Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

30 Oct 2014

After a week that has seen Tunisia elect a secularist party, Egypt declare a three-month state of emergency after a bomb attack in Sinai, and Libya continuing to be rocked by fighting we bring together expert commentary and analysis on religion and geopolitics in this week's Roundup. 

This includes a wide-ranging interview with Jonathan Powell, the British Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Libyan Transition, who speaks about the role of religion in peace negotiations in Libya and the wider region. We also report on the Druze community's role in the Syria conflict and the deteriorating situation facing Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Top Stories

Libya: An interview with Jonathan Powell, the British Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Libyan Transition, considers the role of religion in conflict and peace negotiations in Libya and the wider region.

Somalia: In the wake of al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane's death from a US airstrike in September in Somalia, Stig Jarle Hansen examines the leadership, territorial, and ideological crises the group currently faces.

Middle East and North Africa

Syria: In the face of the increased prominence of salafi-jihadi rebel groups in the Syrian civil war, the  Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the position of the Druze minority, who are being forced to evaluate whether greater integration with the Assad regime or a sectarian strategy can best assure their safety.

Iraq/Syria: The abuse of children on an industrial scale ranks among the most disturbing of the atrocities committed by ISIS. Kate Brannen looks at how the replacement of education with military and ideological training for children in ISIS-controlled areas could lead to a generation scarred by trauma.

Tunisia: The reality of Tunisia's recent election is far more complex than a conflict between enlightened secularists and backwards Islamists. Three years after Tunisia's democratic transition, voter cynicism and 'regime nostalgia' are having an impact on some sections of the electorate, writes Monica Marks.

Lebanon: Spillover from the Syrian conflict is upsetting the delicate religious balance in Lebanon. Escalating sectarianism has the potential to jeopardise the entire region's response to ISIS, writes Gian Marco Liuni.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Africa: Given the fear of ISIS spreading its influence, Hassan M. Abukar looks at the jihadi groups operating in Africa including Boko Haram, AQIM, and al-Shabaab. He considers their stance toward international jihadi movements.

Nigeria: As abductions in Nigeria continue,  Mausi Segun and Amy Braunschweiger discuss the fate of girls who have escaped Boko Haram captivity, especially the complete lack of mental or physical health treatment, or reintegration assistance offered to them by official sources.

Central African Republic: Despite the deployment of a UN peacekeeping mission to the CAR in September, violence in the country remains endemic and is devolving into thuggery rather than escalating along religious lines argues Joanne Mariner.

South and Central Asia

Pakistan: With the announcement of further  Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) defections to ISIS in PakistanArif Rafiq explores the major transitional phase engulfing the South Asian jihadi movement, taking place in the context of a global network already in a state of flux.

Afghanistan: With the departure this week of the last British troops from the Taliban stronghold of Helmand in the south of Afghanistan, and the continued existence of the group being used by many to dispute the mission's success, Daud Khattak argues that the Taliban is in fact one of the main obstacles for ISIS gaining a foothold in the country.

East and South East Asia

Indonesia: With the passing of recent laws in Aceh province criminalising a range of acts, Patrick Abboud reports from the region, where he was given access to follow Captain Ibrahim Latif, who has the responsibility for enforcing Sharia law in Aceh. Human rights groups have spoken out about Aceh, suggesting  Indonesia has a duty of care to ensure human rights are respected in all its provinces.

Malaysia: The government has a functioning counter-terrorism policy for tackling the threat from ISIS, but calling for greater regional cooperation to the threat could stir greater support for ISIS, especially in areas where the role of Islam in society is stronger,  reports Elliot Brennan. There are also concerns that domestic politics and difficult socio-economic conditions could encourage the youthful population to support extremist views.

Myanmar: As the situation in Rakhine state deteriorates, amid reports of over 900 Rohingya Muslims leaving the country per day, Nic Dunlop visits a refugee camp in Rakhine State, reporting on the desperate situation of families and their fears of segregation. Meanwhile, Joshua Kurlantzick looks at the importance of the upcoming ASEAN summit in Myanmar, highlighting the need for President Obama and others to question the government's proposed plan for the Rohingya in Myanmar.


Canada: Following the shocking murders in Canada, David Frum asks what lies behind the motivation to commit political violence in a country usual considered one of the most peaceful on earth.


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.