Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

22 Jan 2015

In the Roundup this week, we feature a briefing on the context of Boko Haram attacks in Cameroon, and analysis on the resurgence of anti-Semitism in Hungary.

We also draw together analysis on the relationship between Islamist and anti-Islamist forces in the war in Libya, the unfolding internal displacement crisis in Bangladesh, the counter-terrorism measures being implemented in Kenya and the ways in which a religion-friendly secularism can foster the peaceful integration of religious communities.

Top Stories

Boko Haram: In the wake of the 18 January Boko Haram attack in Cameroon in which up to eighty people were abducted, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines the legacy of Boko Haram attacks in the country.

Secularism: The Paris attacks show us that in order to beat Islamism we need a secularism that encourages religion, not one that pushes religious expression into the shadows,  write Ed Husain and Peter Welby.

Middle East & North Africa

Libya: The war in Libya is being presented as a 'legitimate' anti-Islamist government in Tobruk battling an Islamist government in Tripoli. The reality is more complicated, writes Jason Pack: local leaders wield more power than national politicians, and the Libyan Central Bank pays the salaries of both sides.

Saudi Arabia: Madawi al-Rasheed looks at the contradiction between Saudi Arabia's desire to be seen as a defender of free speech and human rights internationally, and the reality at home of severe public punishments, including the recent lashing of a liberal blogger and the beheading of a woman convicted of murder.

Lebanon: Hizbullah's involvement in the Syrian civil war has caused the organisation, established in the 1980s to fight Israel, to alter its strategies. As a result, Hizbullah has changed dramatically, with wide-ranging implications for regional stability, writes Susannah George.

Mauritania: Despite the near-unanimous view among Islamic jurists that slavery is incompatible with Islamic law, the practice continues in Mauritania, an Islamic republic where between four and 20 per cent of the population is enslaved. In the wake of the imprisonment of three prominent anti-slavery campaigners, Michael Phillips looks at the political, religious and ethnic contexts surrounding slavery in the north-west African state.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: As Nigeria's national elections approach, Ryan Cummings assesses the threat of Boko Haram to the election and to Nigerian democracy.

Nigeria:  Alice Hunt Friend analyses the strategic and capacity shortfalls of the Nigerian military's counter-terrorism strategy. Meanwhile, with debates ongoing over how to confront increasing extremism across the continent,  Liesl Louw-Vaudran cautions against a purely military response. 

Kenya: The Kenyan government is approaching the threat of terrorism in the country the wrong way argues Joshua Meservey. Security forces' heavy handed tactics frequently violate Kenyans' constitutional rights and the government's pressure on civil society has deeply impinged on its freedom to act, undermining the country's "hard-won freedoms". 

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: After the Peshawar school attacks, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to end the government's distinction between "good and bad Taliban". Kunwar Khuldune Shahid looks at the the likelihood of Pakistan abandoning this long-standing position, and what security policy might take its place.

Bangladesh: The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has produced a report highlighting a major displacement crisis unfolding in Bangladesh. Much of the displacement results from inter-communal violence targeting indigenous, Hindu and Buddhist communities, representing a major obstacle to a durable solution. 

Central Asia: ISIS is fostering new links with radicals in Central Asia and attracting many to Syria, posing a serious threat to the region's stability, according to a new report from the International Crisis Group.  

Central Asia:  Shawn Snow suggests that the region's mountainous geographic terrain, a historical natural buffer against Russian and Chinese influence and control, has bolstered the rise of Islamic extremist groups after the fall of the Soviet Union.

East & South East Asia

China: As the dispute between the Chinese authorities and the Uighur community continues, Metin Gurcan argues that it is pushing some away from peaceful Islam to the adoption of radical trends.

Malaysia: Malaysia's monarch has spoken of his concerns over religious extremism in the country.  Jeremy Grant reports from Kuala Lumpur on the heightened security since the 7 January attacks in Paris, including the monitoring of religious schools.

Myanmar: A United Nations human rights expert, Janghee Lee, has returned from a visit to Myanmar, where she was the subject of  protests by Buddhist nationalists. Following the visit, Ms Lee suggested that restrictions on civil society in Myanmar may have worsened, and the situation in Rakhine State between Buddhists and Muslims "remains hostile".

Philippines: After a crowd of over six million turned out to see Pope Francis in Manila this week, the Economist looks at the history behind strong expectations in the Philippines, a majority Catholic country, that piety will be rewarded on earth as well as in heaven. 


HungaryDr Erin Marie Saltman examines the ways in which anti-Semitism has developed in Hungarian politics and society, and how it remains a part of the far-right narrative in the country.


'Global War on Terror': The phrase 'Global War on Terror' fell out of favour under the Obama presidency.  Gideon Rachman argues that in light of the increasing number of jihadi groups globally the phrase may need to be resurrected, but victory will only be possible if the battle for ideas is won. 


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