Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

24 Apr 2014

There has been huge international reaction to Tony Blair's speech this week on tackling extremism. There is an urgent need for well-informed debate and analysis of conflict situations involving religion. We highlight several examples this week. One apparent ommission to our coverage is South Sudan, which has been in the news. This is entirely intentional and simple to explain. Where there is no religious element to a conflict we will not be covering it.

Top Stories

Clint Watts asks if the greatest threat to the aristocracy of global jihad is the new generation of jihadis who disagree with the leadership or question their commitment.

In a speech, Tony Blair argues for the recognition of the threat of Islamist ideology to global security in the understanding that the Middle East matters to both East and West.

Wendy Doniger reflects on Penguin India's withdrawal of her book under legal threats from Hindu nationalists, asking 'who gets to speak for or interpret religious traditions'?

In a 'Letter from Iraq', Dexter Filkins writes of the sectarian tendencies of Nouri al-Maliki, and how the need for US support is hard-wired into the country's political system.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: With Boko Haram attacks continuing, the Guardian suggests that Nigeria's new counter-terrorism strategy is the right measured approach for now, but protection of citizens must become the priority.

Somalia:  Ken Menkhaus assesses differing perspectives on how best to support Somalia in its state building programme, including its fight against al-Shabaab, and advocates external aid to the country's municipalities as a source of effective and legitimate government.

Kenya:  Anna Bruzzone writes of the Kenyan authorities' politics of fear, in which leading newspapers can publish opinion pieces containing incitements to ethnic hatred and recent crackdowns on Somali migrants are justified by the publicised threat of an internal enemy.

Central and South Asia

Bangladesh: During the week of the first anniversary of the building collapse in Dhaka where over 1,000 garment factory workers were killed, the Diplomat assesses the role of Islamic fundamentalists in the rescue effort and what conclusions can be drawn from this.

Pakistan: As Pakistani Taliban infighting threatens peace negotiations, Declan Walsh reminds us that since its formal emergence in 2007, it has only ever been an umbrella group for multiple organisations scattered across the tribal belt and Afghan border.

Afghanistan: As counting continues after the Afghan elections, Borhan Osman analyses the Taliban's response and finds their justification for continued fighting shifting from 'liberation from foreign occupation' to 'the need for an Islamic State.'

South East Asia

Thailand: Writing for the Lowy Institute, situation report author Duncan McCargo insists the conflict in southern Thailand must be given priority over the current national-level political crisis.

Philippines: In our latest situation report, Patricio Abinales contends that peace in the Philippines rests on the country's recent history: the military power of the Philippines' armed forces, the economic rewards of peace, and leaders who are determined to reach a settlement.

Middle East and North Africa

Egypt: The moderation of Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood was a response to authoritarianism, not democratisation posits Shadi Hamid. He says Islamists are by definition illiberal to a greater or lesser extent, and their ideology distinguishes them from other parties.

Syria: Reports that President Assad's forces are winning are premature, says the Economist. Rebels are taking territory as well – but ISIS is being contained, mostly by other rebels.

Israel: The war in Syria has changed the rules of engagement between Israel and Hizbullah argues Benedetta Berti, as the group's involvement in the conflict has weakened the power of its deterrence to Israeli action – but she warns of the heightened risk of escalation.

Iraq: In the run up to elections, the results of a poll are released showing that only a third of Iraqis believe sectarianism in their society will ever go away. Meanwhile, Carnegie takes a look at the country's many identities, highlighting the need for citizenship over sectarianism.


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