Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

03 Jul 2014

The fighting in Iraq and Syria continues to dominate the news, and this week's roundup pulls together the best commentary and analysis on that. Elsewhere, we have two takes on communal violence in India, and Buddhist militarisation in Myanmar.

Top Stories

CaliphateThe Muslim world cares more about the World Cup than about the brutal so-called caliphate, says Ed Husain

Jihadi Tension: The division of the ISIS from al-Qaeda earlier this year is not about ideology, writes Shiraz Maher.

Middle East and North Africa

Turkey: The capture of the Turkish Consul-General and 80 Turkish citizens in the fall of Mosul has left the country handling the worst international hostage crisis since 1979, suggests Joshua Walker. But as Ottoman nostalgia coincides with the latest declaration of a caliphate, the country's domestic and international politics are inextricably linked.

Iraq/Syria: The declaration of a caliphate by ISIS has received a mixed response from Jihadis and others across the world; Thomas Hegghammer rounds up some of the reaction. ISIS has been building up to this moment for a while and the timing of the announcement has significance, claims Aaron Zelin, but whether the group can survive is a different matter.

Iraq/Syria: Over the past few weeks, ISIS has made substantial advances; even if it lost its new territory, it would have gained significant spoils, writes J.M. Berger. But in declaring a caliphate, they have risked everything with little chance of success. 

Libya: Amid the daunting challenge the country faces, political infighting and coups have hurt its political novices, but Islamists have been especially tarnished by the shadow of the Muslim Brotherhood, argues The Economist.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mauritania: Following the recent election victory of President Aziz, Boubacar N'Diaye outlines the reasons why his election success is not all that it seems in a country where religion is becoming ever more politicised.

Sudan: The Meriam Ibrahim case has shown the continued need to fight for the right to live free from fear of persecution, says Charlotte Keenan, arguing that strict interpretations of religious law such as were used in this case have no place in a free society.

Kenya: Writing in the New York Times, Murithi Mutiga draws attention to al-Shabaab and how the group is attempting to stoke communal violence by feeding on internal divisions in the country.

Central and South Asia

Pakistan: As military action continues against the Taliban and other Islamist militants in North Waziristan, The Economist raises doubts about how effective the effort will be given the hesitant resolve of the Pakistani government and the now relatively unprotected border with Afghanistan.

Afghanistan: In the continuing fallout from the elections, Arkady Dubnov considers how the world has cast off Afghanistan and is showing little care for the fragile situation the country finds itself in.

India: As the world continues to watch to see what happens following the BJP's election victory, Sumit Ganguly points out that politicians of all stripes have been exploiting religion for political advantage. 

India: The pre-election massacre of Muslims in Assam state has largely gone unexamined.  Priyankar Upadhyaya looks at this and the history of communal violence in Assam, arguing that without a change in the state's politics such violence will continue.

East and South-East Asia

Myanmar: With the militarisation of Buddhists in Rakhine and Kachin states, David Brenner reports that their strengthening links to ultranationalist politicians can only end in catastrophe.


Children and Conflict: The annual United Nations report on Children and Armed Conflict highlights many countries of concern where religion has played a role in the conflict, including Nigeria, Central African Republic, Syria and Iraq.

Islamic Extremism: A new survey from the Pew Research Centre finds that concerns about Islamic extremism are rising in the Middle East and are highest worldwide among countries with substantial Muslim populations.


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