Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

24 Jul 2014

As election results are announced this week in Indonesia, we release our Situation Report on the country, with a commentary examining the risks to pluralism. Meanwhile, the conflict in Israel and Gaza continues to escalate; David Aaronovitch argues there is a solution, but it depends on negotiations without preconditions from either side. Also in the Roundup, analysis of the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar and the Central African Republic.

Top Stories

Indonesia: As the results of the elections are announced, Benedict Rogers looks at the hopes for religious harmony in the country at a time when pluralism has been put to the test. For more on the situation in Indonesia, see our Situation Report from Dr Kirsten Schulze. 

Israel/Palestine: The conflict between Israel and Palestine is like a Groundhog Day that gets worse every time, argues David Aaronovitch. There is a solution, but it depends on negotiations without preconditions from either side.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Central African Republic: As rival armed groups sign a ceasefire agreement, Johan Eldebo of World Vision is on the ground in Bangui, where he finds a region crippled by the conflict and looks ahead to what must be a lasting peaceful solution.

Nigeria: With Boko Haram attacks in Kaduna and Damboa this week,  John Campbell looks at reports that Boko Haram are becoming territorial.

Middle East and North Africa

Iraq: When Baghdadi released a sermon from a Mosul mosque, the Western media focused on his wristwatch. But to religious Muslims, the symbolism of his speech was carefully chosen and clear, says Ed Husain. Meanwhile,  Brian Grim reviews the situation in Mosul, and highlights suggestions that Christians globally are facing rising hostilities.

Libya: Amid continued fighting between Islamist militias and their opponents in Tripoli, the parliamentary election results have been announced. These mark a significant defeat for the Islamists, leaving a challenge for the new Parliament to secure a united front against extremist violence, opines Mohamed Eljarh

Syria: The NYT has a special report from Raqqa, a city held by ISIS since January ( see our updated profile). They find businessmen moving there to take advantage of better security and lower corruption – but ISIS do not have the skills to govern without keeping many of the prior civil servants in post. Meanwhile, both ISIS and Assad wish to crush other rebel groups,  claims Noah Bonsey.

Israel/Palestine: Ariel Ilan Roth asserts that Israel's success in defending its own citizens compared to the vulnerability of Gazan civilians has hardened international opinion against them.

Yemen: The Houthis - a Zaydi Shia militant movement from North Yemen - recently captured the town of Amran amid reports of over 600 deaths, both civilian and military. Amid ongoing instability in the country, solutions to the conflict are not apparent, states Mareike Transfeld

Middle East and North Africa: One should be cautious of invoking the 'ancient hatreds' response to violence in the Middle East and not getting involved, says Shadi Hamid. The current chaos in Syria and Iraq is the result of too little intervention, not too much. 

East and South East Asia

China: China and the US need to overcome their differences in the fight against terrorism, reasons Jeffrey Payne. Overcoming their political hangups could significantly weaken terrorist organisations worldwide, but China doesn't seem to want to help, and the US is too paranoid to ask for it. Likewise, the collapse of Iraq is seriously affecting China, writes Michal Meidan, but here too it is hesitant about being proactive.

China: In a photographic blog this week, Aly Song interviews members of the China Muslim Uighur community who have moved to others part of the country after violence in the western state of Xinjiang.

Myanmar: After the recent violence against the Muslim community in Mandalay, the International Center for Transitional Justice has released a report highlighting the difficult transition to democracy and peace in the country.

South Asia

Afghanistan: Contrary to many analysts, Michael Kugelman argues that Afghanistan will not be the next Iraq. Its upward trajectory both economically and socially, less volatile sectarian divisions and weaker and more internally divided insurgent groups mean that we should not 'succumb to seductive analogies'. 

Pakistan: The country may be making a lot of noise through its Operation Zarb-e-Azb offensive, but it is not winning the fight against extremism in Pakistan, writes Arsla Jawaid. With both State and militants drawing on religion for legitimacy, there is an urgent need to create a better anti-extremism narrative that taps into a greater sense of national identity.

South Asia: There has been a marked change in Saudi foreign policy in South Asia, suggests Daniel Markey. Prompted by Iran's thawing relationship with much of the world, Riyadh is ensuring that its economic and political ties with India and Pakistan can help to counter Iranian nuclear ambition.

North America

United States: The State Department's "Think Again, Turn Away" social media programme targeting potential jihadis is wooden and amateurish, says Jacob Silverman, but that doesn't mean that they shouldn't be operating in that space. If they want their programme to have an impact, they need to understand the dynamics jihadi use of the medium. 


Human Development: The United Nations Development Programme has released its annual Human Development Report, finding that, through advances in areas such as technology and education, in most countries people are better off, but there is widespread precariousness in areas such as personal security.


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