Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

17 Jul 2014

In this week's Roundup we have brought together the best analysis of the ISIS situation in Iraq and Syria, the effect of the Syrian Civil War on Lebanon and the Israel/Palestine conflict.

Top Stories

Lebanon:  Raphaël Lefèvre draws our attention to Lebanon where the influx of Syrian refugees is affecting the co-existence of religious communities and where extremist groups are finding it increasingly easy to recruit.

Egypt: While it was hoped that the coup removing President Morsi would help the country's Copts, this has not been the case; moreover, explains Samuel Tadros, the government has not given an indication that they will tackle the causes of their persecution.

Middle East and North Africa

Syria: Jennifer Cafarella looks at resistance to ISIS in Syria's Deir ez-Zour province, where local opposition is crucial in disrupting its control. Meanwhile, Paul Wood interviews a defector from the group, who speaks of a hearts and minds effort backed by force, and  Sara Elizabeth Williams interviews ISIS' supporters. 

Iraq: The idealised notion of a Caliphate bears little relation to the troubled, bloody and contested reality through much of Islamic history says William Dalrymple, but there is much that gives ISIS' declaration resonance. Meanwhile, international understanding of the recent events has been plagued by misinformation, claims Jessica T. Mathews

Israel/Palestine: As efforts are made to end the fighting, P J Crowley asks: what next?  There are no key players with the political incentive to change the status quo; in the meantime, Israeli and Palestinian communities will become steadily more disillusioned and distant.

Islam: In an in-depth analysis of the Sunni-Shia divide across the region, CFR considers the history and current implications of this schism which they map as being a significant contributing factor to current conflicts. There is no chance that democracy can take root in the Middle East until there can be a guarantee that religious differences will be respected and protected.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: While the "#BringBackOurGirls" social media campaign garnered a lot of international attention, neither the Nigerian government nor its international supporters are any closer to finding the 300 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Colin Freeman questions why the girls are still missing. 

Central African Republic: As violence continues, the scale of the conflict is highlighted in a report by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which looks particularly at how the Muslim community has been affected as many flee to neighbouring Chad.

Central and South Asia

Pakistan: Pakistan is seeing an increase of extremist activity in areas previously known for being tolerant, mixed communities, report Saba Imtiaz and Declan Walsh. Despite the continuing government offensive in the north west of the country, the Taliban's influence and strength is increasing and this is allowing smaller groups to expand as well.

India: Economic stagnation and the rise in inter-communal violence is due to a move away from the country's founding values and a degradation of its secular institutions, argues Sumit Ganguly. As parties have become weaker there have been more appeals to sectarian groups and greater targeting of minorities.

Sri Lanka: The Sri Lankan government continues to hamper investigations into war crimes committed between 2002 and 2009 and, in an increasingly authoritarian manner, rally support along sectarian and ethnic lines promoting violence against minorities, suggests Taylor Dibbert.

East and South-East Asia

Indonesia: As the count continues after the presidential election and with accusations of vote rigging surfacing, Ben Bland warns that this is a test to the democracy of the country, following an election campaign that has divided it, including along religious lines.

Myanmar: Following the disturbances between Buddhist and Muslim communities in the city of Mandalay, Mong Palatino sums up the tensions that exist between the two groups, looking at the efforts of the government to quell the violence and how the promotion of interfaith harmony needs more effort during the country's transition to a democratic society.

China: The Chinese government has been quick to blame terrorist activity in western China on the Uyghur East Turkestan Islamic Movement that, based in Pakistan, moves back and forth across the porous border between these two countries, writes Alessandro Rippa. But this has increasingly tarnished a whole community who are not happy about the reputation.


Europe: On the back of the European election results in May, Jan-Werner Müller gives an historical view of Christian Democrats in Europe and investigates why they face the prospect of decline, with some blaming this on secularisation and pressure from right-wing nationalists and populists.

Russia: Carl Bildt, the Swedish Foreign Minister, recently stated on Twitter that President Putin of Russia was basing his foreign policy on "deeply conservative orthodox ideas". Aristotle Papanikolaou and George E. Demacopoulos argue that, on the contrary, Putin is moulding religion to advance his agenda, in the pattern of the politically ambitious throughout history. 


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