Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

05 Jun 2014

Global interest in China has been renewed by the 25th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, and this week's Roundup examines life for the country's Christian and Muslim populations. Elsewhere, we attend to religious minorities with reports from Sudan, Myanmar, and Pakistan, and review elections in Syria and Egypt.

Top Stories

China: Amid ongoing tensions with the Uighur Muslim community in China, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called for tighter controls over religion and the integration of Uighurs into the "Chinese nation" and "Chinese culture", writes Edward Wong.

SyriaEdward Dark reports from Aleppo, where an indiscriminate bombardment by rebel forces has left a civilian death-toll of over 50. The election, however, has shown the rebels and the world that it can get supporters to turn out in large numbers, even outside of Syria.

Middle East and North Africa

Egypt: Looking at the state of jihadi movements in Egypt, Mara Revkin argues that in the context of the government's crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood, the jihadi argument that the only path to Islamic government is jihad will prove very appealing. And former President Mohamed Morsi has written a letter from prison, in which he appeals to Egyptians to continue the revolution. 

Middle East: The turmoil in the region has led to predictions of - and demands for - the end of the 'Sykes-Picot' settlement of national borders. However, F. Gregory Gause III suggests that while countries' de facto control of territory may be lacking, the international community has no interest in the borders moving. 

Iran: President Rouhani has defended his assertion that "one cannot take people to heaven through force and a whip", relates Arash Karami, mocking his critics and stating that "they know neither what religion is nor the afterlife, but they're always worried". 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia: The recent Al-Shabaab bombing in Djibouti, analysed by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Henry Appel, is intended as a message that foreign occupation in support of the government will be costly, and is consistent with a trend of attacks in Kenya and Ethiopia.

Sudan:  Nesrine Malik explores the case of Meriam Ibrahim, sentenced to death for apostasy, and argues the West must not simply highlight cases like this, but should focus on the Sudanese reaction to the story.

Nigeria: As the campaign to find the kidnapped school girls continues, Will Ross reports on schooling in the city of Kano, finding that educational reforms, including in Koranic schools, are welcome. Elsewhere, Nadia Gerspacher asks if now is the time to discuss community-orientated policing, which could make the movement of hostages harder for their captors.

Central African Republic: As the conflict enters a new phase with the regrouping of Seleka fighters, Hanna Ucko Neill says the UN must send peacekeepers as soon as possible. Through the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN launched an emergency operation and requested further funding to assist the vast number of refugees fleeing to neighbouring Cameroon.

East and South East Asia

China: During the week of the 25th Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the John L. Thornton China Centre hosted an event on Christianity's transformation of Chinese society, with speakers emphasising the importance of this issue to fully understanding China. Meanwhile Shannon Tiezzi looks at how the Chinese authorities are dealing with quasi-Christian extremist groups.

Myanmar:  Jonah Fisher reports on the on-going situation in Rakhine state for the Muslim Rohingya, and focuses on the increasing humanitarian and medical crisis that is developing in the camps.

Indonesia: Looking ahead to the presidential elections in July, Awidya Santikajaya assesses two of the candidates, particularly looking at how foreign policy might differ, and reflecting on the compatibility between Islam and democracy.

South Asia

Afghanistan:  Kate Clark discusses the US-Taliban prisoner exchange, using extended biographies to correct misleading reporting on the released Taliban operatives. Michael Kugelman insists the deal is not a precursor to a peace-deal.

Pakistan:  Myra MacDonald cites recent high profile murders, arguing that the law has created the political space for violence to flourish, and that political players who invoke religious sentiment for their own purposes exacerbate problems for religious minorities.

India:  Sumit Ganguly examines the independence-era history of Indian conservative parties, and says Narandra Modi has potential to evolve in to an authentically conservative leader; but to build a truly mass base, the BJP must abandon its emphasis on Hindu nationalism.


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