Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

06 Nov 2014

In a week that has seen violent outbursts in Jerusalem and the lynching of Christians in Pakistan under blasphemy laws, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines these issues and publishes interviews with Brian Grim on the importance of data in improving policy, Dr. Usama Hasan on the divergent theological arguments of ISIS, and a situation report from Jason Pack on Libya.

Top Stories

ISIS: In an interview with the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, leading Islamic scholar Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan explains why the oppression and tyranny of ISIS, far from being supported by scripture, is in stark opposition to the central Quranic ideas of mercy, justice and compassion.

Jerusalem: Amid rising tensions in Jerusalem focused around the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif complex, the  Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the issues that make the area such a flashpoint. Meanwhile, Gregg Carlstrom examines the various factors leading to such volatility.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central African Republic: Despite the presence of a UN mission in the country, the CAR continues to fracture. Thierry Vircoulon discusses the development of zones of influence and "baronies" across the country. The continued disintegration of the national structure adds weight to arguments that this is about much more than religion. Jake Flanagin reports that until peace has more to offer, violence will continue. 

Liberia: Religious leaders in Liberia are preaching on Ebola writes Laurie Garrett. Some are using their pulpits to preach peace, others to spread rumours and blame. The testimonies from Liberia are a powerful message of how influential the church and religious leaders can be in countering rumours and encouraging cooperation and peace. 

Middle East & North Africa

Libya: The 2011 uprisings left Libya fragmented along multiple axes. In a comprehensive Situation Report for the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, Jason Pack puts forward his perspective on how deep social, military, tribal and religious fissures have divided Libya's post-conflict landscape.

ISIS: Ed Husain argues that to defeat ISIS, we must counter their theological appeal – while they offer death, we must offer life. Meanwhile, Hazem al-Amin asks "Who is the 'typical' Tunisian jihadist?" and what are the socio-economic factors making Tunisia one of the largest sources of foreign fighters in the region. 

Jordan:  The Economist examines the position of two leading jihadi idealogues, Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada, who are losing ground in the jihadi movement to groups such as ISIS. 

Egypt: The insurgency led by Ansar Beit Al-Maqdis in Egypt's Sinai peninsula has rapidly escalated since the July 2013 overthrow of Mohamed Morsi. Patrick Kingsley argues that the alienating tactics of the Egyptian army, including mass evictions, risk generating support for the rebels rather than containing them.

South & Central Asia

Afghanistan: With Afghanistan's new President Ashraf Ghani issuing a call this week for the Taliban to join the national peace process, a new film from VICE News looks at the situation on the ground, with Afghan forces now attempting to hold off Taliban attacks without the support of international troops [WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT]. 

India: In a week marking 30 years since the surge of violence after Indira Gandhi's assassination that led to the death of over 8,000 Sikhs,  Akhilesh Pillalamarri considers the current-day implications. Meanwhile Human Rights Watch argues that the failure to prosecute this "organised carnage" shows the urgent need for the reform of communal violence laws.

India:  Raksha Kumar investigates the influence of the Hindu Right in the education system in Gujarat, the state in which current president Narendra Modi used to be governor, finding an increasing move towards "saffronisation'" and the infusion of ideology into the mainstream curriculum.

Pakistan: Following a week where a mob killed a Christian couple for allegedly desecrating a Quran, Knox Thames looks at the numbers behind Pakistan's blasphemy laws, concluding that an alarming level of violence against the religious 'other' is plaguing Pakistan.

East & South East Asia

China: Southeast Asia with its ethnic diversity and Muslim populations, have made it possible for the Chinese Uighur communities to blend in. However, Beijing has real concerns that there is increasing evidence showing a link or convergence between Uighur militants and jihadist terrorist organisations in the Middle East, including ISIS, writes Yun Sun.

China: The changing face of religious demography is taking place at a rapid pace but is being greeted with mixed reactions around the country, reports the Economist from Wenzhou, a predominantly Christian city which has suffered from the destruction of religious buildings.

Indonesia: The chief of the Indonesia armed forces, General Moeldoko has spoken about the threat from ISIS in Indonesia, while calling from for a more regional ASEAN response. Zachary Keck analyses what the general said in the context of recent reports of Indonesians travelling to fight alongside the jihadi group.

Myanmar: As the country prepares for the upcoming ASEAN summit, the United Nations releases a report on stateless people, which highlights amongst others the plight of the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar. Meanwhile, Jason Motlagh documents  the desperate situation faced by the community in a powerful film. 


Religious Freedom: A new report on global religious freedom from Aid to the Church in Need has found that of the 196 countries in the world, 81 are places where religious freedom is impaired. One of the report's key concerns is that the rise of "religious illiteracy" among both Western policy makers and the international media is hampering productive dialogue and effective policy making.

World: During Yom Kippur on 3 October, a Seattle-based rabbi gave an unusual sermon on forgiving God.  Peter Berger discusses this and wrestles with the concept of suffering and conflict in other religions as well, with history showing how these theological dilemmas can influence and intertwine with politics, often in messy ways.

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