Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

23 Jul 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at the context of Monday's suicide attack in Turkey, a spate of murders of Muslim religious leaders in Uganda, and the importance of data in responding to jihadi violence.

We also feature commentary on ISIS' attempts to function as a 'state' and the role of the 'caliph,' the effects that conflict in the Middle East is having on India, and the reasons that violence in southern Thailand has continued for so long. 

Top Stories

Turkey: The suicide bomb attack in Suruc this week highlighted Turkey's vulnerability to the conflict in neighbouring Syria. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics briefing note looks at its challenge in supporting anti-Assad forces without compromising its own security.

Uganda: A series of murders of Ugandan Muslim leaders resembles ideological power struggles between established and insurgent groups in Nigeria and Kenya, which preceded escalating religious tensions, says Emily Mellgard.

Middle East & North Africa

ISIS: After seizing vast swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq, ISIS' next phase may be even more of a threat to regional security as it seeks to establish itself as a 'functioning' state. Tim Arango explores what the group's evolution means and how it should be dealt with.

ISIS: As 'caliph,' Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi represents ISIS' claim to religious authority, but with reports emerging of Baghdadi slowly delegating authority in anticipation of his demise, Noah Feldman looks at what impact a change in leadership may have on the group.

Syria: As Assad's forces suffer setbacks, he is losing support from minority communities that until now have been his strongest backers. These include the Druze community, writes Hugh Naylor, which is looking to ensure its survival if regime forces have to withdraw to defend its heartland. 

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa: Decades of marginalisation, neglect, and mistreatment are creating an environment conducive to the adoption of Islamism as an ideology of protest,  says the Economist. While no single, continent-wide movement is emerging, numerous groups are developing that use Islamism and violence to protest against injustice and draw support to their ideology and goals. 

Nigeria: As he visits the United States this week, President Buhari lays out his priorities for the visit and for Nigeria, including defeating the jihadi insurgency of Boko Haram. Meanwhile,  Daniel Magnowski and Michael Olukayode outline many of the challenges facing Nigeria's internally displaced people and refugees who want to return to villages previously occupied, and in many cases destroyed, by Boko Haram. 

Central African Republic: A new report by the International Rescue Committee highlights the consequences of conflict in the country, often framed as religious clashes between Muslim and Christian militias, including an overdependence on aid, the impact on children, and increasing scarcity of clean water and food. 

Central & South Asia

India: Growing sectarianism in the geopolitics of the Middle East is having an effect on communities far from its source. Kunaal Sharma provides an insight into worsening tensions, occasionally boiling over into violence, between the Sunni and Shia community in the Indian city of Lucknow, recommending a number of practical interventions that could curb this trend.

Afghanistan: As the Taliban makes increasingly unambiguous motions towards the negotiating table, Arif Rafiq weighs up the prospects for a long term peace in Afghanistan, suggesting that the group's decision to give the talks a chance may have been in part prompted by increased pressure from the Pakistani military.

Maldives: The Maldivian government has proposed tough new counter-terror legislation to the country's parliament, citing concern over the number of Maldives citizens joining militant organisations abroad, including ISIS. Vishal Arora argues that the breadth of the bill's definition of 'terror' will allow the increasingly hardline regime to target dissidents at will.


East & South East Asia

Myanmar: As Rohingya Muslims continue to flee Myanmar, a new trend is emerging of Rohingya women paying to be smuggled to Thailand to start families. Oliver Holmes reports on one such journey.

Thailand: With a number of recent attacks in southern Thailand, part of an ongoing insurgency between Malay Muslim separatist groups and Thai security forces, Gabriel Dominguez examines why the conflict has persisted for so long, suggesting that the problem lies in a lack of interest by the government in addressing local grievances. 


United Kingdom: The number of Britons travelling to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq demonstrates that the group's relentless social media presence is indeed having an impact, but Dr Katherine Brown calls for closer attention to be paid to the domestic push factors in order to adequately understand and tackle radicalisation in the UK. 


Conflict Data: Detailed data on conflicts, as well as analysis of ideologies, is essential for governments to develop effective strategies to counter the threat of jihadi organisations, writes Anthony Measures.

Anti-Semitism: As a new poll on anti-Semitic attitudes finds a significant decrease in such views in France, Belgium and Germany, Abraham H. Foxman assesses the findings, suggesting that more awareness, and the vocal stance taken by some world leaders against anti-Semitism, could be the key to this change in public opinion. 

Children in Conflict: Violence against children in conflict zones reached record levels in 2014, including reports of ISIS and Boko Haram targeting young people, according to a UN report. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics report draws out the key points. 


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