Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

11 Dec 2014

In the Roundup this week we look at the changing profile of French foreign fighters, as well as analysis on the interaction of politics and religion in Jordan and Bangladesh.

We also highlight the worsening humanitarian situation brought about by continued ISIS attacks, feature a new report from International Crisis Group warning of the threat of religious violence in the upcoming Sri Lankan election, and look at the fallout from the release of a report on CIA torture techniques used on terror suspects after 9/11 and the threats of retaliation emerging from jihadi groups across the world. Meanwhile, the BBC and King's College, London have released a study examining deaths from jihadi violence in November.

Top Stories

France: The flow of French citizens to Iraq and Syria has shocked France, particularly as the typical profile of the French Islamist is fast changing. Europe should take note, argues Gian Marco Liuni.

Somalia: The Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab continues its attacks within Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Emily Mellgard analyses the context and ideology of the group.

Middle East & North Africa

Jordan: The arrest of prominent Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood leader Zaki Bani Rushaid for criticising the United Arab Emirates is a sign of the political pressures affecting the Hashemite Kingdom, which is more than ever acutely aware of the need to keep close regional allies, argues Rana F. Sweis.

Iraq: Far from stabilising, the humanitarian crisis caused by ISIS is getting worse daily, with two million refugees displaced within Iraq alone, many living in tents and lacking basics such as food and sanitation. Fazel Hawramy documents the deadly threats facing refugees in Kurdistan as winter approaches.

Yemen: Obama now faces tough choices in Yemen as the US campaign against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has had limited demonstrable success, and some say that drone attacks have in fact increased AQAP's appeal to the local population. Meanwhile, the powerful Houthi movement, while opposing AQAP, is also vehemently opposed to US intervention in the country, as Peter Salisbury reports.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Democratic Republic of the Congo: It did not take long for another rebel group to rise to infamy in the DRC after the M23 rebellion was defeated in 2013. The Allied Democratic Forces have been attacking villagers in the North Kivu province; their latest attack left thirty-six dead,  says Melodie Bouchaud. Little is known about the group except that they originate in Uganda where they opposed President Yoweri Museveni, now mostly operating in the DRC they claim to have an Islamist agenda but appear to attack and kill randomly. 

Nigeria: In the wake of the bombing of Kano's Central Mosque, Emir Muhammed Sanusi, formerly governor of Nigeria's Central Bank, is undaunted according to The Economist, and is unlikely to remain removed from politics in his new role. 

Kenya: The world needs to pay attention to what al-Shabaab is saying,  argues Ben Rawlence. Too little in known about Kenya's military activities in Somalia even though al-Shabaab cites such activities as central justification for their own attacks. 

South & Central Asia

Bangladesh: The reaction to the ongoing International Crimes Tribunal in Bangladesh reveals long-standing social and political dynamics around the role of religion in Bangladeshi society, writes Lailufar Yasmin.

Pakistan: As President Obama describes the alleged torture of suspected terrorists by the CIA in the wake of 9/11 as "contrary to our values",  Shamil Shams examines claims that this could embolden the narratives of jihadi movements in  Pakistan, raising the risk of retaliation in a country where anti-Western sentiment is already rife.

India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now visited the Muslim-majority Kashmir region more than any other prime minister in living memory. Andrew Whitehead claims that this political boldness shows that fears that Modi would chip away at secularism and diminish the political standing of India's Muslim community have not been borne out.

Afghanistan: New president Ashraf Ghani has pledged an end to 'strongman politics' in Afghanistan. However, deals with local powerbrokers and cabinet concessions are a part of the historical fabric of Afghanistan's politics,  argues Deedee Derksen, and the new unity government will need to adopt a conciliatory approach, particularly with the Taliban, in order to survive.

Sri Lanka: The use of violence by the radical Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (Buddhist Power Force) to lower Muslim voter turnout and solidify the current government's support base is a major concern, according to a new report from International Crisis Group looking at the risks and opportunities presented by the country's upcoming presidential election. 

East & South East Asia

Myanmar: In a week that has seen the Myanmar government proposing new discriminatory laws on religion, all eyes are on the 2015 elections. Hunter Marston looks ahead to what he sees as an opportiunity to finally resolve the grievances of minority groups in the country.

Thailand: As talks resume with Malaysia over the conflict in Thailand's south, Patrick Winn reports from Sungai Golo, a city plagued by numerous attacks each year from insurgents, but where partygoers, the majority of them from Malaysia, continue to defy the violence and take part in what the jihadis call "very un-Islamic activities."

Rest of World

Jihadism: An investigation by King's College, London and the BBC finds that jihadi attacks dominated by five groups - ISIS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabaab - killed more than 5,000 people in November 2014. Eighty per cent of these deaths were in just four countries: Iraq, Nigeria, Syria and Afghanistan. The recently published 2014 Global Terrorism Index found similar results.

Human Rights: Human Rights Day is celebrated each year on 10 December. To mark the occasion, a report from the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics highlights the religious aspects in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

Extremist Narratives: A new report from the CPDSI looks at the appeal of extremist discourses for young people in France from a variety of backgrounds. A report from the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics brings out the key findings.

US: The findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee's investigation into the CIA's post-9/11 intelligence programme make for disturbing reading. Reactions to the report include the belief that the CIA's actions represent a grave undermining of America's committment to freedom and the assertion that the CIA has been unfairly victimised, as John Hudson reports.


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