Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

11 Jun 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at the implications of Turkey's election results for the Muslim world, the presence of Caucasian fighters in Syria, and challenges faced by Hizbullah in Lebanon.

We also feature analysis on how communities are living under ISIS' rule one year on from its advances in Iraq, the fragile peace agreement in Mali, the utility to Pakistan of alleging Indian complicity in terrorism, and concerns over renewed militant attacks in southern Thailand.

Top Stories

Turkey: The Turkish election results have implications not only for democracy in Turkey, but also for the wider Muslim world. This progress should be supported and welcomed, writes Ed Husain.

The Caucasus: The heavy presence of Caucasians as foreign fighters in Syria's civil war can be traced directly to the rise of jihadism in Chechnya's resistance to Russia, write Osama Filali-Naji and Milo Comerford.

Middle East & North Africa

ISIS: One year on from ISIS' capture of Mosul and Tikrit, Richard Spencer explores how Iraq's Sunnis feel themselves to be collectively punished for the crimes of ISIS, leaving behind the potential for an even greater sectarian conflict. Meanwhile,  Ruth Sherlock investigates the state of business in ISIS territory, and how the group is benefiting from booming trade.

Lebanon: Hizbullah has incurred heavy losses in the Syrian conflict and appears to be unable to withdraw.  Lina Khatib examines how the group, once considered among the foremost political organisations in the Middle East, now faces a challenging future. 

Jihadi Culture: Understanding the culture of jihadi groups is vital to understanding the mindsets of their members, write Robyn Crewell and Bernard Haykel in an analysis of jihadi poetry. The poetry of figures from Osama bin Laden to Syrian foreign fighters reveals a great deal, and shows the poet's response to those who challenge their view of the world.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Mali: The signing of a peace agreement in mid-May by mostly Tuareg separatists and the Malian government lacked legitimacy because of the irreconcilable goals of the parties, argues Kamissa Camara, and instead reaffirmed the fragile existing status quo.

Mali: As the Sahara Desert expands, natural resources are becoming scarce and communities are being forced to change their traditional semi-nomadic patterns and lifestyle.  Anna Badkhen describes how the combination of this pressure with the presence of Salafi ideology in the region is giving rise to jihadi groups such as those that occupied northern Mali in early 2013. 

South Africa: The World Economic Forum meeting this week in Cape Town has included a discussion on terrorism on its agenda for the first time, including factors that contribute to recruitment into radical groups. This comes as businesses are increasingly recognising the disruptive influence violence by non-state actors can have,  says Anton du Plessis

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has long been accused by Pakistan of fomenting terrorism in their country.  Michael Kugelman claims that perpetuating this narrative of India as a threat now particularly suits Pakistan, given the presence of a Hindu nationalist government in New Delhi that has been perceived by many as being critical of Muslims.

Afghanistan: Growing intolerance and persecution has caused Afghanistan's once-thriving Sikh community, 100,000-strong in the 1990s, to dwindle to an estimated 2,500 members. Conditions for this previously well-integrated community began to worsen under the Taliban, says the Associated Press, when Sikhs and Hindus were pressured to convert to Islam, or publicly identify themselves with yellow patches on their clothing.

Central Asia:  Deirdre Tynan reports on the chill sent across Central Asia by the defection of a Tajik special forces chief to ISIS. Colonel Gulmurod Khalimov's propaganda message appealed directly to Tajikistan's overstretched, underpaid security forces, asking "Are you ready to die for this state or not?"

East & South East Asia

Myanmar: As a number of reports suggest that the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including Aung San Suu Kyi, has done little to tackle the Rohingya Muslim crisis, Joshua Kurlantzick assesses more recent statements by the NLD which now appear to have shifted slightly towards speaking out on the protection of the Rohingya. 

Myanmar: With the plight of the Rohingya Muslim community in Myanmar widely reported, Alex Bookbinder examine some powerful photographs of Rohingya refugees. 

Thailand: Following a spate of attacks in southern Thailand, there are concerns that the conflict between Malay-Muslim militant groups and Thai Buddhist militias in the region is taking on a new course, writes Lindsay Murdoch. It is feared that the insurgents could be looking to expand their influence, and are therefore vulnerable to recruitment by other transnational groups, such as ISIS. 


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