Aid to the Church in Need say one in five countries has experienced Islamist violence since mid-2014

Islamist “hyper-extremism” could destabilise the West, according to a new report which studies religious freedom in all 196 of the world’s countries.

Aid to the Church in Need’s survey of religious liberty, which comes out every two years, says that since 2014 “a new phenomenon” has emerged which they call “Islamist hyper-extremism’. They say this form of violence, exemplified by ISIS and other groups, is “unprecedented in its violent expression”.

Hyper-extremism is characterised by a “radical system of law and government”, a hostile attitude to other faiths and non-conforming Muslims, cruelty, use of social media, and a global impact “enabled by affiliate extremist groups and well-resourced support networks”.

It has had a dramatic effect on religious liberty around the world, according to Aid to the Church in Need (ACN). Since mid-2014, one in five countries has seen a violent Islamist attack. This has led to the refugee crisis; such extremism is also seized on by authoritarian regimes “as a pretext for a disproportionate crackdown on religious minorities” – in China, for instance, where 2,000 churches have had their crosses demolished.

In the West, meanwhile, “this hyper-extremism is at risk of destabilising the socio-religious fabric, with countries sporadically targeted by fanatics and under pressure to receive unprecedented numbers of refugees mostly of a different faith to the indigenous communities.

“Manifest ripple effects include the rise of right-wing and populist groups; restrictions on free movement, discrimination and violence against minority faiths and a decline of social cohesion, including in state schools.”

The report finds that governments are no longer the main perpetrators of religious persecution. Non-state actors, especially Islamist groups, have become the leading perpetrators.

The report argues that ISIS’s crimes against Christians, Yazidis, Mandeans and other communities constitutes genocide.

In general it gives a bleak impression of religious liberty around the world, which it says has declined in the last two years. Of the 23 worst-offending countries, 11 have seen religious liberty reduced. “In seven other countries in this category, the problems were already so bad they could scarcely get any worse,” the report says.