Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

13 Aug 2015

In the Roundup this week we look at the survival of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and highlight the persecution of Muslim communities in the Central African Republic.

We also feature analysis on the rise of Jewish extremism, the spread of religious intolerance in India, and the changing tactics being employed by al-Shabaab in Kenya.

Top Stories

Central African Republic: As violence continues in the Central African Republic, a conflict not religious at its roots, an Amnesty International report finds that the Muslim community face threats to their safety, identity, and ability to work. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics report draws out the key points of the report. 

Egypt: The Muslim Brotherhood has had a turbulent few years as they once again find themselves on the outside looking in. President Sisi's regime has looked to subdue the Muslim Brotherhood, ensuring that the group remains permanently grounded. Janine Di Giovanni and Fredrik Elisson look at whether the group can survive.

Middle East & North Africa

Algeria: Algerian fighters were among the first to travel to Afghanistan in 1979 to take up jihad against the Soviets, but today there seems little appetite for joining ISIS' jihad. Dalia Ghanem-Yazbeck explores why Algeria, unlike its neighbours Morocco and Tunisia, hasn't seen a mass exodus of fighters looking to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Israel: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned the recent act of "Jewish terror" that resulted in the death of an 18-month-old boy and his father in the West Bank, but such attacks bearing an overtly religious motive are not isolated incidents. Shira Rubin writes on the growing trend of teenage Israeli extremists waging a Jewish "holy war" in the West Bank.

Iran: The recent agreement reached with Iran over its proposed nuclear ambitions was heralded as an international success. However, while the deal may have its benefits, the blunt resentment and aversion that Iran has toward Israel may prove to be an obstacle,  Jeffrey Goldberg discusses why Iran's anti-Semitism cannot be ignored.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Reflecting on the recent 2.1 billion US dollar World Bank loan to Nigeria, which is intended for rebuilding projects in the northeast of the country, Simon Allison discusses the need for non-violent strategies to undermine and defeat Boko Haram, including addressing the grievances that underpin the group. 

Nigeria: Jihadi group Boko Haram is increasingly using women and young girls as human bombs.  Claire Wilmot analyses the tactical advantages of using young girls, and the tactics Boko Haram employs in recruiting and forcing them to carry out the attacks. 

Kenya: There is a marked increase in al-Shabaab activity in Kenya.  Caitriona Dowd breaks down the trends, including an increasing emphasis on targeting civilians, a shifting focus away from the capital to exploit existing ethnic and religious divides in Kenya, as well as several incidents of al-Shabaab temporarily seizing territory in the country, which is a very worrying development. 

Central & South Asia

India: Narendra Modi's Hindu Nationalist BJP came to power in India just over a year ago, and today there are concerns that religiously motivated violence may be increasing. Muslim and Christian minorities have been subjected to attacks, but even some Hindus in the country are afraid of speaking out. Divya Arya explores the culture of intolerance that has developed in India.

Pakistan: Today there are few signs of religious tolerance in Pakistan, a country rife with religious and sectarian violence. Katrina Lantos Swett and Mary Ann Glendon look at how the government is standing by while the persecution of religious minorities in the country continues.

Pakistan: Uighurs from China's Xinjiang province have sought sanctuary in Pakistan, an Islamic country that would allow them to practice their faith. While they are enjoying the freedoms, the community is unable to raise the issue of the mistreatment of Uighur Muslims in China for fear of upsetting Pakistan's biggest trade partner. Shumaila Jaffrey observes the challenges facing the community in Pakistan.

East & South East Asia

Indonesia: With hope that President Joko Widodo would support personal religious freedom after his election last year, The Economist reports that locally, religious minorities such as the Ahmadiyya, are still facing restrictions on practising their religion, and more needs to be done to ease restrictions. 

Myanmar: As disagreements over the citizenship status of Rohingya Muslims continue, Matt Schissler, Matthew J Walton and Phyu Phyu Thi examine the narratives of all groups involved to gain a sense of the root causes of this religious conflict. Listening to the ways people discuss the violence is the only way to have a greater understanding of the conflict and to develop counter narratives. 


Russia: Moscow's support for Bashar al-Assad's regime and reconciliation with Egypt are presented in Russia as support for Arab nations in their struggle against American fuelled instability. Nikolay Kozhanov argues that a chaotic Middle East serves the Kremlin's interests, giving it the opportunity to shape opinion at home.

United Kingdom: Dissuading young people from joining or supporting ISIS is not easy. Are they more likely to listen to a Westminster voice preaching British values, or a local Muslim voice that understands the desire for a caliphate but also condemns ISIS and the violence it perpetrates? Memphis Barker calls for the need to work with non-violent extremists to help defeat the appeal of ISIS.


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