Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

05 Feb 2015

In this week's Roundup we look at responses to ISIS' brutality after their murder of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, and the phenomenon of radicalised women travelling to Iraq and Syria.

We also feature a report on Tunisia's democratic transition, a commentary on the status of minority groups in Sri Lanka and, with just over a week until Nigeria's national elections, analysis on regional responses to Boko Haram.

Top Stories

Jordan: This week's brutal killing of Jordanian pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh by ISIS has provoked a backlash in the country. But radicalisation within Jordan's borders poses a greater threat to its security,  writes David Kenner.

Philippines: With over 40 police officers killed in the Philippines last week following an attempt to capture a number of extremists,  Patricio Abinales looks at the repercussions of this event on the peace process.

Middle East & North Africa

Tunisia: Four years after the revolution, as Tunisia completes its transition,  the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the successes and challenges of the country's integration of Islamist politics into a democratic system.

  Iraq/Syria: Women make up a much greater proportion of migrants to ISIS territory than previous conflicts involving foreign fighters.  The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics outlines the findings of the new report Becoming Mulan? Female Western Migrants to ISIS, published by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue.

  Iraq/Syria: ISIS' strategy of extreme, brutal and indiscriminate violence defies explanation. Instead of trying to understand ISIS as a terrorist group or totalitarian state, it is more appropriate to see it as the merger of a death cult, an army and a rudimentary state,  argues George Packer.

  Iraq: Modest gains against ISIS in Iraq have brought hope for the group's eventual defeat in the country,  writes Kenneth M. Pollack. But a victory against ISIS without a reconciliation between the Sunni and Shia communities, and without a political settlement that guarantees equality of representation, will bring neither peace nor stability.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central African Republic: Kidnappings are increasing in the CAR, largely motivated by money and politics,  writes Crispin Dembassa-Kette. The two groups behind much of the violence, the  Antibalaka and the  Seleka, are explained in new backgrounders by Emily Mellgard.

  Mali: UN peacekeepers have had a difficult task bringing peace to the country after Islamist groups seized large portions of the north in 2012. The mission is plagued by a lack of political will from the government, Tuareg rebels calling for autonomy and an unsupportive populace suspicious of UN motivations,  explains David Lewis.

  Nigeria: The African Union announced on 29 January that it would send 7,500 troops to West Africa to combat Boko Haram.  Obinna Anyadike discusses the risks to civilians of such a force and the breadth of the mandate the AU seeks in order to tackle the Islamist insurgency, while  Idayat Hassan analyses the escalating strengths of Boko Haram and the impact internally displaced people will have on the upcoming elections.

Central & South Asia

India: Obama's focus on religion in his recent trip to India has drawn comparisons with Jimmy Carter's claim in 1978 that both countries share features of deep religiosity and secular democracy. However,  Erasmus argues that American and Indian secularism look very different: courts in America avoid religious 'truth claims' at all costs, whilst Indian judges often delve into theological debate.

  Afghanistan: When  Afghanistan's corrupt court system fails, many Afghans turn to the Taliban for justice.  Azam Ahmed looks at the traditional rural justice codes in which the Taliban's appeal has long been rooted, and outlines the difficulties President Ghani faces in establishing a fair and respected justice system.

  Sri Lanka: President Maithripala Sirisena swept to power last month with the election motto "compassionate governance".  Neha Sinha evaluates the prospects for minorities amid a rise in religious tensions and sectarian violence in the country.

East & South East Asia

China/Tibet: With anti-terrorism measures continuing to be used by the Chinese government in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,  Shannon Tiezzi reports on how this new definition of 'terrorism' appears also to be used by Chinese authorities to suppress Buddhists following the teachings of the Dalai Lama.

  China: Growing numbers of Muslim Uighurs in China are searching for refuge away from the country.  Sumeyye Ertekin reports from Turkey where hundreds of Uighurs have arrived seeking security and stability.

  Indonesia: Since new President Joko Widodo took office in 2014, there has been renewed hope for religious tolerance in Indonesia.  Jarni Blakkarly looks at how this is being implemented through a new draft bill that aims to protect religious minorities from persecution.


Radicalisation: The problem of some in society becoming radicalised should be tackled by building relationships with those at risk, including through business and faith communities, writes Brian Grim.

  Extremism: As outrage grows around the world following the latest brutal murders by ISIS, Jean-Marie Guéhenno draws attention to the roots of extremism in local conflicts, and suggests that local engagement and long term solutions need to be put in place to tackle it.


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