Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

14 Mar 2014

In this week's Roundup, Aron Lund profiles Michael Aflaq, the founder of Baathism, the Financial Times reports jihadist chatter on the Crimean crisis, and various writers mark the third year of the Syrian civil war.

We were not prepared to find a religion-and-geopolitics angle to the biggest story of the week, the disappearance of Malaysian Airline Flight 370. This remains a case where speculation really is not helpful.

Top Stories

Aron Lund gives a profile of Michael Aflaq, the founder of Baathism and mentor of Saddam Hussein. Though Greek Orthodox and strictly secular, his protégé arranged him a lavish Islamic funeral when he died in 1989. After 2003 the tomb of this staunch anti-colonialist was turned first into a barracks for US troops, and then a shopping mall.

With the global jihad as active now as it has ever been, the potential for new fronts to open is ever-present. The Financial Times reports militant chatter on the legitimacy of action in Crimea to defend the province's Muslim Tatars.

As the third anniversary of the uprising in Syria approaches, the BBC have a fascinating interview with the brother of Briton Abdul Waheed Majeed who drove a truck bomb into the gates of Aleppo prison, and Richard Spencer writes a tragic account on the reality of the war and the West's incapacity in the face of it. Meanwhile, UNICEF have released a report on the impact of three years of conflict on more than 5.5 million children.

On the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee says it needs a global constitution to ensure a neutral internet that will provide "...open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture....".

Middle East and North Africa

Echoing Nathan Brown's concept of Egypt's many dictators, Michael Wahid Hanna argues that the state's institutions need to be brought to heel. Meanwhile, Stephen Cook dissects the claim that the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organisation.

Writing in the National following a conference in the United Arab Emirates, Ed Husain praises Sheikh bin Bayyah's attempt to simplify the arguments of orthodox Islamic thought, better to contest radical ideologies.

The New York Times relates fears in Israel over the combat experience Hizbullah is acquiring in Syria. While the groups' reputation is suffering due to its support for Assad's regime, the only way that he can repay them is with sophisticated weaponry.

The Israeli Knesset has passed a law extending conscription to ultra-Orthodox Jews for the first time; it will take effect from 2017. Haaretz reports that 5200 ultra-Orthodox men will be liable each year for conscription to the army or to national service.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In Somalia, Hamza Mohamed recounts the success of an Al Shabaab ban on foreign NGOs.

The Washington Post quotes a spokesman from Action by Churches Together arguing that rather than religion, the conflict in the Central African Republic centres on unjust resource allocation.

Charles Sennott tells the story of the pastor and the imam: two men who were once enemies but who now work alongside each other trying to heal the divide between Nigeria's Christian and Muslim communities. Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) raised concerns about the humanitarian impact of continuing violence in north-east Nigeria, particularly in the Lake Chad region.

Central and South Asia

Mehreen Zahra Malik explores the complications in Indian-Pakistan trade negotiations, which include the upcoming Indian elections, the withdrawal of a US military presence in Afghanistan, and the outstanding issue of Kashmir.

Matthew Rosenberg reports in the New York Times on the untimely death of Muhammad Qasim Fahim, Vice President of Afghanistan, to whom Afghan and Western leaders had been looking as a potential peacemaker amid a critical leadership transition.

South East Asia

During an event in Yangon, Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi spoke about the issue of press freedom, and the need to establish the rule of law to overcome the ongoing problems in Rakhine State. Also in Myanmar, as the census approaches, the Financial Times looks at the arguments surrounding it amid possible ethnic and religious tensions.

 

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