The US and UK, say the researchers, are among countries showing a worrying rise in religious discrimination.

The conclusions of the project, conducted by the Pew Research Centre, an American thinktank,'s Forum on Religion and Public Life, were published on Thursday. The analysis, of 197 countries and territories, identifies a sharp rise in religious limits globally and a 6% increase in restrictions in the four years until 2010.

The survey, The Rising Tide of Restrictions on Religion, is the second successive one by Pew to note increasing intolerance worldwide.

Painting a stark picture of a "rising tide" of intolerance and government restrictions on religious matters, the report cites evidence including "crimes, malicious acts and violence motivated by religious hatred or bias, as well as increased government interference with worship or other religious practices".

The project notes an acceleration in intolerance, reporting a 63% rise from mid-2009 to mid-2010 in numbers of countries that increased government restrictions, in comparison with Pew's last survey that had noted a 56% rise.