Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

16 Jul 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at propaganda wars between Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS, the growing fight between jihadi groups in Libya, and what ISIS' new 'Caucasus Province' means for Europe.

We also feature commentary on the renewed possibility of Taliban negotiations, China's treatment of the Muslim-majority Uighur population during Ramadan, and Boko Haram's return to the guerrilla tactics that characterised its earlier operations.

Top Stories

Syria: Recent jihadi propaganda has increasingly focused on undermining the claims of rival groups, whilst demonstrating their own legitimacy. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics briefing note examines two recent publications demonstrating this trend.

Libya: ISIS is fighting with other jihadi groups for the Libyan city of Derna. But while the rivals differ, hopes that an ISIS defeat will mean the decline of its ideology are sadly misplaced, writes Rhiannon Smith.

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt: The ISIS-affiliated 'Sinai Province' has claimed to be behind a number of high profile attacks across Egypt in recent months. Tobias Borck explores the wider regional implications of the group's emergence in Egypt. 

Iran: As talk of sanctions and weapons inspectors dominates the headlines, Danielle Pletka argues that the nuclear deal will widen the region's sectarian divide and dramatically increase the capabilities of Iranian proxies, including Hamas.

Morocco: As a notable exception to the growing presence of violent Islamist groups across the Arab world,  Mohamed Chtatou explores how Morocco has continued to remain free of violent extremism despite the increased volatility in the region. 

Iraq/Syria: While potential recruits are often lured by extremist groups on modern media, an older art form is also gaining currency.  Asma Afsaruddin looks at how the Arab love of poetry is being manipulated by jihadis to spread their message. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: The Nigerian military is increasingly demoralised, running low on resources, and finding it difficult to combat Boko Haram as it shifts back to guerrilla tactics rather than attempting to hold territory, says the Economist. But President Buhari, in appointments to senior commands this week, emphasised a new professionalisation of the upper echelons of the army,  writes John Campbell.

Uganda: Jamil Mukulu, the purported leader of the shadowy rebel group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), has been extradited to Uganda from Tanzania, where he was arrested in April 2015.  Edmund Blair states that the ADF, which operates in the borderlands between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, has an Islamist agenda and may have ties with the Somali-based jihadi group al-Shabaab. 

Somalia: As the heads of intelligence and security for states contributing troops to the African Union mission to Somalia (AMISOM) meet in Kampala this week to discuss regional security and AMISOM's mandate, the Institute for Security Studies notes a growing acknowledgement that al-Shabaab has not lost its capacity to launch largescale attacks. 

Chad/Niger: A new International Crisis Group report finds that government structures and patronage networks in the Sahel create fertile ground for illicit and Islamist groups. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics report draws out the main points.

South & Central Asia

Afghanistan: After reports emerged last week that the Afghan government had officially met with Taliban representatives for the first time in years,  Jacob Berah provides a cautiously optimistic account of the prospects of peace talks, arguing that the Taliban is in an unprecedentedly weak position, not least because of the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan.

Bangladesh: A trend towards the 'Arabisation' of Islam in Bangladesh is stripping the country's religious practice of its diverse cultural and historical contexts, argues Taj Hashmi, a shift that potentially provides space for extremism to flourish. 

India/Israel: As two major powers, founded according to a secular vision within a year of each other, become increasingly dominated by religious political actors, Pankaj Mishra compares the growth of the religious right in both India and Israel. An obsession with moral education and a reverence for national symbols, culture and history links extreme actors in both countries.

East & South East Asia

China: Chinese authorities are a long way from sensitively engaging with minority groups, including the Uighurs in Xinjiang, following the decision to ban government workers, including teachers, from observing Ramadan, writes Andi Zhou, suggesting that the police are forcing minorities to choose between 'modernisation' and preserving their cultural heritage. 

Myanmar: Following the announcement that Myanmar will hold elections on 8 November, Mark Inkey argues that unelected army officers will still hold the balance of power, and with minority groups such as Rohingya Muslims unable to vote due to a lack of citizenship rights, this will be a less than democratic process.


Russia: ISIS recently accepted pledges of allegiance from jihadis in the Russian Caucasus, declaring the creation of 'Caucasus Province.' Mubaraz Ahmed looks at what this means for Russia and the rest of Europe.

United Kingdom: A number of schools in the UK have been flagged by the country's education watchdog over fears that some of their students could be at risk of radicalisation. Dominic Casciani explores some of the potential strategies for schools to take in the UK's efforts against extremism.


Sign up to receive the Roundup

Sign up to the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' Roundup to receive weekly updates with the latest commentary, analysis and news on the role of religion in conflict zones. Sign up here.