Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

14 Aug 2014

As the global backlash against ISIS' atrocities grows, in this week's Roundup we look at how the militant group is exploiting sectarian division to legitimise their brutal violence. We also focus on rising religious violence across China, and the country's attempts to nationalise religious practice.

Top Stories

Iraq: While many have escaped, some Yezidi remain on Mount Sinjar, nearly two weeks after fleeing there from ISIS. Jonathan Krohn spent a night with them. Meanwhile, the  Centre on Religion & Geopolitics explains what they believe, and how ISIS justifies its attack.

Iraq/Syria: Vice News has had unprecedented access to ISIS territory, escorted by the group's propaganda officers. Here they report from Raqqa, a city the group has held since January. [THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DISTRESSING IMAGES.]

Middle East and North Africa

Israel/Palestine: Support in Israel for a disengagement from the West Bank is low: the war with Gaza, currently in a tenuous cease-fire as negotiations are held, seems to show the perils of such a course. But the West Bank is qualitively different, and disengagement would bolster Israel's security, suggest Michael J Koplow and Jordan Chandler Hirsch

Egypt: President Sisi is developing a new doctrine of foreign policy, says Michael Wahid Hanna, dependent on anti-militant and anti-Islamist stability, and more realist than the sectarian agenda shaping much of the Middle East. But Egypt's foreign policy in its immediate environment is much more shaped by internal pressures. 

Middle East: The sectarian conflicts sweeping the Middle East are the result of a failure to establish national models that allowed for diversity and a fair division of power, argues Vali Nasr.  Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging foreign policy interview with Thomas Friedman, Barack Obama talks about the current crises facing the region. 

Central and South Asia

Pakistan/India: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi accused Pakistan of fighting a proxy conflict in India by supporting extremist groups in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking to soldiers on Tuesday, he claimed that Pakistan had "lost the strength to fight a conventional war".

Pakistan/ChinaAkhilesh Pillalamarri believes that Pakistan's continued harbouring of Uighur militants, part of their wider strategy of using militants as proxies, could cause China to reevaluate its relationship with Pakistan.

Afghanistan: After Presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani's rejection of a power-sharing agreement proposed by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Omar Samad considers how to fix the crisis facing Afghanistan's politics.

East and South East Asia

Malaysia and Indonesia: Fears of returning jihadis fresh from the battlefields in Syria and Iraq are growing in countries across Asia, especially those with Muslim majorities. Nigel Cory and Ben Bland look at the implications for and responses from Malaysia and Indonesia respectively.

Philippines: As delays hamper the passage of the Mindanao autonomy bill in the Filipino Congress, Mong Palatino reports that there is a danger the fragile peace agreement in the Philippines could collapse as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front become increasingly impatient.

China: With over 100 dead in this week's violence between ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang, The Economist reports fears that the conflict may be another Chechnya in the making. 

China: Other religious movements are becoming a major problem for the Chinese government. The Eastern Lightening or Church of the Almighty God group – a large and expanding cult – have been responsible for brutal murders recently as Carrie Gracie reports.

ChinaZachary Keck looks at suppression of Christian groups including those that are state sponsored, amid the development of an official Chinese Christian theology. Meanwhile,  Shannon Tiezzi suggests that recent crackdowns on Christianity and Islam are not specifically anti-religious, but are part of a larger campaign to reassert the Communist Party's social control across China.


Kosovo: Following the arrest of 40 Muslims in Kosovo suspected of participation in terrorism in Iraq and Syria, Stephen Schwartz looks at this phenomenon in the context of one of the most pro-Western Muslim-majority states in the world.

Europe: Anti-Semitism in Europe is rising, writes Hugo Rifkind. A spike in conflict between Israel and Palestine has always led to anger against Israel, but this time it is broadening to include Zionists, or anyone who believes that Jews should have a homeland. 


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