Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

20 Mar 2014

In this week's Roundup, the Financial Times takes an in-depth look at Islam in Malaysia, the New York Times profiles a Sunni activist in Saudi Arabia campaigning for the rights of the Shia minority, and the influence of Al-Qaeda is assessed from two different viewpoints.

Top Stories

Russian Islam is more diverse than western caricatures suggest, and the Kremlin has worked hard at relationships with Europe's largest Muslim population, says Robert D. Crews in Foreign Affairs.

With Malaysia in the spotlight again this week, the Financial Times takes a wider look at the country's changing relationship with Islam.

Writing from Syria, Edward Dark (the pseudonym of a writer living in Aleppo) describes divisions along clan and class lines rather than sectarian ones, with some Sunni militias fighting on the side of the regime. Also, ABC reports that a serving Australian soldier has been killed fighting with the rebels.


Middle East and North Africa

The New York Times publishes a profile of Mikhlif al-Shammari, a Sunni activist in Saudi Arabia campaigning for the rights of the Kingdom's Shia minority.

Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Pensinsula (AQAP), based in Yemen and one of the most successful franchises of the movement, has released the latest edition of their magazine, Inspire. The Long War Journal offers an analysis. Meanwhile in a five part series, Patrick Cockburn from the Independent looks at the 'war on terror' 12 years on and assesses the survival of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda.

While much international attention has focused on the Syrian refugee camps in Jordan, the New York Times reports that the majority of refugees in the country have moved to its urban centres, causing huge spikes in the cost of living and a great strain on infrastructure.

Sub-Saharan Africa

In South Sudan Aly Verjee describes the city of Yambio where life is somewhat removed from the politics of Juba, but the signs of military conflict are never far away.

Reflecting on African examples in light of the Crimean referendum, Richard Dowden notes only two official changes to Africa's boundaries since independence; the establishment of Eritrea and South Sudan, both done with the agreement of the mother country.

Central and South Asia

William Dalrymple writes in the Guardian on Afghanistan's future as a place of central Asian agreement between China and the US, strongly influenced by Chinese perceptions of Pakistani links to Uighur militancy.

In India, Amy Kazmin of the Financial Times debates diverse perspective among Muslims, in view of Narendra Modi's expected victory in the upcoming election, and the Wall Street Journal blogs on Modi's recent choice of Varanasi as an electoral base, which some say is intended to galvanise the country's religious Hindu voters.

South East Asia

Religion reporting in Malaysia must be given urgent attention and avoid sticking to the government's position on ethno-religious strife writes Bob Teoh, a former secretary-general of the Confederation of ASEAN Journalists.

A new survey on citizenship in Myanmar, reported this week in World Bulletin reveals that the majority of those polled equate citizenship with religion. Meanwhile, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar has presented his final report, highlighting progress but stating that challenges remain in Rakhine State.


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