Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

07 May 2015

In the Roundup this week we look at the threats to religious freedom from religiously motivated movements, the state of regional cooperation against Boko Haram, and responses to the jihadi threat in Lebanon.

We also feature analysis on the role of Oman in mediating between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the surprising deision by Senegal to commit troops to the conflict in Yemen, and the death of a wanted Islamist militant in the Philippines.

Top Stories

Religious Freedom: The rise of ISIS and continued violence from other religiously motivated groups must be countered with concrete steps by the international community, write Elizabeth Cassidy and Sahar Chaudhry.

Nigeria: A regional military coalition has pushed Boko Haram out of many of its territories, but understanding the group's appeal and agenda is key to defeating it,  argues Ryan Cummings.

Middle East & North Africa

Oman: The Sultanate, which follows Ibadi Islam, a sect that is neither Sunni nor Shia, finds itself well placed to mediate some of the tensions between its neighbours Iran and Saudi Arabia,  say Sigurd Neubauer and Alex Vatanka.

ISIS: Women form the core of ISIS' morality police,  says Nina Easton. Female recruits to the jihadi organisation are as committed and active as the men, often given the responsibility of enforcing ISIS' social, behavioural, and dress codes. 

Lebanon: Fears about ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra have prompted vulnerable religious minorities living near Lebanon's border with Syria to start stockpiling weapons and launch armed volunteer groups to patrol at night.  Patrick Strickland and Dylan Collins speak to Lebanese Christians, backed by Hizbullah and the Lebanese Army, who are preparing to defend their ancestral homes against the militants.

Al-Qaeda: The global demise of al-Qaeda and its affiliates has been a common narrative accompanying the meteoric rise of ISIS. However, in many areas al-Qaeda is adapting and growing stronger, shown particularly vividly by its ongoing military successes in parts of Yemen, write Lee Keath and Maggie Michael.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: As the military continues to capture Boko Haram camps, captives of the group are being freed. Will Ross speaks to former capitives, hearing testimonies of abuse, deprivation, and trauma. 

Senegal: President Macky Sall has committed 2,100 Senegalese soldiers to join the Saudi Arabia-led campaign in Yemen against the Houthi movement. Alex Thurston discusses some of the internal criticisms the president's decision has raised. 

Central African Republic: Different actors in the conflict-riven Central African Republic are beginning to come together to discuss peace and reconciliation,  says Hilke Fischer. The process is unlikely to be smooth however, as one of the main parties to the conflict, the Seleka, boycotts the forum, claiming irregularities in the organisation process and distribution of seats among Muslims and Christians. 

Central & South Asia

Afghanistan: Groundbreaking informal discussions in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government suggest a new willingness to engage in some form of power sharing arrangement.  Margherita Stancati looks at the red lines drawn by both parties that present the greatest obstacles to a lasting peace.

Pakistan: As new polling suggests that anti-American sentiment is ebbing among Pakistan's middle classes,  Tim Craig finds that Pakistanis are now looking closer to home for the causes of — and answers to — the country's woes.

Central Asia/Russia: Several thousand Central Asian migrants have reportedly joined ISIS in Syria after being recruited by Chechen gangs, whilst working as labourers at Moscow construction sites.  Daniil Turovsky finds it is ISIS' calls for teachers, nurses and engineers, not just fighters, that is attracting these vulnerable families to seek a new life in the 'caliphate.'

South & South East Asia

China: With a number of years passing since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) cracked down on the Falun Gong movement, Isaac Stone Fish looks at how it is viewed in today's society after watching a play put on by the group, finding that there is still caution within China, and a reluctance to recognise its practices.

Philippines: As the death of the Philippines' most wanted Islamist militant, Abdul Basit Usman, is announced, Prashanth Parameswaran asks what this might mean for the peace process and the Bangsamoro Basic Law for Mindanao.

Thailand: As a mass grave is discovered in southern Thailand this week, with many of the victims believed to be Rohinyga Muslims who have escaped from persecution in Myanmar, Charlie Campbell assesses the plight of this community, offering a reminder of the vulnerability of those forced from their homes by conflict. 

World

Religious Freedom: The rich discourse on religious freedom within Islam should be amplified, particularly since it is silenced in many Muslim-majority countries, argues Areej Hassan.

Internally Displaced People: A new report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre has found that by the end of 2014, a record 38 million people globally had been displaced by armed conflict and violence, including 11 million newly forced from their homes in 2014. The report says that never in the last ten years of reporting has the organisation found such a high estimate for the number of people newly displaced.

 

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