Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

14 May 2014

While the Centre Religion and Geopolitics continues to monitor the situation in Nigeria, in many parts of the world it is election season.

Religious extremists have a natural aversion to elections, which make them accountable to populations beyond their control. Over the next few weeks we will continue to bring news of elections in Afghanistan, India, Iraq and Syria. In each country, religion will play an important part in deciding which way people cast their votes and the results will have a significant effect on the stability of the countries involved.

Top Stories

A video released by Boko Haram answers some of the questions posed by the atrocity of the kidnapped girls, says John Campbell, and the FT explains that the problem of Boko Haram has now become a regional issue.

As a run-off is confirmed for the Afghan Presidential election, a new report from the International Crisis Group says the withdrawal of coalition forces means Taliban insurgents are making increasing gains against Afghan security forces.

Middle East and North Africa

Egypt – Following the 2013 coup, the Salafi al-Nour party has stayed close to Egypt's military leadership. But this is coming at a cost to their credibility, and the movement is fragmenting, say Abdel-Rahman Youssef and Mostafa Hashem.

Yemen – The main war against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular is a propaganda war, argue Saeed al-Batati and David Kirkpatrick, but the US does not know it. AQAP is more concerned with hearts and minds than any other jihadi group in the region, and they are winning.

Israel/Palestine – In an interview with Al Monitor, candidate for the Israeli Presidency Binyamin Ben-Eliezer contends that the more militant Israeli settlers are 'Godless terrorists'. The same publication reports on the thaw in relations between Egypt and Hamas, which have been tense since the Egyptian coup.

Iraq – With the country awaiting the official results of the recent election, Ahmed Ali takes a look at the negotiations and political posturing that has already begun in preparing to form the next government.

East and South East Asia

Myanmar - The treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar is a genocide in the making, state Geoffrey Nice and Francis Wade, and action must be taken to stop it. And following the the historic ASEAN summit held last weekend in Naypyidaw, with the plight of the Rohingya Muslims not being raised during the talks, Knox Thames rounds up the state of religious freedom in the country and says discrimination and human rights abuses against religious minorities must stop.

Central and South Asia

Afghanistan - Kate Clark interviews Dr Abdullah Abdullah, the favourite to become Afghanistan's next President, agreeing with him that the legitimacy of the new President will affect how he can govern. Meanwhile, the Wilson Quarterly looks at women's rights in Afghanistan, showing that with the withdrawal of international support means gains made in recent years are at serious risk.

India - Christophe Jaffrelot writes on the BJP, arguing against the 'myth of the moderation thesis' by pointing out that party campaigns have always oscillated between more acceptable programmes and an exclusivist ethno-religious discourse.

Pakistan - Two blasphemy cases have highlighted problems in Pakistan, report the New York Times, with 68 lawyers charged after a protest against police malpractice, and little progress in the murder case of Rashid Rehman, killed following his legal defence of a teacher accused of blasphemy.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central African Republic - Louisa Lombard says that to see Seleka forces in the CAR as purely a function of cross-border intervention is to fail to appreciate the complexity of historical grievances in the country's north-east. Meanwhile with sectarian fighting continuing, the United Nations highlight the plight of the children caught up in the conflict and describes it as '...a forgotten crisis.' 

Kenya - The increase in attacks since defence forces ventured in to Somalia in 2011 has radically reduced the sense of security in the country's north, here described by Hamza Mohamed in Garissa near the Somali border.

Nigeria - There has been much attention on Boko Haram over the last fortnight, provoking religious leaders such as Cardinal Onaiyekan to call for Nigerians to identify their common aspirations despite their diversity. Amongst the commentary, there have been a lot of false explanations of the meaning of the group's name. This article from the BBC explains its origins, while Martin Bright highlights how timely the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics is when needing to understand the complexities of the situation.

Extremism and Education - Tony Blair used an article this week to not only highlight the abduction of the Nigerian school girls, but also to raise awareness of the spread of religious extremism in schools across sub-Saharan Africa.


UkraineAl Jazeera talks to Metropolitan Hilarion, head of External Relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, about the situation in Ukraine, where the Russian Orthodox Church is divided between the pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian factions, and the situation further complicated by the uneasy relations between the Russian Orthodox, the Ukrainian Orthodox (who they regard as schismatic), and the Greek Catholics.


Internally displaced people – the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) released their annual report this week, highlighting that over 33 million people were internally displaced worldwide at the end of 2013 due to conflict and violence, an increase of 4.5 million from 2012.

Religion and conflict: lessons learned - The lessons of Northern Ireland include insights and themes that can be used further afield. In a review of Religion, Civil Society and Peace in Northern Ireland, Ian Linden draws out a few of these, arguing that its great contribution is an analysis of why religiously motivated peacemaking is sometimes successful and sometimes not.


Sign up to receive the Roundup

Sign up to the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' Roundup to receive weekly updates with the latest commentary, analysis and news on the role of religion in conflict zones. Sign up here.