Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

02 Apr 2015

In the Roundup this week we look at the themes of ISIS' latest propaganda magazine, the threats to the peace process in the Philippines, and the campaign against the Houthi movement in Yemen.

We also feature analysis on Muhammadu Buhari's victory in Nigeria's presidential elections, religious violence in Pakistan, and efforts to tackle extremism in Myanmar and Indonesia.

Top Stories

ISIS: The eighth edition of ISIS' magazine, released on 30 March 2015, emphasises its claim to universal allegiance and attacks the 'idolatry' of nationalism. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines its themes.

Philippines: As the Philippines military halts operations against Islamist separatists in Mindanao, The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines the context of the latest disturbances, which have left over 120,000 people displaced.

Middle East & North Africa

Turkey: Four years on, the Syrian war continues to forment a concerning rise in religious prejudice and violence in neighbouring Turkey, although it has improved prospects for a Kurdish peace, writes Kunaal Sharma.

Yemen: Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh has played a crucial role in supporting the Houthi movement in their advances across Yemen. Bruce Riedel profiles the man who has played the central role in his country's politics since 1978, even after being forced from the presidency in 2012. 

Yemen: The Houthi conflict in Yemen, which has been running on-and-off since 2004, is not at its heart sectarian or regional, but rather a local struggle for political power, writes Adam Baron. However, it has a sectarian tinge, which Saudi intervention has exacerbated. 

Iraq/Syria: The current US support for the campaign against ISIS in Iraq is likely to be tainted by its growing sectarianism. Syria would be a better bet, writes Hassan Hassan, but only if the US supports groups that are fighting the regime as well as ISIS. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Muhammadu Buhari's triumph in Nigeria's presidential elections on 28 March were the result of a 'perfect political storm' argues Joachim MacEbong. The components that came together to allow the opposition to unseat an incumbent president for the first time in Nigeria's history include the unification of opposition parties and President Jonathan's ineffective handling of the Boko Haram crisis. 

Sudan: Following the announcement that a group of seven medical students in Khartoum had travelled to Syria to join ISIS,  Khalid Abdelaziz investigates how they became radicalised. The student organisation, Islamic Civilisation, and the preachers they invited to campus, appear to have had an influence. 

South & Central Asia

Pakistan: With Pakistan looking increasingly likely to join the Saudi-led military force targeting Yemen's Houthi movement,  Shamil Shams explores the potential domestic and regional consequences of such an action, in a country witnessing a renewed surge in sectarian violence.   

Pakistan: Since the beginning of the year, a number of Western countries have issued strong condemnations of Pakistan's policies towards religious minorities. However, the international community should work harder in aiding Pakistan, and in particular its education system, in reducing religious violence in the long term, writes Erasmus.

India: A series of attacks by Hindu nationalists, including an arson attack on a church for which six have been arrested, have left India's Christian minority feeling vulnerable.  Sanjoy Majumder reports from the state of Chattisgarh on the growing insecurity of the Christian community across India.

East & South East Asia

Indonesia/ Myanmar: Following a visit to Indonesia and Myanmar, Benedict Rogers reports on the challenge faced by both countries in tackling religious extremism, and the practical ways to address these growing concerns.

Myanmar: Following his appointment as Cardinal by Pope Francis earlier this year, Archbishop Charles Maung Bo has spoken of his desire to ensure that interfaith dialogue is high on his agenda, reports Stuart Alan Becker. In a wide-ranging interview, Cardinal Bo, Myanmar's first Cardinal, referred to the controversial race and religion bills being debated in the country, stating that Myanmar must seek "cohabitation with all races and religions."

Malaysia: With the Kelantan state legislative assembly passing amendments to the Sharia Criminal Code ('hudud') last week, Zurairi Ar and Boo Su-Lyn assess concerns over how the bill could divide the nation. If the bill passes all its legislative stages, it will be the first time the hudud, which includes 'religious crimes' such as adultery and homosexuality, have been implemented in Malaysia, with concerns it will then extend to the rest of the country.


Global Conflicts: Conflicts in the Middle East and Maghreb, and the activities of ISIS and Boko Haram dominate the 2014 Heidelberg Conflict Barometer. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the key findings.

Religious Education: As new research is published on publicly funded Islamic education around the world, Susan L. Douglass studies the arguments on the teaching of Islam in schools in Europe and the United States, and how the debate has moved on since 9/11.

State-building: In many parts of the world, religious actors have access to unparalleled resources and influence, essential to effective statebuilding. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they will play along, writes Denis Dragovic.


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