Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

14 May 2015

In this week's Roundup we look at the threat from ISIS in Malaysia, the origins of Mali's Islamist and separatist insurgency, and the security threat posed by Kenya's closing of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp.

We also feature analysis on the shifting balance of jihadism within Afghanistan, Narendra Modi's use of religion as an Indian foreign policy tool, the plight of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and the record numbers of people internally displaced by conflict.

Top Stories

Malaysia: As the global threat from ISIS continues to grow, Malaysia, together with its South East Asian neighbours, faces the challenge of how to deal with extremist voices,  writes Elliot Brennan.

Mali: Violence simmers in Mali as Islamist and separatist groups continue to protest government control, but the origins of the situation are older, explains Andrew Hernann

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: The Kenyan government announced in April it will close Dadaab refugee camp, claiming terrorists shelter there. Kenya would be less secure if it went forward with its plans, argues Joshua Meservey.

Somalia: Following a review of the international force in Somalia combatting al-Shabaab, there is increased recognition that while the Islamist group has been pushed out of its strongholds, its capacity to carry out attacks has not been eliminated, with Puntland highlighted as an area of particular concern, say Edmund Blair and Edith Honan

Nigeria: As the military continues to reassert control over areas claimed by Boko Haram last year, Colin Freeman meets some of the villagers reluctant to return to liberated towns, where so much has been destroyed that families will struggle to survive. Locals also fear sectarian retaliatory attacks from neighbours and vigilante groups for both real and perceived grievances. 

Cameroon: Boko Haram attacks have caused nearly 100,000 Cameroonians to flee their homes writes Monde Kingsley Nfor, depriving at least 62,000 children from access to education. In areas where displaced children have access to a school, the class groupings are so large that delivering lessons is difficult, prompting fears of a long-term education crisis in the country. 

Middle East & North Africa

ISIS: A water crisis could be on the horizon in Iraq and Syria warns Walaa Hussein, as ISIS seeks to control the waterways in the Middle East. There are increasing indications that the group believes controlling water in areas under its jurisdiction could be more important to maintaining its dominance than control of oil resources. 

Israel: There has been growing criticism across American and European college campuses of Israeli policy towards Palestinians. However, the so-called boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which has occasionally strayed into anti-Semitic rhetoric, can only inspire resentment and retrenchment, rather than constructive dialogue, between students,  argues The Economist

Yemen: Social media accounts linked to jihadis have this week claimed that Ma'moun Abdulhamid Hatem, a senior al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula official in Yemen, was killed in a US drone strike. Hatem was a supporter of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi's declaration of a caliphate last year, though remained loyal to al-Qaeda.  Bill Roggio and Thomas Joscelyn explore Hatem's significance around reports of his death. 

South & Central Asia

Afghanistan: As reports emerge of the Taliban losing young recruits to ISIS, Hekmatullah Azamy and James Weir explore the rapidly shifting balance of jihadism within Afghanistan, finding that significant ideological differences exist between the two groups, but that a pragmatic relationship could prevail in their shared opposition to the Afghan state.

India: In a wide ranging interview for TIME, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi argues for the need to "delink terrorism from religion" and to "isolate terrorists who use this interchange of arguments between terrorism and religion." Modi advocates for world leaders to conceive of the battle against extremism as a fight for human values, rather than as simply a law and order issue.

East & South East Asia

Mongolia: As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Mongolia this week, C. Raja Mohan examines the importance of this "spiritual neighbour", a country where over 50 per cent of the population practice Buddhism. Prime Minister Modi has put religion at the centre of India's regional engagement, and has expressed interest in Buddhism being used as a force for shaping the future of Asia.

Myanmar: The plight of the Rohingya Muslim community has been documented widely, but this week the numbers being trafficked has caught world attention. Sara Perria reports from a camp housing 4,000 Rohingya in Rakhine state, which Perria describes as a "ghetto" with deteriorating conditions, and their desire to escape becoming ever more desperate. 

Thailand: The insurgency in southern Thailand was rejuvenated in April when a car bomb exploded in Samui, with the Malay-Muslim liberation movement suspected of carrying out the attack. Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat explores what this means for the stalled peace process, and how the situation needs a political rather than a military solution. 


Deradicalisation: Imams in Jordan are developing strategies to counter ISIS' online propaganda learns  Dominic Casciani as he speaks to the Jordanian grand mufti's "e-imams" using social media and the internet to counter the group's religious justifications for violence. 

Internally Displaced People: The number of people internally displaced by conflict reached a record 38 million in 2014, says the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the main findings.


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