Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

17 Sep 2015

In this week's Roundup, we examine the recent audio messages released by al-Qaeda's elusive leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the key themes contained in ISIS' latest propaganda magazine, Dabiq.

We also feature analysis on claims of terrorism in China's Uighur community, Saudi Arabia's counter-terrorism relationship with the United States, France's pledge to assist in the fight against Boko Haram, and the Pakistani army's campaign in Karachi.

Top Stories

Al-Qaeda: Two audio messages from Ayman al-Zawahiri, the elusive leader of al-Qaeda, have been released in the space of a week, revealing an organisation weakened by ISIS successes.  The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics draws out the key points.

ISISThe Centre on Religion and Geopolitics examines the latest edition of ISIS' propaganda magazine, Dabiq, finding the group promoting an image of itself as an underdog against a global coalition, and condemning refugees for fleeing the 'caliphate.' 

Middle East & North Africa

Syria:Despite the recent assassination of a popular Druze leader, Sheikh Wahid al-Balous, with some holding the regime responsible (while it blames Jabhat al-Nusra), Syria's Druze do not want to join the rebels,  writes Nour Samaha.

Syria: Although the ever worsening bloodshed of the Syrian civil war makes the challenge seem insurmountable, Marc Champion believes that there are parallels to be drawn on from the Bosniaconflict that could help to bring about a peaceful resolution.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia's sponsorship of puritanical Islam around the world is a significant driver of extremism, but at the same time the country is an invaluable counter-terrorism partner to the United States.  Daniel Benjamin explores a bilateral relationship that is often characterised by compromise.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Kenya: In the scramble to find ways to combat violent religious extremism, Kenya's government was instrumental in an August conference of 300 East African Sufi leaders. But governments must be careful,  warns Rashid Abdi, that in sponsoring one particular form of Islam they do not undermine its appeal. 

Nigeria: Describing the fight against Boko Haram in Nigeria as equivalent to that against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, French President François Hollande has pledged France to assist. This opens the door,  says Sioban O'Grady says, to the increased intervention of French soldiers and the possibility of airstrikes.

Central & South Asia

Sri Lanka: A report from the United Nations has found "patterns of grave violations" during Sri Lanka's decades-long civil war.  Gabriel Domínguez explores some of the key findings, including abuses by Sri Lankan security forces and associated paramilitaries, and accounts of the killing of Muslim and Sinhalese civilians by Tamil militants.

India: Upcoming elections in Bihar, one of India's most populous and poorest states, will prove a crucial test of Narendra Modi's popularity,  writes Soutik Biswas. Caste and identity are likely determine the majority of votes of in this tightly-contested election.

Pakistan: Amid claims that the Pakistani army had "liberated" the restive city of Karachi from "terrorists and criminals,"  Arif Jamal suggests that the campaign was instead selectively targeted at its political opponents, the liberal Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a party representing an obstacle to an Islamist takeover of the economic hub.

East & South East Asia

China: China's Muslim Uighur community has gained international attention both for concerns over its religious freedom, and over links to terrorism at home and abroad. Anthony Measures examines the status of the community. 

Myanmar: With elections approaching in Myanmar,  International Crisis Group studies the ethnic, religious and economic tensions in the country, suggesting that now is the time for international mediators to act to bring assistance to the peace process.


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