Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

25 Sep 2014

As the 69th United Nations General Assembly meets this week in New York and the Security Council agrees a resolution on foreign fighters and countering violent extremism, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics has produced a Briefing Note on the religious aspects of the ISIS conflict. On this theme, we also look at analysis on ISIS and Kurdish fighters in border towns and the new ISIS-affiliated group in Algeria. We also explore the Houthi occupation of the Yemeni capital Sana'a, a power sharing agreement that ends six months of political paralysis in Afghanistan and China's incarceration of Uighur academic Ilham Tohti under separatist charges.

ISIS Feature

ISIS: With the United Nations Security Council voting unanimously on 24 September to adopt a resolution emphasising the urgent need to tackle foreign fighters associated with ISIS and affiliated groups, the  Centre on Religion & Geopolitics produces a briefing note examining the complex religious aspects of ISIS and the wider conflict.

Religious Extremism: In an exclusive essay for the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, Tony Blair sets out seven principles of understanding he believes should underpin a comprehensive strategy to counter religious extremism.

Middle East and North Africa

Yemen: As Sana'a is occupied by Houthis and protests continue against the transitional government, the  Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the group's origins, ideology and ambitions. Meanwhile, in a new Situation Report on the country, Thanos Petouris explores the wider context of the precarious national situation, including the local conflicts and grievances with the central government, which are increasingly framed in religious and sectarian terms.

Turkey: Even now that the forty-nine Turkish citizens have been released by ISIS, the country remains reticent to become deeply involved in the fight against the rogue caliphate. Henri Barkey examines some of the reasons for Turkey's reluctance to commit to eliminating ISIS.

Syria: The Economist explores the recent military clashes between ISIS and Kurdish militias in Kurdish towns along the strategic border with Turkey and the opaque role Turkey plays in the fight against ISIS.

Iraq/Syria: Even as the US targets ISIS with airstrikes, it is also targeting a little known al-Qaeda affiliated faction, the Khorasan group, based in the Syrian city Aleppo. Frud Bezhan examines the Khorasan group, which US military and intelligence analysts believe is an even greater threat to US interests than the rogue Islamic caliphate. 

Iraq/Iran: Though ISIS grabs the world's headlines with it barbarism, Phillip Smyth looks at the equally brutal tactics of Iranian-backed Shiite militias operating in Iraq. They are actively recruiting, sometimes from Iraq's own security apparatus, and are taking over patrolling and rearguard protection in areas nominally under Baghdad's control.

Algeria: a group of former al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb fighters have rejected their al-Qaeda affiliation and pledged themselves to ISIS. They call themselves Jund al-Khilafah (Soldiers of the Caliphate in Arabic). In an attempt to demonstrate their zeal and to grab media attention they kidnapped and beheaded Frenchman Hervé Gourdel.  VICE News examines the context whilst the New York Times looks in more depth at the tragedy of the beheading.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: As Boko Haram continues to claim territory in northeastern Nigeria, Jacob Zenn looks at the similarities in ideology and tactics between the group and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. While there has not been collaboration or declarations of an alliance from either group, Zenn posits that a future declaration may not be improbable. Meanwhile, #BBCtrending looks at the #BringBackOurGirls twitter phenomenon sparked by Boko Haram's kidnapping of over two hundred schoolgirls in April this year. 

Kenya: The Institute for Security Studies' Anneli Botha presents research on the recruitment tactics and reasons for joining al-Shabaab and the Mombasa Republican Council in Kenya. Simon Allison analyses her report.

South Asia

Afghanistan: A power sharing agreement between Dr. Ashraf Ghani (as president-elect) and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah (who will nominate a chief executive officer) in Afghanistan ends six months of political paralysis. Tamim Asey lays out ten priorities the new president should turn to immediately.

India: ISIS has largely failed in its South Asian recruitment efforts says Kabir Taneja. However, India should not let its guard down and should be proactive in shoring up intelligence efforts with its allies in teh Gulf. Meanwhile Ankit Panda looks at Narendra Modi's ridiculing of al-Qaeda's new South Asian wing, agreeing that gaining ground in India will indeed prove difficult for the group.

Pakistan: A BBC report analyses the recent "mercurial fortunes" of Pakistani militant groups, examining how the besieged insurgents are still able to strike government forces at will. Rarely making the headlines, Xari Jalil looks at the poor political representation of non-Muslim groups in Pakistan, and the National Assembly's failure to deal with minority issues.

East and South East Asia

South East Asia: Elliot Brennan examines the religious diversity of South East Asia which until recently was a tolerant mix of religious movements. Now the aspirations of extremists groups are threatening to destabilise this rapidly developing region at a time when the role of religion is shifting.

China: In a week which saw condemnation over the jailing of Uighur academic Ilham Tohti, al-Jazeera produced an interactive guide exploring the religious and ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang region, looking in particular at religious restrictions on the Uighur minority community.


Religious Conflict: In a book published this week, Karen Armstrong documents what she says is the myth of religious violence, where faith and politics should not mix. The author argues there needs to be a thorough examination of the past, when religion was not treated as a separate activity.


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