Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

10 Jul 2014

This week's Roundup covers how the Indonesian elections have brought religion to the fore at an interesting time for the country. We also have some analysis on how religious groups are coming together in north east Syria; a backgrounder on Nigeria looking at the religious context of the country, and reports on the situation in Israel/ Palestine.

Top Stories

Indonesia: As the presidential race tightens after polling yesterday, Karen Brooks suggests that, while these elections have brought race and religion to the fore in an ugly manner, they, and the Indonesian model, prove that Islam and democracy are compatible.

Syria: Balint Szlanko observes how in the north east of the country security considerations are bringing religious groups together rather than driving them apart, as is happening in the rest of Syria. 

South East Asia

Indonesia: While the votes are counted in the Indonesian election, Sam Bollier looks at  the potential differing views of both candidates, which he says have been coloured by religious tensions. A report out earlier this year by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, also adds some weight to the idea that pluralism may be at risk in the country. 

Myanmar: With continued persecution of minorities across Myanmar, Brennan O'Connor relates how churches in Kachin state are bearing the responsibility for the protection and shelter of refugees as the local government turns a blind eye to the violence.

Sri Lanka: As Buddhist nationalism continues to spread violence in the region, Sanjay Kumar describes its rise in Sri Lanka and its links to the government, warning that far from solving the perceived problem, as the protagonists argue, it may actually incite home-grown and foreign Islamist terrorism.

South Asia

Afghanistan: Following the announcement of preliminary results and the rejection of these by candidate Abdullah Abdullah over charges of fraud, Kate Clark reports on the details and the possible ways in which this situation can be resolved.

India: In the third of our series of commentaries on India since the elections, Lisa Curtis looks at the cautious optimism amongst religious groups nationally and how the prospects are seen more globally. 

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq/Syria: After early analysis of the ISIS declaration of a Caliphate focused on the gamble that they had taken, Thomas Hegghammer argues that it may actually have been the reasoned decision of a rational actor. But much of the strategic threats that the group faces would have been present anyway, and three years from now the group will be much weaker than it is currently. 

Iraq/Syria: The majority of Iraqi Sunnis do not support ISIS, but are concerned about Baghdad's misrule, says Robert S Ford. ISIS's success depends heavily on whether this is resolved, as their capacity to rule ( examined by Frank Gardner and Ruth Sherlock ) relies heavily on local Sunni groups.

Iran/Saudi Arabia: In a promising sign for Muslim collaboration, following  analysis last week from Ahmed Rashid calling for cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia to counter ISIS, senior Iranian Ayatollah Rafsanjani has done exactly this. However, hard line voices in both countries makes it unlikely this will develop, says Arash Karami. 

Libya: The future of Libya's state institutions is becoming increasingly fragile as fractious militias and Islamist groups battle across the country, writes Frederic Wehrey. The options are few, and increasingly bridge-builders have to take sides making national dialogue ever more difficult.

Israel/Palestine: Recent events have again brought tensions in the region to a head.   Benedetta Berti looks at the situation and outlines the options for the two sides. However, says Jonathan Schanzer, it is Israeli and Palestinian youths who are steering events. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Ethiopia: Looking back on a recent study by researchers at Georgetown University that found religious freedom to be one factor that can be associated with a country's economic growth, Brian Grim rounds up data on Ethiopia that shows, as government restrictions on religion have grown in the country, its global competitiveness has also become weaker.

Kenya: Further to our highlight last week concerning a growing al-Shabaab presence in Kenya, Paul Hidalgo explains how the political brinkmanship within the country is playing directly into the Islamist militants' hands. Elsewhere, Mohamed Mubarak argues  that Kenya's strategy of rounding up ethnic Somalis is likewise making it easier for al-Shabaab to recruit in the country.

Nigeria: In a week when there have been reports of women and girls escaping from the Islamist group Boko Haram, John Campbell answers five questions on the country, explaining its religious context and the South's response to the northern violence. Meanwhile Gallup have released a poll which suggests that 95% of Nigerians see Boko Haram as a major threat and 67% say that the government is not doing enough to fight terrorism. 


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