar arrives with plenty of prejudices: that it is a corrupt, filthy-rich emirate full of forced laborers who have no rights; that it is home to businessmen whose practices are, at best, questionable. But for the Qataris themselves, and the millions of guest workers from all over the world who live there, the picture is more nuanced. Yes, Qatar is a dictatorship with an emir who enjoys almost unlimited power. But at the same time, Qatar is remarkably open and progressive. The emirate is tiny, and yet tremendously fascinating – with its vast desert landscapes, its bizarrely-shaped mountains and its picturesque sandy beaches. [Source]

NBC (15 Sep 2022)

“Christian Nationalism On The Rise” — An Idaho town grapples with questions about the role that religion should play in the public square as Christian rhetoric rises in American conservative politics. [Source]

The Times UK (1 Nov 2021)

“Inside the American Redoubt: Trump voters building a new state” — In the Times’ first feature-length documentary Alastair Good travelled to north Idaho to investigate whether a movement to build a home for conservative christians and unhappy Trump voters is being exploited by extremists planning for secession. [Source]

CBS (21 Oct 2021)

“An (Un)Civil War: The Evangelical Divide” — A new episode of CBS Reports’ Reverb series reveals that as Christian nationalism attracts followers, traditional pastors fear for their faith and the country. Evangelical Christians are a powerful political force, but an extreme faction has divided the community. In the half-hour documentary, An (Un)Civil War: The Evangelical Divide, we hear from pastors on both sides and ask what this battle means for their faith and the future of American democracy. [Source]

The Telegraph (15 Jun 2021)

PART 3 of 3: “Inside Xinjiang: What it’s really like to report on China’s treatment of the Uyghurs” — Part 3 explains the challenges Sophia faced as a journalist in Xinjiang, where she was assaulted, intimidated and harassed. Sophia Yan has been China Correspondent for the Telegraph for the last three years and has covered the region for a decade. She last reported from Xinjiang in 2019 and was keen to return – the video above is the last installment in a three-part series showing what she found on the ground in May and June 2021. Her aim was to bring the world images and information and to see really what was happening on the ground in this remote corner of the world that in fabric is much more like Baghdad than Beijing. The Chinese government has repeatedly said that it welcomes journalists to the region to see for themselves – but it wants the media to broadcast sanitised images of the Uyghurs. The reality is very different and – as you can see in the video above – there were a lot of efforts to shape what she and videographer Lorenz Huber could do and what they could see. [Source]

The Telegraph (13 Jun 2021)

PART 2 of 3: “Inside Xinjiang 2.0 – China’s programme to create a more docile region” — Part 2 focuses on the use of internment camps and an intensive propaganda campaign to create a more docile region. The Xinjiang region is a landlocked, sandy corner in northwest China where for centuries a history and culture has flourished among people living on the edge of the vast Taklamakan Desert. But Chinese authorities have locked up more than a million people in fortified detention centres in the area. The Telegraph criss-crossed Xinjiang over nine days to investigate China’s crackdown on the Uyghurs. In this video series, we examine what’s happening now on the ground in Xinjiang. [Source]

The Telegraph (12 Jun 2021)

PART 1 of 3: “Inside Xinjiang – The cultural erasure of the Uyghurs” — The Xinjiang region is a landlocked, sandy corner in northwest China where for centuries a history and culture has flourished among people living on the edge of the vast Taklamakan Desert. But Chinese authorities have locked up more than a million people in fortified detention centres in the area. The Telegraph criss-crossed Xinjiang over nine days to investigate China’s crackdown on the Uyghurs. In this video series, we examine what’s happening now on the ground in Xinjiang. Part 1 focuses on the culture erasure of the Uyghurs: how Beijing has begun erasing the rich cultural and religious heritage in Xinjiang to force the group to become more ‘Chinese.’ [Source]

CBS (4 Mar 2021)

“The Right’s Fight to Make America a Christian Nation” — Freedom of religion is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. But the role that religious beliefs should play in public life has never been more contentious. As part of the Speaking Frankly series, this CBS Reports documentary explores the fusion of faith and politics in a movement that envisions the U.S. as a Christian nation. [Source]

WSJ (22 Mar 2019)

“First Detention, Now Demolition: China Remakes Its Muslim Region” — After locking up as many as a million people in camps in Xinjiang, Chinese authorities are destroying Uighur neighborhoods and purging the region’s culture. They say they’re fighting terrorism. Their aim: to engineer a society loyal to Beijing. Photo illustration: Sharon Shi. Video: Clément Bürge [Source]

WSJ (20 Aug 2018)

“Life Inside China’s ‘Re-Education’ Camps” — A Wall Street Journal investigation reveals what goes on inside China’s growing network of internment camps, where hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs are believed to have been detained. Screenshot/Video: Clément Bürge [Source]

By Greg Johnson

Greg Johnson is a freelance writer and tech consultant in Iowa City. He is also the founder and Director of the ResourcesForLife.com website. Learn more at AboutGregJohnson.com