Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

21 May 2015

In this week's Roundup we look at what the latest message from ISIS says about its ideological evolution, concerns over 'religious protection' laws in Myanmar, and the vulnerability of religious minorities in Pakistan.

We also fearture analysis on the rise of Iranian-backed Shia paramilitary forces in Iraq, al-Shabaab's internal war against its own foreign fighters, the plight of the Rohingya Muslim refugees, and the effectiveness of counter-terrorism programmes in Australia.

Top Stories

ISIS: After a defensive audio message in November 2014, the latest recording purportedly from ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi contains a renewed call for migration to the ' caliphate.'  The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics analyses the ideology behind the content.

Myanmar: In the run up to the general election, ethnic and religious minorities need to be protected in Myanmar, but concerns remain over the weight of the law behind new 'religious protection' laws, writes Dr Lynn Kuok

Middle East & North Africa

Iraq: The town of Karma in the Sunni-domianted province of Anbar, is a key battleground between ISIS militants and and Iraqi forces, as it lies between Ramadi and Baghdad, reports Ahmed Maher. The Iranian-backed Shia Badr Brigade, who Maher travelled with, showed how they monitor ISIS positions, whilst also conveying how they use their prayers to give them strength over their battles with ISIS.

Iran: With Iranian-backed Shia paramilitary forces on the rise in Iraq, fighting against ISIS, Hamdi Malik and Maysam Behravesh argue that concerns over the Iran attempting to create a "deep state" in Iraq are exaggerated, especially given the strength of nationalist sentiment across all Iraqi sects. 

ISIS: With recent reports suggesting that ISIS and its narrative are in decline, Hassan Hassan suggests that this is by no means the case, as the militants capture Ramadi and the strategic Baiji oil refinery, is attracting increasing numbers of new fighters, and is poised to take new areas in Iraq and Syria. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sudan: A group of nine sudents and recent graduates of Sudan's presitgious University of Medical Studies and Technology in Khartoum travelled in March to Syria. Muhammed Osman discusses the relationship of rising radical Islamism in Sudan with continued repression of political diversity. 

Mauritania: While the country is considered an ally by many West African and Western nations in the fight against extremism, Sebastian Elischer explores some of the historic, and often deeply embedded, domestic political, ethnic and religious dimensions that have contributed to a rise in Islamism in the country. 

Somalia: Following a years-long process of defection from al-Shabaab, Zakariya Ahmed Ismail Hersi, a former high ranking member of the militant Islamist group, now speaks out against the group says Andrew Harding. While al-Shabaab remains a threat to Somalia and the East Africa region he argues its impact is being decreased by more effective counter strategies.

South & Central Asia

Pakistan: Last week saw the killing of 45 Pakistani Ismaili Shia, in an attack claimed by Jundullah, a branch of the Pakistani TalibanJake Flanagin looks at how this progressive religious community, who have made an overt commitment to modernity and pluralism in their religious practice, has been increasingly targetted by militants.

Afghanistan: As reports indicate that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are actively recruiting Afghan refugees to fight in Syria in return for a monthly salary and a promise of asylum,  Ali Reza Sarwar explores how Iran and Saudi Arabia's contest for cultural and religious influence is spreading from the Middle East to Afghanistan

East/ South East Asia & Oceania

Myanmar: As South East Asian nations deal with thousands of refugees stranded off the coast, including Rohingya Muslims, the Economist examines their desperate plight, a people for which it says life is going backwards, with a government curtailing their voting rights, while in the rest of the country life improves as the general election approaches. 

Myanmar: The terrible conditions that the Rohingya Muslims have endured as they flee from Myanmar in boats, are  captured by Jonathan Head, as they make contact with the refugees. Some of the refugees on board died during the crossing , before they were eventually allowed to come ashore in Aceh, Indonesia.

Philippines: With renewed hope that the peace process will be restored over the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, Felipe Salvosa examines how the new laws being developed for the region will aid stability and secure long-term growth in its untapped fertile land. 

Australia: As the Australian government introduce new measures to tackle the radicalisation of young Muslims, Kate Grealy asks how effective these counter-terrorism programmes are, when the initiatives are seen negatively by the Muslim community as making them feel "over-scrutinised." Grealy says that Australia should follow the example set by the US and UK, who have policies that do not "alienate" those vulnerable to radicalisation. 



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