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

Aid to the Church in Need’s survey of religious liberty said the “new phenomenon” had emerged since 2014 and was “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 the survey. Since mid-2014, one in five countries has seen a violent Islamist attack. According to the report, 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 countries such as China where religious freedom is limited.

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

The report said that non-state agencies, not governments, were now the main perpetrators of religious persecution.

​How to continue reading…

This article appears in the Catholic Herald magazine - to read it in full subscribe to our digital edition from just 30p a week

The Catholic Herald is your essential weekly guide to the Catholic world; latest news, incisive opinion, expert analysis and spiritual reflection