Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

27 Aug 2015

In the Roundup this week, we look at the justifications ISIS provides for its destruction of ancient sites, including the Baalshamin Temple in Palmyra, as well as the plight of Assyrians in Iraq who are targeted by ISIS.

We also feature analysis on the status of ISIS' 'province' in the Sinai Peninsula, attempts to tackle extremism through education in northern Nigeria, Hindu nationalism in Nepal and radicalisation in Kosovo.

Top Stories

Syria: As ISIS destroys yet another piece of history in Palmyra, Mubaraz Ahmed writes that there is a need to understand the reasons behind the group's actions and how they are out of line with Islamic tradition.

Iraq: One of the less widely known consequences of ISIS' devastating rise in northern Iraq, says Mardean Isaac, is the existential threat it has unleashed against the Assyrian people.

Middle East & North Africa

Egypt: The pledge of allegiance that Sinai jihadi group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (since known as Sinai Province) made to ISIS in November 2014 has weakened the group, write Samuel Tadros and Mokhtar Awad, making it harder for it to operate away from its heartland.

ISIS: For the first time this week the UN Security Council devoted a session to the discrimination facing sexual minorities, particularly in ISIS-held territory.  Samual Oakford looks at the harrowing accounts presented at the UN and the long term challenges facing the victims.

ISIS: Unlike previous jihadi organisations, ISIS has a broad. Theodore Karasik suggests that ISIS is looking to establish two centres of power, one in Sirte and the other in the Sinai, in an attempt to expand its pressure and influence from the shores of West Africa to Saudi Arabia.

Lebanon: The protests about rubbish collection in Lebanon may have stolen the headlines, but the fragility of the government and ambitions of militant groups in the country is the real cause for concern. Groups like Hezbollah may use the demonstrations and dissatisfaction with the government to realise their own objectives, writes Mohamed Chebarro.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: More than a year after nearly 300 high school girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram, igniting the global campaign #BringBackOurGirls, a number of the girls who managed to escape are studying at a university in Yola, Adamawa state.  Joshua Hammer discusses the work of the university president to nurture the girls and encourage education throughout Yola, convinced that it inoculates youths against extremism. 

Uganda: In March 2015 Joan Kagezi, the lead prosecutor in a case against suspected al-Shabaab members accused of coordinating the dual suicide bombings during the 2010 World Cup, was assassinated.  Dennis Cruywagen writes that many lawyers are increasingly feeling targetted by extremist groups attempting to intimidate them and undermine legal systems. 

Central & South Asia

Pakistan: The Pakistani Army's counterinsurgency effort has shifted from the tribal region near the Afghan border toward pacifying the restive metropolis of Karachi, writes Arif Rafiq, which in the last 50 years has shifted from a cosmopolitan hub to a haven for sectarian militants and transnational jihadi groups.

Afghanistan/Pakistan: Many Afghans blame Pakistan for exacerbating the decades-long conflict in their country, particularly through its support of the Taliban.  Shamil Shams and Masood Saifullah explore the history of mistrust between the two countries, the prospects of its resolution.

Nepal: A Hindu nationalist party is demanding that the term 'secularism' be dropped from a draft constitution due to be voted on by parliament in the next few weeks.  Vishal Arora speaks to party leaders about how politics, identity, and religious freedom overlap in a country officially classed as 'Hindu' until 2006.

South & South East Asia

Thailand: The perpetrator of the 17 August attack on Bangkok's Erawan Shrine is still unknown, and the security services say the trail has gone cold.  The Economist discusses some of the motivations for potential perpetrators, including an Islamic insurgency in the south and Buddhist extremists aiming to undermine the military government. 


France: The recent thwarted gun attack on a French train has sparked debates about lone jihadi attacks.  Jason Burke discusses the social context of radicalisation and belonging that surrounds almost all incidents of radicalisation, arguing that true lone attacks are extremely rare.

Slovakia: A commitment to helping those refugees fleeing conflict, violence, and oppression lays upon the shoulders of the EU and its members, yet Slovakia took the decision to shun Muslim refugees in preference for Christian ones. Zuzana Stevulova looks at the shameful reaction by Slovakia to this Europe-wide issue.

Kosovo: Kacanik is a small town nestled in a wooded valley with a population of around 30,000, yet it has seen dozens travel to join ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Colin Freeman explores why this unassuming town has become Kosovo's jihadi capital.


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