Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

09 Apr 2015

In the Roundup this week we look at the strategy behind al-Shabaab's attack in Kenya, fears of rising religious violence against India's minorities, and what is known about Yemen's Houthi movement.

We also feature analysis on the challenges facing President-elect Muhammadu Buhari in the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria, discontent with the regime in Syria's Alawite community, and the prospects of reconciliation in Sri Lanka.

Top Stories

Kenya: As al-Shabaab seeks to expand in Kenya, it needs a receptive environment and recruits susceptible to its ideology. Emily Mellgard argues that last Thursday's attack on Garissa University was part of that strategy.

India: Hindu nationalists are becoming increasingly emboldened by the Indian administration's reluctance to speak out against religious persecution, raising fears amongst India's minorities, writes Sandhya Gupta

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: Following the al-Shabaab attack on Kenya's Garissa University on 2 April, which killed 148 people,  Isma'il Kushkush and Jeffrey Gettleman trace the radicalisation of one of the gunmen, the son of a Kenyan minister. 

Somalia/KenyaJoshua Meservey looks at the pressures on al-Shabaab, including its need to carry out increasingly high profile attacks to stay relevant in a rapidly changing global jihadi environment. 

Nigeria: John Campbell argues that despite pre-election military successes against Boko Haram, the group remains an imminent threat. Meanwhile,  Jacob Zenn examines the relative advantages of President-elect Buhari and Boko Haram in the difficult campaign ahead.

Middle East & North Africa

Yemen: The Houthis have emerged in the past six months as Yemen's most effective fighting force, but little is known about them, and international perceptions of the movement are often misleading, writes Elias Groll

Syria: Alawite families are hiding their sons from regime press gangs, as an estimated third of the sect's fighting-age youth have been killed in the conflict. While the community remains allied to the Assad regime, it does so out of necessity rather than love, writes Ruth Sherlock

Syria: ISIS' offensive in the Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus serves two purposes: to gain a strategic stronghold in Damascus, and to identify itself with Islamic apocalyptic narratives. The strategy that the group is using is familiar from its earlier offensives, and should not be taken lightly, says Hassan Hassan

Libya: Since seizure of the city of Derna by forces affiliated to ISIS in October 2014, rival jihadi militias have been seeking to disassociate themselves from the group's actions. This creates an opening for it to be defeated, argues Mohamed Eljarh, but only if the concerns of the city's residents are taken into account. 

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: Three weeks after twin church bombings and subsequent mob violence on the streets of Lahore left dozens dead,  Shaimaa Khalil visits the city's fragile Christian community, examining the day-to-day realities of life for minorities in Pakistan, including their vulnerability to blasphemy accusations.

Sri Lanka: President Maithripala Sirisena was swept to power in January promising justice and reconciliation between Sri Lanka's ethnic and religious communities. However, a delay in the publication of an important report looking into wartime atrocities in the country may set back peacebuilding efforts, writes Taylor Dibbert.

South Asia: With improved prospects for peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the growth of ISIS across the region,  Arif Rafik looks at how Islamist groups across South Asia are responding to a rapidly changing jihadi landscape.

East Asia & Oceania

Australia: A new protest movement called 'Reclaim Australia,' which claims to fight against the "Islamification of Australia," is less about fears of radicalisation,  argues Yassir Morsi, and more about xenophobia and racism.  

Malaysia: Following the passage of the Prevention of Terrorism Act by the Malaysian Parliament's lower house, Simon Tisdall discusses the powers that the new law gives to the security forces. Malaysian authorities argue that the sweeping powers to detain and interrogate suspects, which have been criticised by rights groups, are necessary to combat increasing radicalisation and support for groups like ISIS.


Growth of Religion: As a new study reveals a growth in religious affiliation worldwide, Brian Grim assesses what this means for peace and religious conflict, and the role that religion can play in peacebuilding.


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