Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

At a Glance

Religion & Geopolitics Weekly Roundup

31 Jul 2014

As violence continues on the ground in Gaza, this week's Roundup looks at the conflict and its effect on the wider region. Meanwhile, with the world media's attention elsewhere, fighting between rival militant groups in Libya worsens, with no end to the crisis in sight.

Top Stories

Iraq/Syria: ISIS is applying a rigid version of Sharia law that is not accepted by the vast majority of the Islamic community around the world and is not prescribed by the Quran. Will we speak out against this Pharisaic barbarism, asks Ed Husain

Libya: General Hiftar's attack on Islamists in the country's east risks strengthening the enemy he wishes to destroy, suggests Frederic Wehrey. Meanwhile the face off between militias in Tripoli started as an opportunistic fight for its international airport, writes Jason Pack.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Nigeria: Recent attacks in Nigeria, including the first attack on Lagos, suggest that Boko Haram may be cooperating with Ansaru. Jacob Zenn looks at the evidence. Meanwhile,  John Campbell questions the direction of Boko Haram, arguing that talk of possible territorial claims can only be speculation.

Nigeria: Maram Mazen paints a picture of Jos, where disputes between different ethnic and tribal groups are becoming increasingly framed in religious terms. 

Central African Republic: As a ceasefire is rejected by groups in one part of the country, Andrew Harding assesses this "failed state", where the government has no power and foreign peacekeepers are unable to stop Christian and Muslim groups attacking each other.

Middle East and North Africa

Syria/Iraq: While much has been made of the amount of territory ISIS has conquered given the size of its forces, there is little analysis of how it holds that territory afterwards. Erika Solomon explains its combination of fear, divisiveness and soft power. Meanwhile, Aaron Y Zelin profiles the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, finding his leadership central to the group's current success. 

Israel/Palestine: The current conflict in Gaza is forcing the different Palestinian factions to close ranks, and stoking the likelihood of a third intifada, argues Khaled Elgindy. The only way that a sustainable peace can be achieved is by allowing Hamas to be part of the political process, and by lifting the Gaza blockade. 

Israel/Palestine: As political and religious leaders around the world call for an end to the conflict, the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a statement calling on the world to "beat down the doors of heaven and pray for peace". Meanwhile, David Kirkpatrick considers whether the failure to reach a ceasefire is because of Arab leaders' fear of political Islam. 

Egypt: Omar Ashour examines the changing behaviour and identity of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and across the Middle East, particularly whether the group will return to political violence after a period of non-violent political engagement. 

Central and South Asia

Pakistan: A month after security forces in Pakistan began their operation against militants in North Waziristan, Michael Kugelman suggests that the Islamist Haqqani Network remains a source of tension for the US-Pakistan relationship.

East and South East Asia

China: In a week when further attacks have been reported in Xinjiang region, Katrina Lantos Swett and M. Zuhdi Jasser take a strong view on issues surrounding religious freedom in the country.

Myanmar: The plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar continues to worsen, with little being done to address their fate says Annie Gowen. Most agree that a long term solution must be found but in the meantime the Rohingya community say they have no hope.

Philippines: After a period of relative calm since a peace agreement was signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Philippines, this week saw an attack by the extremist group, Abu Sayyaf who are opposed to the deal. It is reported that the government and the MILF will shortly begin talks to revisit the deal. 

Vietnam: Religious communities currently find it unsafe to operate independently of officially established channels, finds Heiner Bielefeldt, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion, following a recent visit to the country.


Religious Freedom: This week the U.S. Department of State have released their latest report on International Religious Freedom. This year's report finds that the world has witnessed the largest displacement of members of religious communities in recent memory. They also designate nine countries of particular concern which includes Turkmenistan for the first time.


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