Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

26 Mar 2015

In the Roundup this week we look at the upheaval in Yemen, the preparations for Nigeria's national elections, and the influence of Hindu nationalist groups in India's education system.

We also feature analysis on al-Shabaab recruitment in Kenya, concerns over militant tactics in Indonesia, and the growing humanitarian crisis due to renewed conflict in the Philippines.

Top Stories

Yemen: After coordinated bombings on mosques by ISIS in Yemen killed over 137 people on Friday, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines the context of the group's presence in the country.

Nigeria: The first round of the postponed national elections is on 28 March. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the ways in which the fight against Boko Haram will influence the process.

Middle East and North Africa

Yemen: With international attention drawn to the ascension of the Houthi movement in YemenGhaith Abdul-Ahad warns of the polarising effect the group has had on the country's Sunni-dominated south, with many young fighters being pushed into the arms of jihadi groups, including al-Qaeda and ISIS.

ISIS: The way ISIS operates should not be thought of as uniquely Islamic, but also "cultic," sharing the ideological power of groups such as the Lord's Resistance Army, argues Eleanor Beevor.

Saudi Arabia: A public criticism of Saudi Arabia's human rights record by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has been viewed by many in Saudi Arabia as an attack on Sharia law and even Islam in general,  writes Adam Taylor. The country recently held up the strict application of Sharia as an alternative to extremism at a conference in Mecca.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: Former government officials and businessmen are facing corruption charges in Kenya for a twelve year old case involving inflated security contracts.  John Githongo argues that such instances of corruption, which often go unpunished, increase domestic disaffection and aid recruitment to groups like al-Shabaab

Nigeria: As reports emerge that that Boko Haram kidnapped more than 500 women and children from the northeastern town of Damasak,  Terrence McCoy examines the group's long history of abductions. 

Nigeria: As the country prepares for national elections at the weekend, the Nigeria Security Network analyses recent reports that international advisors and mercenary forces are playing an instrumental role in the fight against Boko Haram. 

South & Central Asia

India: After Hindu nationalist groups were a driving force behind new Indian education policies,  Mandakini Gahlot looks at the growing 'soft power' approach of the ideology.

Pakistan: In issues of identity, the military and political elite of  Pakistan has always chosen to focus solely on the country's Muslim history, while simultaneously characterising itself as utterly separate from India.  Madiha Afzal asks whether this attitude has done more harm than good in forging an authentic Pakistani identity.

Afghanistan: The brutal murder by a mob of a woman falsely accused of burning a Quran has prompted thousands of Afghans, many of them women, to march in front of Kabul's Supreme Court.  Sudarsan Raghavan examines how the woman, known only as Farkhunda, has grown into an unlikely beacon for women's rights in the country.

East & South East Asia

Indonesia: There are growing concerns in Indonesia that local militias in the country could be adopting tactics used by ISIS,  writes Catriona Croft-Cusworth. The use of chlorine in an attack last month in Jakarta acts as warning sign, as does the number of Indonesians who are now reported to have travelled to Iraq and Syria to join the group. 

Myanmar: As ethnic and religious tensions in Myanmar continue, the United Nations reports on a worrying situation in the country which shows no sign of abating. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the key points.

Myanmar: Rubén Salgado Escudero documents a day in the life of the Muslim Rohingya in a displacement camp in Rakhine state in Myanmar. Escudero said he felt "a deep sensation of helplessness and frustration" after witnessing families being crowded into tents with "nowhere to go, and no future."

Philippines: With the conflict in the southern Philippines increasing, Sarah Jones reports on the humanitarian situation faced by local families. The fighting has seen 22,000 families displaced and forced to live in evacuation centres with aid agencies unable to reach those in need due to security concerns. 


Religion and Conflict: Countering religious violence requires analysis that neither obsesses over nor neglects the significance of religious ideology, says a report from the UN Special Rapporteur on Religious Freedom.


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