Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

18 Sep 2014

As world leaders discuss options for military intervention in Iraq and Syria, UN peacekeepers arrive in the Central African Republic, a sign of the ever worsening conflict in the country. This week's Roundup also highlights analysis on the religious elements of a number of developing conflict situations in Asia and Africa.

Top Stories

Central African Republic: The arrival of United Nations troops signals a new phase for the conflict in the country. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics highlights several reports looking at the situation. Meanwhile, M. Christian Green looks at the motivations and drivers of a conflict that is so often characterised as being divided along religious lines. 

Middle East: American leadership is essential for peace in the Middle East. The US can show how a better future can be attained through political unity, religious pluralism and free-market capitalism says Ed Husain

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: As Boko Haram continues to gain territory in northeastern Nigeria, Emily Mellgard draws together three important reports which help to make sense of the recent evolution in Boko Haram's activities and the threats they pose and do not pose to Nigeria, its neighbours, and the world.

Somalia: The dominance of leader Ahmed Godane in al-Shabaab means that his death may well herald the collapse of the group according to Paul Hidalgo, however, its extremist ideology will continue to grow in East Africa unless actively confronted. The Economist claims that although a major setback, the group remains a potent threat to Somalia and the region.

Sudan: Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese Christian women who was sentenced to death for apostasy before escaping to the United States, has spoken for the first time about her experience, reports Josie Ensor

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq: Iraq's non-Muslim minorities used to make up around 10% of the population, but the conflict since 2003 has led to huge displacement, accelerating again now. Elizabeth Ferris and Abbie Taylor explain why, in fairly small minority communities, emigration can prove difficult to halt. 

Iraq: The Iraqi government's unjust treatment of their Sunni citizens has helped fuel support and recruitment for extremists like ISIS, says Scott Peterson. The new administration will have to reach out to Sunnis and include them in the government in a much more substantial way to undercut sentiments of alienation and persecution that drive people toward extremist groups.

Syria/Iraq: The spate of murders committed by the militant group ISIS on western hostages has been viewed by some as an effort to lure the US and others into a war, but Robert Simcox argues that a look at the group's history shows the opposite: US intervention would destroy all the group's gains. Meanwhile ISIS has released the third issue of their English-language magazine, Dabiq. Terrence McCoy examines its messaging focusing on the 'End Times', amid Pew Centre research showing 72% of Iraqis believe that this will happen in their lifetimes. 

Yemen: The Shia Houthi movement in Yemen is sparking fears of war as hundreds of its supporters move on the country's capital, Sana'a. But their ambitions are unclear and some see the group's actions simply as political movements, designed to strengthen their appeal says Peter Salisbury

Al-Qaeda: As al-Qaeda branches in the Arabian peninsula (AQAP) and North Africa (AQIM) issue a joint statement calling for unity among the jihadi groups and branches,  Thomas Joscelyn assesses its impact. Both groups also reaffirmed their allegiance to al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri, maintaining their separation from ISIS.

East and South East Asia

China: China is growing increasingly worried about domestic terrorism, especially in the troubled Xinjiang region, says Simon Denyer. The government sees jihadist inspiration coming from abroad via the internet, and also groups based in Pakistan. 

Indonesia: As ISIS propaganda filters into the country, Jon Emont examines  the risks to Indonesia, but finds that so far recruitment to the group has been stemmed by a proactive government, arresting ISIS supporters found on social media sites and by introducing training programmes in mosques and schools for young people, which alerts and allows them to identify and reject ISIS literature.

Myanmar: As issues over the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities in Myanmar persist, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) concludes a fact-finding mission to the country, confirming concerns over violations of religious freedom. Meanwhile The Economist draws attention to the postponement of by-elections, suggesting that this political uncertainly may destabilise the run up to the parliamentary elections due next year, at a time when there are already concerns over political dialogue and disputes with ethnic and religious minorities.

South Asia

Afghanistan: Thomas Ruttig assesses the prospects of an Afghan 'government of national unity' suggested by the international community as a means of freeing up  Afghanistan's political logjam, looking at the lessons that can be learned from previous examples in Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Pakistan: The recent attempt by al-Qaeda to commandeer a Pakistani Frigate, the first major operation of AQ's new subcontinental wing, affirms the group's concerning capacity to infiltrate Pakistan's military says Ankit Panda.

Pakistan/India: As protests rage on in Islamabad, Shairee Malhotra considers what these protests might mean for Pakistan's relations with India; suggesting that the fallout from the unrest will limit the relative thaw that has been unfolding between the countries in the last year.


Turkey: ISIS is recruiting from Turkey's poorest neighbourhoods, including in Ankara, and the Turkish government is doing very little about it, reports Ceylan Yeginsu

Anti-Semitism: Yascha Mounk sees the recent rise of anti-Semitism in Europe as part of the ongoing pendulum swing between anti-Semitic and Islamophobic tendencies in right-wing populism.


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