Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

12 Feb 2015

This week's Roundup looks at the implications of the postponed elections in Nigeria, Boko Haram's attempts to become an international insurgency, and the Taliban's rhetoric in Afghanistan.

We also feature analysis on the surge in activity of the Pakistani Taliban, the sectarian tensions in Yemen, the continuing plight of the Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar, and how extremist groups are increasingly using children to carry out attacks.

Top Stories

Nigeria: Boko Haram's communications strategy appears to be shifting as the group attempts to tie itself to the international jihadi narrative argues Jacob Zenn.

Afghanistan: The withdrawal of international troops from a combat role has seen a spike in Taliban violence in Afghanistan. Understanding the group's rhetoric is essential to a peaceful reconciliation, writes Milo Comerford.

Middle East and North Africa

Syria/Iraq: To understand the brutality of ISIS it is critical to analyse the way in which the group uses both stories from Islamic history and modern jihadi texts to change the paradigm of jihad, writes Hassan Hassan. Those who challenge ISIS legitimacy from a scriptural point of view must also engage with this history in order to counter their dangerous ideology.

Jordan: After Jordan's initial vigorous reaction to the murder of the pilot Muadh al-Kasasbeh, it remains to be seen whether the Kingdom will commit to a long-term full-scale war with ISIS. King Abdullah will need to carefully balance the threat from ISIS with the challenge of opposition, sometimes inspired by fundamentalist ideology, within the Jordanian population, argues Noah Feldman.

Yemen: The Houthi takeover of Yemen's government was not originally sectarian in nature, but a group claiming to represent the Shia Zaydi sect cannot hope to bring stability unless it engages with a wide range of Sunni groups. This is a formidable challenging in a country already destabilised and beset with tensions, writes Martin Reardon.

Egypt: In an interview with Spiegel Online, Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi discusses  Egypt's trajectory since the first events of the Arab Spring, the ongoing challenges in society, and the threat to stability posed by extremist groups.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: The national elections have been postponed for six weeks due to insecurity. Obinna Anyadike discusses the reactions people have had to this delay in the highly anticipated polls while the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics pulls together analysis on the impact Boko Haram may have on Nigeria's election process, including an updated backgrounder by Jacob Zenn on the group's origins and strengths.

Central African Republic: There is debate in the conflict-riven country over whether elections should be held as soon as possible, or should wait until there is an increase in stability in the CAR. Crispin Dembassa-Kette speaks with people on either side of the debate. Meanwhile, Thomas Zuber looks at the possibilities and challenges of bringing reconciliation to the country. 

Somalia: Al-Shabaab released a new video through thier media outlet Radio Andalus intended to portray its fighters as calm and confident in the face of continued airstrikes. Tres Thomas analyses the video, its implications and the current capacity of Somali and AMISOM forces combatting al-Shabaab. 

South Asia

Pakistan: Sindh Province, the heartland of Pakistani Sufi Islam, and long renowned for its religious pluralism and progressive politics, is becoming increasingly plagued by violent sectarian tensions. Huma Yusuf finds a surge in activity from militant groups including the Pakistani Taliban, who are filling the vacuum left by poor governance, and inadequate social services and education in the region.

Afghanistan: With the death of Mullah Abdul Rauf, a former Taliban commander turned ISIS recruiter, in a NATO airstrike this week, all eyes are on the expanding influence of ISIS in Afghanistan. Quoted in an article for Deutsche Welle,  Graeme Smith considers the extent to which the threat may be being emphasised by President Ghani to sustain international focus on Afghanistan, which he worries is slipping off the international agenda.

East & South East Asia

China: Radicalised Uighurs have long been the main source of blame by the Chinese government for domestic terror, and officials have described the Uighur East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) as "China's most direct and realistic security threat", emphasising the supposed links of its fighters to ISIS and al-Qaeda. However, counter-terrorism measures implemented by China may only be stoking the problem,  writes Justine Drennan

Myanmar: The plight of the Muslim Rohingya community has fallen from the headlines of western mainstream media, but the international community needs to be more vocal in condemning the Myanmar government, who still "unequivocally" reject the term Rohingya reports Oliver Griffin

South East Asia: With over 500 foreign fighters from South East Asia reportedly joining ISIS, The Economist looks at the effect this is having across the region and how governments are tackling the problem, judging the more pressing threat to be arising form radicalisation online rather than returning fighters.


Religious Violence: Amid a surge in the last year in documented cases of religiously motivated violence,  Dominic Casciani surveys some of the initiatives and programmes being introduced by religious communities in the UK to combat this growing threat. 

Children and Conflict: Groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Pakistani Taliban are increasingly using children in their media activities and to carry out attacks.  Mia Bloom and John Horgan examine this phenomenon, stating that the move is as strategic as it is shocking, allowing extremists to indoctrinate generations of supporters who are less likely to resist their ideologies. 

Education and Conflict: The United Nations released a report this week analysing attacks against girls in education, and calling for measures to address related social, cultural, economic and security concerns. The report draws on the recent attacks in Peshawar by the Pakistani Taliban, and the abduction of the Nigerian schoolgirls from Chibok by Boko Haram.


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