Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

30 Jul 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at the implications of the death of Mullah Omar for the Taliban's claims to religious authority, and the efforts to draw Tunisia's secularists and Islamists together.

We also feature analysis on the challenge faced by Germany in preventing the Middle East's conflicts from being fought out by its immigrant communities, the failure to adequately explain ISIS' successes, the relationship between Nigeria and the United States following President Buhari's visit last week, the effects of developments in Syria and Iraq on militancy in Kashmir, and tensions between Turkey and China over the Uighur Muslim minority.

Top Stories

Afghanistan: The death of Mullah Omar comes at a pivotal moment for the Taliban as it struggles to make progress with peace talks and faces up to the growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics briefing note examines the leader's centrality to the Taliban's claims of religious authority.

Tunisia: Major questions were asked of the so-called 'success story' of the Arab Spring after the Sousse attack. Jason Pack and Andrea Brody-Barre explore what can be done to stop the fissures between the country's secularists and Islamists from deepening.

Middle East & North Africa

ISIS: No analysis on the rise or persistent presence of ISIS has yet proved satisfying, writes an anonymous author in the New York Review of Books. Explanations based on the group's military strategy, capacity of government, or wealth all fail, and ideology is rarely examined.

Christianity: ISIS' persecution of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and Syria has been well documented since the group's emergence. With no sight of any aid arriving anytime soon, Eliza Griswold asks whether this might mean the end of Christianity in the region.

Turkey: While the prospect of Turkish troops crossing into Syria to establish a 'buffer zone' may have unintended consequences, it may also be the best option for defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq, writes Noah Feldman.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Somalia: Al-Shabaab continues to carry out successful attacks against the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM), despite the international forces' recent successes in retaking territory from the al-Qaeda linked group. Ty Mccormick says the group remains a resilient force, and AMISOM troops are stretched thinly across newly liberated Somali territory, vulnerable to attack.

Nigeria: President Muhammadu Buhari has returned from his trip to the US having strengthened political ties with the US government. But disagreements persist in the relationship, writes Lagun Akinloye, especially around human rights abuses against civilians in the military's campaign against Boko Haram.

Kenya: US President Barack Obama's recent trip to Kenya brought an agreement with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta for increased training and funding of Kenya forces in the fight against al-Shabaab, says Katrina Manson. The group has killed hundreds of people this year.

Central & South Asia

India: While militancy in Indian-controlled Kashmir has declined in recent years, developments in Iraq and Syria have the potential to bring new transnational overtones to the struggle, writes Bibhu Prasad Routray.

India: After an attack on a police station in Punjab by three gunmen in Indian Army uniforms left eight dead on Monday, explanations ranged from Kashmiri separatism to resurgent Sikh militancy. Ankit Panda explores the unfolding details in the context of India-Pakistan relations, judging that increased distrust will undermine recently improved relations.

Central Asia: As governments across Central Asia adopt increasingly hardline measures to curb extremism, Dmitry Solovyov argues that harsh bans and behavioural regulations on entire communities, in combination with the absence of democratic politics in several countries, risk provoking a response that could bring even greater instability in the region.

East & South East Asia

China: As Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits China, Edward Wong reports on the recent tensions between the two countries over the condition of the Uighur Muslim minority, which has links to Turkey, as Turkish perceptions of China deteriorate.

China: With growing international attention on the Uighur minority, Angela Poh argues for a sense of perspective. This is a "deep-rooted socio-economic problem" going back decades between the Uighurs and China's Han majority in Xinjiang.

Myanmar: After thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar earlier this year, only to be refused entry by neighbouring countries, Paul Gregoire reports from Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state, where mosques are closed and few Rohingya remain.


Germany: Like many European countries, Germany is striving to tackle the growing threat of extremism, but its Kurdish and Turkish diaspora communities leave it with a unique challenge, writes Mubaraz Ahmed.

Russia: Vladimir Putin is seeking a reputation as a warrior for traditional Christian values, writes Julia Ioffe. But in his relationship with the Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of the autonomous Chechen region, he is turning a blind eye to the Islamisation of a part of his country.

United Kingdom: In October 2013 five young men from Portsmouth boarded a flight to Turkey. The 'Pompey Lads' were among the earliest British groups to travel to Syria and join ISIS, and this week it emerged that the last remaining member of the group in the country died fighting for the group. Emine Saner explores how they went from retail jobs in southern England to guard duty for a brutal jihadi group.


Extremism: A new study by the Pew Research Center finds that there are changing attitudes towards Islamist extremism, with concerns growing in both Western and Muslim majority countries. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics report draws out the key points.


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