Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

03 Sep 2015

In this week's Roundup we examine what a Taliban biography of its new leader tells us about the challenges faced by the movement, and explore returning Islamist violence in Mali.

We also feature analysis on al-Qaeda and ISIS taking advantage of the chaos in Yemen, factionalism within Boko Haram, the status of Christianity in Pakistan, and Buddhist nationalist clout in Myanmar's politics.

Top Stories

Afghanistan: The release of a Taliban biography of its new leader provides an insight into the challenges faced by the movement. A Centre on Religion & Geopolitics briefing note explores what the propaganda tells us about a Taliban in transition.

Mali: Despite the peace deal signed by Mali's government in June, violence in the country persists. Islamists rather than Tuareg separatists arepredominately responsible, writes Emily Mellgard.

Middle East & North Africa

Yemen: The conflict in Yemen has been raging for six months and shows no signs of stopping. But amidst the chaos in the country, both al-Qaeda and ISIS have infiltrted the strategic port city of Aden. Frank Gardener looks at how jihadi groups have used the ongoing conflict to gain ground.

ISIS: Despite the attention given to the rise of ISIS, there has been little insight into the story of the group's elusive leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. William McCants explores Baghdadi's journey from studious introvert to 'commander of the faithful'. 

Saudi Arabia: The arrest of Ahmed al-Mughassil, the alleged perpetrator of the 1996 Khobar Bombing in Saudi Arabia, in Beirut last month might be coincidental to the sectarian tensions in the region, writes Matthew Levitt. But amid the country's rivalry with Iran, the arrest of a man whose alleged crime was backed by the Islamic Republic is no small mattter.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Boko Haram is increasingly relying on young girls as human bombs. Who are these girls and why do they carry out these attacks, asks Emily Mellgard.

Nigeria: Amid claims of significant factionalism within Boko Haram,  Ryan Cummings explores whether these alleged internal divisions could be used to bring some elements of the group into the fold.

Ghana: Despite Ghana's reputation as a beacon of African democracy, the country's faltering economy could play into the hands of the ambitions of jihadist groups. Amba Mpoke-Bigg writes that young, unemployed Ghanaians are increasingly at risk of being drawn to groups like Boko Haram and ISIS.

Central & South Asia

Pakistan:  Shahzeb Jillani reports on Pakistan's increasingly vulnerable and rapidly diminishing Christian community, with many Christians leaving for the safety of Canada and Australia, and explores the growing intolerance in the country towards religious minorities.

India: After the killing of M.M. Kalburgi, an outspoken Indian professor who denounced idol worship, by Hindu nationalists over the weekend, Sanal Edamaruku explores the worsening hostility towards free speech across India, concerned that the tolerant Hinduism for which India is renowned is fast being lost.

East & South East Asia

ChinaAndrew Small reports on how the change in leadership of the Taliban is likely to affect China's strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Regarding a united Taliban as the only route to a political deal in the country, China does not want to see it pulled apart by internal rifts.

Myanmar: Following the passage of four controversial laws, said to restrict the rights of religious minorities, Timothy Mclaughlin and Hnin Yadana Zaw investigate the Committee for the Protection of Race and Religion, known as Ma Ba Tha, which drafted the laws and grew out of the Buddhist nationalist 969 movement.


UK: The British government's Channel programme seeks to deradicalise those at most risk of being drawn into extremism. Catrin Nye discovers interviews a participant in the programme and explores how it works.


Religious Freedom: Despite an apparently common view in the West that religious persecution predominantly targets Christians, it is in fact an equal opportunity endeavour, spanning the globe, writes Jonathan Fox.


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