Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

06 Aug 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at the pressures on the Taliban following the group's announcement of Mullah Omar's death, and threats to religious freedom in Sri Lanka posed by upcoming elections.

We also feature analysis on the presence of so-called 'price tag' attacks and Jewish extremism in Israel, the role of traditional religious leaders in the South Sudanese civil war, the fight against religious extremism in Pakistan, and the effect Thailand's southern insurgency has on its relations with China.

Top Stories

Afghanistan: The announcement of the death of Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, comes at a pivotal moment for the group as it faces up to the growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan, amid pressure to make peace in the country, writes Mubaraz Ahmed.

Sri Lanka: Persecution of religious minority communities in Sri Lanka increased under the previous government. The situation improved after the March 2015 change of government, but could be threatened by upcoming elections, says Sahar Chaudhry.

Middle East & North Africa

Yemen: As its conflict with the Saudi-led coalition intensifies, financial constraints are hampering the efforts of the Houthi movement. With damaged infrastructure and coalition blockades, the Houthis are struggling to stay afloat, write Asa Fitch and Mohammed al-Kibsi.

ISIS: The vast numbers of foreign fighters travelling to join ISIS and other groups in Iraq and Syria have been well documented. But with unreliable data, inflated estimated, and an unknown number having returned, it is hard to know what figures are accurate, writes the BBC.

Israel/Palestine: The killing of a Palestinian infant in an arson attack and of an Israeli youth at a gay pride march highlight the threat of Jewish extremism to Israel's national security. But, as a Centre on Religion & Geopolitics briefing note explores, such attacks are not a new phenomenon.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Boko Haram has changed tactics in recent months, argues Ryan Cummings. After being ejected from territory it captured in the latter half of 2014, the jihadi group has reverted to hit-and-run raids. This requires the military to build better intelligence networks, which is hampered by the lack of trust in the community.

South Sudan: Jérôme Tubiana reports on the role of traditional religious leaders in the ongoing civil war, with some 'prophets' trying to bridge grievances to bring about peace, while others, known as "prophets of war," bestow 'blessings of protection' to perpetuate the fighting.

Mali: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has reportedly claimed responsibility for an attack on Malian soldiers in Timbuktu that killed nine people. This is one of several recent attacks by a variety of groups active across the country, says Caleb Weiss, indicating that a recent peace deal signed with separatist groups has failed to stem Islamist violence.

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: The fight against religious extremism and violence in Pakistan is in doubt despite a new counter-terrorism plan introduced by the Pakistani government, according to a report from the International Crisis Group. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics report draws out the key findings.

India: The creeping spread of Hindu nationalist policies is threatening the fabric of India's secular society. Shanoor Seervai says that Modi's government is driving an agenda of cultural purification, and looks at the effects of such actions on religious minorities in the country.

East & South East Asia

Myanmar: Following severe flooding in Rakhine state, further displacing Rohingya Muslims, Chris Buckley and Ellen Barry report from Malaysia where traffickers are offering to pay for Rohingya women who have escaped persecution in Myanmar to complete their journey, if they agree to marriage.

Thailand: The recent decision by Thailand to return a number of Uighur Muslims to China could be related to Thailand's Malay Muslim insurgency in the south of the country, writes Robert Potter. The two countries share tensions between majority populations and minorities on the periphery.


Extremism: With ISIS posing a greater level of danger to the European Union than previous jihadi groups, Marc Pierini explores the group's strategy on the continent, as well as how to tackle extremism in Europe.


Countering Violent Extremism: As governments scramble to develop counter-extremism strategies, Kim Ghattas argues that the right questions are not being asked. These should include a clear idea of what a counter-narrative should look like and, particularly, whether such narratives have been successful in the Middle East.

Extremism: Secular autocracies and totalitarian regimes were previously considered to be the greatest threat to religion, but times have changed. Knox Thames writes that all around the world today, the most active persecutors of religious minorities and dissenters are religious extremists.


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