Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

28 Aug 2014

As an indefinite ceasefire agreement is reached between Israel and Hamas, we also look at the developing situation in Libya, how Boko Haram continue to expand their operations in Nigeria and the worsening of the political deadlock in Afghanistan.

Top Stories

Iraq/SyriaISIS has ambitions to create an Islamic State in the image of the earliest Caliphates. To understand their scale, we must understand the group's historical allusions, argue Adam and Rachel Hoffman.

Nigeria: The fallout of the Chibok kidnappings has changed the shape of Nigeria's war with Boko Haram. The group is expanding the scope of its operations, while a potential food emergency and impending elections create a precarious situation writes John Campbell.

Middle East and North Africa

Libya: General Hafter, leading a campaign "to eliminate the extremist terrorist" groups dominating the country, is profiled by Barak Barfi, who finds that the portrayal of Libya's conflict as Islamist vs non-Islamist is to ignore the shifts in power since the revolution. 

Libya: News that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates were behind airstrikes on Libyan Islamist militias last week is a gamechanger and may open the way to strikes on jihadi groups in Iraq and Syria,  contends Bobby Ghosh. Meanwhile, there are many seeking to take advantage of the anti-Islamist tendency, says Mary Fitzgerald

Saudi Arabia: In an opinion piece originally published by the New York Times, Ed Husain traces ISIS atrocities to Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of Salafi extremism. 

Israel/Palestine: Following an indefinite ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas similar to that proposed on the eighth day of the conflict, John Reed looks at who has gained and lost in the 50 days of fighting. 

Central and South Asia

Afghanistan: After numerous threats, presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has pulled out of the Afghanistan election audit. Michael Kugelman examines the destabilising effects that could arise should Abdullah reject the election results altogether. 

Pakistan: Shuja Nawaz believes that the political leadership in Pakistan faces two existential threats: the protests in Islamabad and the war against the country's Taliban movement. Meanwhile, Saba Imtiaz argues that while Pakistan's security forces fight against militants in the tribal areas of North Waziristan, the focus should actually be on the threat arising from the country's cities and marketplaces, where militant and sectarian groups are taking root.

India: Ananya Vajpeyi discusses the campaign by India's religious right to suppress the work of Hinduism scholar Wendy Doniger and what the election of Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, will mean in the long-term for Indian politics. 

East and South East Asia

Myanmar: Thousands are fleeing the country to escape religious and ethnic persecution, only to run straight into the hands of people smugglers who mistreat, enslave and hold them to ransom, reports Hilary Whiteman. The continuing oppression and persecution that the minority faces in Myanmar, has been  highlighted by the US Commission for International Religious Freedom.

China: Following recent coverage of unrest and extremism amongst Muslims in China's western Xinjiang province, Brent Crane investigates differences between government treatment of the Uighur and Hui Muslim minorities. 

China: Satellite evidence of tunnels across the country's northwest and northeast borders has raised fears that they might be being used to supply separatist and terrorist groups. However, these tunnels may actually be indicative of refugee movement of North Koreans into and Uighurs out of China, argues Shannon Tiezzi.

Indonesia: Following recent reporting about the growth of extremism in Southeast Asia, Rizvi Shihab looks at the threat posed by ISIS in Indonesia. A central problem is the gap between widespread poverty and the perception of wealth being promulgated by the government. This is allowing extremists to promote an anti-government narrative.

Australia: Kevin Placek notes that the country is stepping up its anti-extremism agenda in the light of a significant number of Australian recruits to ISIS. New counter-terrorism measures are designed to ensure that these recruits do not return to commit acts of terror on Australian soil, but they may actually be harming relations with the Muslim communities most able to help reduce the terrorist threat.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Amid reports of Boko Haram declaring an Islamic State in northern Nigeria, The Economist examines a number of the factors behind the military's inability to deal with the militant group. Morale is low, weapons are badly suited to the type of conflict, and there have been precious few gains or successes for the government.


United Kingdom: Many foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria are stuck in a war they no longer recognise, fighting for a group they no longer believe in, because they can't go home without risk of prison, write Shiraz Maher and Peter Neumann. If we want to negate the risk they pose, we need to offer them a way out.  


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