As a peace agreement for Muslim Mindanao inches its way through the parliament of the Philippines, the Islamist militant group Abu Sayyaf has stepped up its campaign of attacks in the south of the country.
Amid another failed ceasefire attempt, Syria's rebels are as enmeshed as ever, with the line between jihadis and moderates blurred. Assad claims to be fighting 'terrorists,' but is it possible to fight the regime and stop extremists shaping Syria's future? Three Syrians have their say.
Oula A. Alrifai, Youssef Sadaki and Ruwan Rujouleh
As speculation mounted last year over what caused a Russian plane to crash over the Sinai, international eyes were on ISIS' 'Sinai Province' (Wilayat Sinai), the militant group formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis.
The operation to retake Sirte from ISIS looks set to oust the jihadis from the coastal city. After that loss, what future does ISIS have in the North African state, which, until recently, was touted as its main hope for the future amid defeats in Syria and Iraq? Three analysts have their say.
Analysis of media coverage in the lead-up to the Jewish holiday showed Islamist and Jewish activists reiterating claims to the holy site - and far more coverage of the issue in Palestinian news sources.
Saudi Arabia's execution of Nimr al-Nimr, along with 46 others, in January drew widespread condemnation and a growing regional crisis. But the regime seeks to gain domestically and internationally from its actions.
With links to a number of attacks in recent years, Belgium is increasingly viewed as a hub for jihadis in Europe. Milo Comerford looks at the scale of the problem in Belgium and explores the underlying cause.
Russia's religious landscape is fast changing, and a contest over religious practice in the country's heartland has implications both for Russia's internal stability and it's geopolitics, writes Rafael Ibrahimov.
ISIS continues to expand in Libya as rivals jostle for power and the UN looks to build a unity government. To defeat the group, rivals must rally against a common enemy, write Jason Pack and Andrea Brody-Barre.
Jabhat al-Nusra is the al-Qaeda franchise in Syria and one of the country's most powerful jihadi groups, but little is known about them. Milo Comerford examines its shifting web of affiliations and fluid structure.
In this week’s Roundup, as world leaders meet in New York, we look at the importance of understanding extremist ideology, and how the chaos of the conflict in Yemen has helped al-Qaeda’s branch in the country.
Russian fears of domestic jihad linked to ISIS and the presence of Orthodox Christians in Syria who look to Russia for protection means Russia cannot be excluded from peace negotiations, argues Ed Husain.
In this week’s Roundup, we examine how ISIS is using the education system in the territories under its control to inculcate its ideology in the next generation, and explore the ideological underpinning of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
Recent unrest in Tajikistan has been blamed on extremists with links to ISIS, but the reality is more complex, requiring the country to answer difficult questions about religion and politics, writes Milo Comerford.
The rise and fall of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood has seen it go from the presidential palace to having most of its leadership in prison. Mubaraz Ahmed looks at the group’s origins, aims, and whether it will re-emerge.
As ISIS destroys yet another priceless piece of history in Palmyra, there is a need to understand the reasons behind the group’s actions and how out of line they are with Islamic tradition, writes Mubaraz Ahmed.
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.
Major questions were asked of the so-called 'success story' of the Arab Spring after the Sousse attack. But the contest between secularism and Islamism runs deep in Tunisia, write Jason Pack and Andrea Brody-Barre.
While militancy in Indian-controlled Kashmir has declined in recent years, developments in Iraq and Syria have the potential to bring new transnational overtones to the struggle, writes Bibhu Prasad Routray.
In the Roundup this week, we look at the context of Monday's suicide attack in Turkey, a spate of murders of Muslim religious leaders in Uganda, and the importance of data in responding to jihadi violence.
The ISIS-affiliated 'Sinai Province' has claimed to be behind a number of high profile attacks across Egypt in recent months. Tobias Borck explores the wider regional implications of the group's emergence in Egypt.
ISIS recently accepted pledges of allegiance from jihadis in the Russian Caucasus, declaring the creation of 'Caucasus Province.' Mubaraz Ahmed looks at what this means for Russia and the rest of Europe.
ISIS is fighting with other jihadi groups for the Libyan city of Derna. But while the rivals differ, hopes that an ISIS defeat will mean the decline of its ideology are sadly misplaced, writes Rhiannon Smith.
In the Roundup this week, we look at the strength of Hamas in Gaza, how ISIS gained a foothold in Egypt, the presence of Islamist groups in the Sahel, and the threat of extremists to the Philippines peace process.
There is growing unease in the Philippines as the long-awaited peace process for Muslim Mindanao stalls once again, amid fears that Islamist groups linked to ISIS could disrupt it, writes Anthony Measures.
To view the destruction of ancient sites and artefacts as the irrational acts of a death cult is to miss the point. Like its policies of genocide and enslavement, this is driven by clear goals and religious justifications.
Egypt's Sinai region has witnessed a gradual escalation in levels of violence since 2011, mainly at the hands of the ISIS affiliated Ansar Beit al-Maqdis. Peter Welby explores the factors behind the group's rise.
The rise of sectarianism in the Middle East is partly a consequence of the failure of nationalist politics. Turning the clock back requires strong national institutions and better education, writes Gerald Butt.
In the Roundup this week we look at tensions between ISIS and the Afghan Taliban, the growing divide between peaceful and conflict-riven nations, and how poor governance can open the door to extremist groups.
A history of corruption and bad government in three African countries has created space for extremist groups to spread their ideologies. Regaining trust is vital to defeating them, writes Emily Mellgard.
Despite the signing of a peace agreement, ongoing violence in Mali raises questions over the influence of Salafi-jihadi groups and radicalisation. But they are part of a wider problem, writes Andrew Hernann.
Syria's al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra seems to be attempting to convey a more moderate and conciliatory image. Their change of rhetoric should not be read as an ideological shift, writes Milo Comerford.
In the Roundup this week we draw together analysis on ISIS' latest propaganda magazine, a report on religion, conflict and the state in Iran, and how Hindu nationalism has shaped Pakistan's development.
The latest edition of ISIS' propaganda magazine, Dabiq, includes an unapologetic defence of its actions, including the sexual slavery of Yezidi women, and emphasises a 'duty' to migrate to the 'caliphate.'
In this week's Roundup we look at what the latest message from ISIS says about its ideological evolution, concerns over 'religious protection' laws in Myanmar, and the vulnerability of religious minorities in Pakistan.
In the run up to the general election, ethnic and religious minorities need to be protected in Myanmar, but concerns remain over the weight of the law behind new 'religious protection' laws, writes Dr Lynn Kuok.
In this week's Roundup we look at the threat from ISIS in Malaysia, the origins of Mali's Islamist and separatist insurgency, and the security threat posed by Kenya's closing of Dadaab, the world's largest refugee camp.
As the global threat from ISIS continues to grow, Malaysia and other South East Asian countries face the challenge of how to deal with extremist voices, both nationally and regionally, writes Elliot Brennan.
In the Roundup this week we look at the threats to religious freedom from religiously motivated movements, the state of regional cooperation against Boko Haram, and responses to the jihadi threat in Lebanon.
The rich discourse on religious freedom within Islam, seen by many as an effective antidote to extremism, should be amplified, particularly since it is silenced in many Muslim-majority countries, argues Areej Hassan.
Ongoing counter-insurgency efforts by the Pakistani military are leaving thousands displaced. Meanwhile, militants freely use established migration routes to conduct their operations, argues Assunta Nicolini.
The high level of religious freedom in Brazil is notable as the country arguably undergoes one of the most dynamic religious shifts in the world today, with no religious or sectarian conflict, writes Brian Grim.
A recent biography of the Taliban's leader reminded the world of the centrality of religion to the movement's identity. Religion will also play a part in any meaningful peace process, writes Michael Semple.
Hindu nationalists are becoming increasingly emboldened by the Indian administration's reluctance to speak out against religious persecution, raising fears amongst India's minorities, writes Sandhya Gupta.
Four years on, the Syrian war continues to foment a concerning rise in religious prejudice and violence in neighbouring Turkey, although it has improved prospects for a Kurdish peace, writes Kunaal Sharma.
In many parts of the world, religious actors have access to unparalleled resources and influence, essential to effective statebuilding. But that doesn't necessarily mean that they will play along, writes Denis Dragovic.
In the Roundup this week we look at the threat Tunisia faces from jihadi networks, four years of Syrian civil war, and February's murder of Copts in Libya in the context of the history of persecution of the Coptic church.
In the Roundup this week we look at ISIS' recent destruction of Iraq's pre-Islamic history, the emergence of jihadi groups in Libya as a 'third force' in the conflict, and the role of Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria's civil war.
In the Roundup this week we look at an account of life inside al-Qaeda, the state of religious minorities in Iraq, and efforts to stop jihadi groups becoming involved in the conflict in the Central African Republic.
Africa's largest country is being destabilised by the violence of Boko Haram. The group's power results from its use of ideology and ethnicity, as well as its links to other jihadi groups, writes Jacob Zenn.
The withdrawal of international troops from a combat role has seen Taliban violence spike in Afghanistan. Understanding the group's rhetoric is essential to a peaceful reconciliation, writes Milo Comerford.
With over 40 police officers killed in the Philippines recently, following an attempt to capture a number of extremists, Patricio Abinales looks at the repercussions of this event on the peace process.
Four years after the revolution, as Tunisia completes its transition, this briefing note looks at the successes and challenges of the country's integration of Islamist politics into a democratic system.
The increased focus on Kurdistan as a bulwark against jihadism has revealed a tolerant society that is a beacon for its neighbours; the Kurdish model requires more international support, writes Gary Kent.
After an outpouring of solidarity for all religions following a spate of attacks in Europe, 'anti-Islamisation' rallies by PEGIDA have grown. Anthony Measures looks at the background, appeal and spread of this new group.
December's attack on a Peshawar school by the Pakistani Taliban has sparked a public backlash. But the fight will be undermined by the state's ambivalence towards jihadi movements, writes Frederic Grare.
After Wednesday's appalling assault on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, this week's Roundup draws together analysis on the Salafi-jihadi current behind it, and the need to build effective counter-narratives.
A flurry of 'lone wolf' attacks and an increased flow of French citizens to Iraq and Syria has shocked France, particularly as the typical profile of the French Islamist is fast changing. Europe should take note, writes Gian Marco Liuni.
As Kenya grapples with religious violence, rising radicalisation is exacerbated by challenges facing moderate religious leaders and the need for a new security strategy, writes Cleophus Tres Thomas III.
In this week's Roundup, we look at whether Friday's horrific bomb attack in Nigeria represents a change in the pattern of violence in the country. We also highlight how the recently released 2014 Global Terrorism Index can help to inform policy makers.
The attack on Kano’s Central Mosque on Friday 28 November 2014, while vicious on a scale rarely seen previously, is not necessarily a turning point in the ongoing battle to control Nigeria's religious narrative.
The 2014 Global Terrorism Index, recently added to the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' online data section, is an important tool for better understanding changes in global terrorism, writes Anthony Measures.
In the Roundup this week, Professor Philip Jenkins argues for an understanding of contemporary conflicts that draws from historical context, and Ambassador John Campbell considers the multiple political challenges facing Nigeria.
To understand religious conflict, Prof. Philip Jenkins argues that we need to take a long view of history and that failure to reflect internally and learn from our own experiences risks misunderstanding drivers of current conflicts.
Nigeria continues to be ravaged by the homegrown violent Islamist group Boko Haram, which has declared a caliphate in the areas under its control in the northeast of the country and begun implementing a harsh version of sharia law.
In the Roundup this week we examine Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi's recent audio-tape as well as the importance of political candidates and religious leaders in ensuring peaceful elections in Nigeria. We also highlight rising tensions in Jerusalem after recent brutal attacks, sectarian violence in Pakistan, and the Institute for Economics and Peace's new Global Terrorism Index released this week.
High tensions continue to develop from controversy around the issue of access to the Temple Mount / al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the significance of the site, and its symbolic importance to conflict in the region.
As Nigeria's national election cycle gets into full swing, Emily Mellgard argues that the rhetoric and actions of candidates and religious leaders will influence whether the elections are peaceful. Boko Haram's growing control of territory in the northeast and capacity to disrupt elections will also have an impact on the legitimacy of the results.
On Thursday 13th November an audio recording of ISIS leader Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi was released by the group on social media networks. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics identifies nine points that reveal the strategy and objectives of ISIS, including subtext, religious significance of the language and the effect that Muslim scholarly criticisms are having.
In the Roundup this week we feature our new data section, highlighting the importance of assessing current data alongside the best expert analysis on religion and conflict. We interview Brian Grim, President of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, on the importance of data in improving policy. Also featured is a backgrounder on the insurgency in Egypt led by the Salafi-jihadi group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, commentary on the latest events in Myanmar and articles on how neighbouring countries are being affected by the growth of ISIS.
As insecurity and violence continue in the Central African Republic, Tom Jackson discusses how the conflict and perception of it developed along religious lines when its foundations are in socio-economic tensions.
Examining jihadi interpretations of the salafi ideology of "al-wala wal-bara", loyalty to all that is Islamic and disavowal of everything that is not, Ian Linden argues that in order to counter this narrative we must look more critically at the reality of the democratic values the West claims to be upholding.
To mark the launch of the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics' data section we talk to Brian J. Grim, an expert on religious freedom and international religious demography, about how data can allow us to improve policy and our understanding of religion's role in conflict situations.
In a week that has seen violent outbursts in Jerusalem and the lynching of Christians in Pakistan under blasphemy laws, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines these issues and publishes interviews with Brian Grim on the importance of data in improving policy, Dr. Usama Hasan on the divergent theological arguments of ISIS, and a situation report from Jason Pack on Libya.
In an interview with the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics, leading Islamic scholar Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan, Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies at Quilliam, explains why the oppression and tyranny of ISIS, far from being supported by scripture, is in stark opposition to the central Quranic ideas of mercy, justice and compassion.
After a week that has seen Tunisia elect a secularist party, Egypt declare a three-month state of emergency after a bomb attack in Sinai, and Libya continuing to be rocked by fighting we bring together expert commentary and analysis on religion and geopolitics in this week's Roundup. This includes a wide-ranging interview with Jonathan Powell, the British Prime Minister's Special Envoy to the Libyan Transition, who speaks about the role of religion in peace negotiations in Libya and the wider region.
In the face of the increased prominence of salafi-jihadi rebel groups in the Syrian civil war, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics looks at the position of the Druze minority, who are being forced to evaluate whether greater integration with the Assad regime or a sectarian strategy can best assure their safety.
Spillover from the Syrian conflict is upsetting the delicate religious balance in Lebanon. Escalating sectarianism has the potential to jeopardise the entire region's response to ISIS, writes Gian Marco Liuni.
In a wide-ranging interview, Jonathan Powell, the British Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to the Libyan Transition, speaks about the role of religion in peace negotiations in Libya and the wider region.
The Roundup this week features several articles analysing the religious ideology underpinning ISIS propaganda. We also look at the alleged ceasefire between Nigerian authorities and Boko Haram, the increasing use of blasphemy laws in Pakistan and the challenges of inter-religious discord in the pluralistic societies of Indonesia and Myanmar.
The ISIS claim to a caliphate has been rejected by Muslim scholars all over the world. But ISIS does not depend on traditional Islamic authority; instead, it believes that its conquests give support to its claims, writes Adam Hoffman.
In this Briefing Note, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics examines the latest issue of the ISIS magazine, Dabiq. The magazine serves a dual-purpose: in making claims to Islamic legitimacy, ISIS seeks to rally the group’s supporters to its cause and in boasting of its victories, threaten its critics. We look at the ways in which these claims fail to stand up to scrutiny.
This week's Roundup discusses a number of perspectives on ISIS, including religious counter-arguments, and historical and political trends in the region, which have led to the current situation. We also look at positive counter-narratives to division and oppression in the Indian sub-continent and Lebanon, and the importance of education for security.
The upheaval rocking the Middle East has two tendencies at its core, writes Eric Brown. The first is to retrench into narrow communities and groups, the second to seek security in larger movements, including Islamism and regional rivalry.
The civil war in Syria, now characterised by brutal sectarianism, is being fought in a country once known for pluralism and tolerance. David Lesch explains how Syria's rich religious background and colonial history paved the way to the current conflict.
As more partners join air strikes against ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, this Week's Roundup draws together analysis on the group's increasing influence in Africa and the Maghreb, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile we look at the continuing violence in Yemen and how this has affected the country's vulnerable population.
The struggle between ISIS and al-Qaeda for leadership of the global jihadi movement is dividing the militant community in Algeria. In the wake of a new group announcing its formation by the murder of a French tourist, Geoff D. Porter examines the dangers this development presents.
Kenyan security operations against al-Shabaab members and sympathisers within their borders are perceived by many Kenyan Muslims and Somali refugees as discriminatory against their communities and religious activities. If security measures are too oppressive, they risk inflaming the tensions they seek to destroy finds Tom Jackson.
The threat posed by ISIS is determining policy for governments across the Middle East; we look at some of the complex issues this raises. Elsewhere, we examine the growing power of militant groups in Yemen and Nigeria and growing threats to religious freedom in South East Asia.
As Nigeria’s election cycle begins, Ian Linden looks back at the elections in 2011, and the violence that occurred after the polls closed, and he looks forward at the role religious leaders can play in mitigating violence and promoting national unity.
As the Shia Houthi movement consolidates recent gains in the Yemeni capital Sana'a, Thanos Petouris of the School of Oriental and African Studies explains the broader context by answering five questions on religion and conflict in Yemen.
As Boko Haram continues its fight in northern Nigeria, Atta Barkindo examines the cultural and ethnic ties of the insurgency. He argues that the group’s ideology is ultimately religiously focused, but draws on deep ethnic and cultural roots to recruit members and sustain its momentum.
With the United Nations Security Council voting unanimously on 24 September to adopt a resolution emphasising the urgent need to tackle foreign fighters associated with ISIS and affiliated groups, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics provides an examination of the complex religious aspects of ISIS and the wider conflict.
As the 69th United Nations General Assembly meets this week in New York and the Security Council agrees a resolution on foreign fighters and countering violent extremism, the Centre on Religion & Geopolitics has produced a Briefing Note on the religious aspects of the ISIS conflict. On this theme, we also look at analysis on ISIS and Kurdish fighters in border towns and the new ISIS-affiliated group in Algeria. We also explore the Houthi occupation of the Yemeni capital Sana'a, a power sharing agreement that ends six months of political paralysis in Afghanistan and China's incarceration of Uighur academic Ilham Tohti under separatist charges.
As Boko Haram continues to claim territory in northeastern Nigeria, Jacob Zenn looks at the similarities in ideology and tactics between the group and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. While there has not been collaboration or declarations of an alliance from either group, Zenn posits that a future declaration may not be improbable.
As world leaders discuss options for military intervention in Iraq and Syria, UN peacekeepers arrive in the Central African Republic, a sign of the ever worsening conflict in the country. This week’s Roundup also highlights analysis on the religious elements of a number of conflict situations in Asia and Africa.
With the arrival this week of UN peacekeeping forces in the Central African Republic, M. Christian Green looks at the motivations and drivers of a conflict that is so often characterised as being divided along religious lines.
American leadership is essential for peace in the Middle East. The US can show how a better future can be attained through political unity, religious pluralism and free-market capitalism says Ed Husain.
As Boko Haram escalates its territorial expansion in northeast Nigeria, Ian Linden analyses the ethnic and religious motivations for conflict in Nigeria, and disentangles the base motivations for the group.
As President Barack Obama gives his speech on the American strategy for responding to ISIS, we examine the evolving characteristics of jihadi movements, and escalating religious conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, Afghanistan and India, as well as new developments in existing contentious religious situations in Pakistan, Myanmar, the Philippines and Indonesia.
The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics talks to Ambassador Zamir Akram, the Pakistani Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, about the role that religion plays in Pakistan's current political and foreign policy tensions.
Professor Miroslav Volf of Yale University says that perceptions of religion, once identified with politics, inevitably end up being an instrument in conflict, but globalisation and faith traditions and how they relate to each other are powerful forces shaping the world today.
The crisis facing the Middle East and Africa is related to two failures: the failure to promote religion-friendly democracy and the failure to promote democracy-friendly religion. Facing this will test international commitments to religious freedom, writes Ian Linden.
World leaders gathering at the NATO summit will discuss the ongoing threat from ISIS. This week we take a look at the factionalism of the global jihadi movement, the effect it is having on religious conflict around the world and the ongoing conflicts in Nigeria, Central African Republic and Thailand.
In this Briefing Note, we take a look at Libya and the recent escalations in a conflict which has continued since the uprising against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. We explore the domestic security challenges, the political deadlock and look at the international aspects of the conflict.
As an indefinite ceasefire agreement is reached between Israel and Hamas, we also look at the developing situation in Libya, how Boko Haram continue to expand their operations in Nigeria and the worsening of the political deadlock in Afghanistan.
The fallout of the Chibok kidnappings has changed the shape of Nigeria's war with Boko Haram. The group is expanding the scope of its operations, while a potential food emergency and impending elections create a precarious situation writes John Campbell.
Amid worldwide revulsion at the execution of journalist James Foley by ISIS, this week's Roundup examines the arguments raging about the sectarian drivers of the Middle East's conflict and the options for defeating groups like ISIS.
The narrative of a centuries-old Sunni-Shia war in Islam is so prevalent it is now accepted without challenge – but does not stand up to scrutiny. It is a recent invention serving a political goal, argues Abdul-Azim Ahmed.
Hizbullah holds a dominant position in Lebanese politics, but is also an international terrorist organisation responsible for spectacular violence. In Part II of a backgrounder on the group, Matt Levitt examines their operations in Syria and further afield.
Hizbullah holds a dominant position in Lebanese politics, but is also an international terrorist organisation responsible for spectacular violence. In Part I of a backgrounder on the group, Matt Levitt explains their ideology, and how they grew to hold the position they do today.
As the global backlash against ISIS' atrocities grows, in this week's Roundup we look at how the militant group is exploiting sectarian division to legitimise their brutal violence. We also focus on rising religious violence across China, and the country's attempts to nationalise religious practice.
The plight of the Yezidi in northern Iraq demonstrates that ISIS' persecution of religious minorities has reached new levels of brutality. The Centre on Religion & Geopolitics considers the extreme understanding of Sharia that they use to justify their actions.
As violence in Nigeria continues unabated, Ian Linden considers its many causes and points out that violent religious extremism, whether committed by Boko Haram or another group, is nothing less than an attack on our common humanity.
This week's Roundup brings together a number of analysis pieces about the persecution of religious minorities, particularly ISIS's treatment of Yezidis and Christians in Iraq. In Kenya, terror attacks are on the rise, and we feature an article examining the increasing influence of al-Shabaab in the country. We also look ahead to the presidential election this weekend in Turkey, and highlight a report into the ongoing dispute surrounding the Afghanistan election result.
As Kenya is subjected to repeated attacks by militants affiliated to al-Shabaab, Jonathan Russell examines the reasons for the group's successes in recruiting in the country and what it can do to address them.
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.
In the last two weeks, ISIS stoned two women to death, 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.
As election results are announced this week in Indonesia, we release our Situation Report on the country, with a commentary examining the risks to pluralism. Meanwhile, the conflict in Israel and Gaza continues to escalate; David Aaronovitch argues there is a solution, but it depends on negotiations without preconditions from either side. Also in the Roundup, analysis of the ongoing conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Myanmar and the Central African Republic.
In this Religion & Geopolitics Briefing Note, we take a look at Libya and the recent escalations in a conflict which has continued since the uprising against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. We explore the domestic security challenges, the political deadlock and look at the international aspects of the conflict.
The coup removing President Morsi in July last year did not bring the Copts of Egypt the relief that many hoped for. Constitutional equality is irrelevant; unless the Egyptian government takes serious steps to address the issue, persecution will continue, says Samuel Tadros
This week's Roundup covers how the Indonesian elections have brought religion to the fore at an interesting time for the country. We also have some analysis on how religious groups are coming together in north east Syria; a backgrounder on Nigeria looking at the religious context of the country, and reports on the situation in Israel/ Palestine.
Relations between Kurds, Christians and Arabs in northeast Syria are driven mainly by considerations of security. While this has driven religious and ethnic groups apart elsewhere in Syria, here it has served to bring them together, says Balint Szlanko
In the last of our three part series on religious tensions in India following the BJP's election victory, Lisa Curtis looks at the cautious optimism amongst religious groups nationally and how the prospects are seen regionally and globally.
The fighting in Iraq and Syria continues to dominate the news, and this week's roundup pulls together the best commentary and analysis on that. Elsewhere, we have two takes on communal violence in India, and Buddhist militarisation in Myanmar.
In the second of our three part series on religious tensions in India following the BJP's election victory, Priyankar Upadhyaya examines the pre-election communal violence in Assam, arguing that without a change in the state's politics, such violence will continue.
In the first of a three part series on religious tensions in India following the BJP's election victory, Sumit Ganguly points out that politicians of all stripes are exploiting religion for electoral advantage.
The division of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) from al-Qaeda earlier this year is not about ideology. In jihadi circles proximity equates to power, and ISIS - more than just an insurgent group - sees no reason to obey al-Qaeda's commands, writes Shiraz Maher.
Events in the Middle East and Iraq continue to make headlines and we feature the latest commentary on this. The Roundup this week also covers significant stories that we have followed recently: the continuing conflict in Myanmar, where we have a situation report and commentary; we focus again on Boko Haram after further attacks in Nigeria; and we include reports on renewed discussions amid hopes for the recent peace agreement in the Philippines.
Iraq continues to dominate this week's Digest, with events there reverberating around the region. We include a backgrounder on ISIS, and a report into the way that the group uses social media as an auxiliary to its military campaign.
While Pakistan is signalling a change in its policy on Afghanistan, its strategic objective of undermining Indian influence remains. This entails strengthening its central control over the Taliban, but also reaching out beyond its traditional allies.
Events in Iraq this week have been dramatic and have developed rapidly. We focus on this in the Roundup as well as keeping focussed on security situation in Nigeria and look ahead to the run-off in the Afghanistan election.
Egypt, the most populous country in the Middle East and North Africa, went to the polls this week. We look at various aspects of the election and the situation facing the new President in a special section.
The Sinai peninsular has become a hotbed of jihadi groups since the Egyptian revolution of 2011. But solving the problem will take more than military measures. And failure to do so could destabilise the country and the region, says Peter Welby.
This week has seen a lot of interest in Boko Haram. The Roundup includes a 'primer' on the organisation, commissioned for the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics, and coverage of a massacre of Muslims in Assam.
There is special section of this week's Roundup devoted to Iraq, given the importance of the 30 April 2014 elections. Two other stories also particularly stood out to us; the ongoing crisis in Syria and the horror of the 230 abducted school girls in Nigeria.
There has been huge international reaction to Tony Blair's speech this week on tackling extremism. There is an urgent need for well-informed debate and analysis of conflict situations involving religion. We highlight several examples this week.
This week's Roundup highlights the importance of social media to the evolution of recent conflicts, pointing out a groundbreaking study by the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence.
The perception of conflicts in the Middle East, dealing with religiously motivated extremism, interest around the Indian general election and continuing concerns in the Central African Republic all feature in this week's Digest.
Most people accept the role of the security services in preventing extremist violence, but more needs to be done to address its root causes. This must revolve around education, support for peace-building groups on the ground, and removing the internet as an effective extremist tool says Charlotte Keenan.
There are a number of countries in which religion is an important factor in the choices people make in going to the polls. This is true of various countries with elections at this time. We look at this and more in this week's Roundup.
With the failure of peace talks, western fears of powerful Islamist groups in Syria left many unsure of a solution, but the importance of ideological unity for these actors is overstated, argues Peter Welby
Many saw the Arab Spring as the death of authoritarianism in the Middle East. But continued sectarian violence across the region shows that authoritarians have simply adapted to retain their power, argues Thomas Thorp
In this week's Roundup, the Financial Times takes an in-depth look at Islam in Malaysia, the New York Times profiles a Sunni activist in Saudi Arabia campaigning for the rights of the Shia minority, and the influence of Al-Qaeda is assessed from two different viewpoints.
Professor John Brewer recently gave this year’s Dunleath Lecture, highlighting the importance of civil society in Northern Ireland’s peace process. Ian Linden argues that this has to involve religious groups.
In this week's Roundup, Aron Lund profiles Michael Aflaq, the founder of Baathism, the Financial Times reports jihadist chatter on the Crimean crisis, and various writers mark the third year of the Syrian civil war
In this week's Roundup, President Obama talks about the Middle East, the Economist looks at the role of the Orthodox churches in the Ukrainian crisis, Reuters reports the spread of the plight of the Rohingya community of Myanmar to Malaysia, and Foreign Policy examines the history of ethnic conflict in China
The events in Ukraine do not fit the mould of a conventional religious conflict (if, indeed, there is ever such a thing). But concerns have already been raised about the way Jews have become a convenient scapegoat.
The purpose of this roundup is not just to bring you commentary and analysis from the usual reputable places, but also to alert you to blogs and news sources that you might not have considered. In this week's roundup we recommend several that look at the Middle East and the Muslim world.
Local religious leadership is a tragically neglected feature of international interventions in crisis situations. The Archbishop of Bangui and the President of the Islamic Council of the Central African Republic are examples of how it should be done, reflects Ian Linden
One role of the Religion and Geopolitics site is to provide readers with a regular roundup of the best commentary from around the world. These articles are reflective of the range of opinion we shall cover on this site, and though they will not always directly engage with the subject of religion and geopolitics, they will hopefully inform the debate.
There is a Punch and Judy quality to the argument about the cause of violent extremism: is it religion or socio-economic factors that drive conflict? Why this passionate need for mono-causal explanations? One process certainly stands out: the manipulation of religious explanations and ideology to "religionise" conflicts that, initially at least, may have little to do with religion: for example, the challenge of socio-economic change on honour cultures, feelings of humiliation and alienation, the experience of social deprivation and injustice with no hope for the future.
The last weeks have seen a ghastly roll call of terror attacks in the obvious places: Syria, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon, as well as Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia and Pakistan. Also suffering are places where we have only in recent years seen such violence: Nigeria, and in many parts of central Africa, in Russia and across central Asia, and in Burma, Thailand and the Philippines. We can either see all of these acts of killing as separate – produced by various political contexts – or we can start to see the clear common theme and start to produce a genuine global strategy to deal with it.
Horrific recent events in Syria, Kenya and across the world focus our attention on the urgent need to counter violent extremism. Immediate security and counter terror responses are rightly assessed, terrorists hunted down. But ultimately this is only half the story. We will only achieve lasting change if we deal with the root causes as well as the consequences of extremism.
Violence in the name of Islam is on everyone's minds. Imagine you are a Muslim parent, or simply a Muslim citizen, and you discover your son, or a friend, is taking an unhealthy interest in extremist websites. What do you do? They certainly won't listen to you. They would refuse to talk to the Imam at your mosque: "Not a proper Muslim". Perhaps it is just a passing phase.
In recent days Tunisia has seen major unrest after the assassination of opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi. Faced with growing unrest over a faltering economy and rising violence by extremists, Tunisia’s moderate Islamist led government is facing its biggest test.
The last decade has seen a bumper crop of new constitutions. It has been Spring time for constitutional lawyers and drafters: a well-placed comma saves lives, so they say. Constitutions carry the wisdom and burden of history. And they all have to present a plausible account of how religion is intended to fit into the scheme of things.
The events that led to the Egyptian army's removal of President Mohamed Morsi confronted the military with a simple choice: intervention or chaos. Seventeen million people on the street is not the same as an election. But it is an awesome manifestation of people power. The equivalent turnout in Britain would be around 13 million people. Just think about it for a moment. The army wouldn't intervene here, it is true. But the government wouldn't survive either.
The hue and cry at Channel 4's Ramadan broadcasts and call to prayer highlights the way religion is jumping back into the headlines in an unhelpfully sensationalist fashion. The good news is that in foreign affairs attitudes are moving in the right direction. Both the USA and Canada now have active offices for religious freedom and the British Foreign Office has a dedicated staffer for the topic.
"A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language", wrote George Orwell in Politics and the English Language. "It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts".
What would happen if the different faiths began automatically adding 'humanism' to their names, Islamic humanism, Buddhist, Judaic, Hindu, Christian humanism, for example - then explored what each meant. We'd probably end up with a rich dialogue based on a celebration of two great realities: our shared humanity and the richness of our different religious traditions. In some countries, this is far from just a utopian vision.
Lesson One from the Arab Spring in 2012: revolutionary political change is neither seasonal nor predictable. But in a time of resurgent religious identities, in North Africa and the Middle East, it was always going to heighten divisions between world views as well as between different concepts of governance and political order. Once the lid of authoritarian and repressive rule came off, an ugly blooming of human fears, and hopes encroached on political space propelling untried political leaders into perilous uncharted waters.
Londoners are flooded with foreign news and local stories about terrorism, arrests and attacks, which portray Muslims engaged in religiously motivated violence. The English Defence League, the "Counter-Jihad" movement, the new face of the extreme Right, build on the anxieties that this generates to build anti-Muslim hatred on top of anti-immigrant sentiment. The narrative is harmful and it hurts.
Tolkien's Gollum would have been a prime target for a religious terrorist recruiter. He is obsessed by the loss of a sacred treasure that defines his identity, obsequious yet angry in its pursuit, reduced to a split personality that goes down dark holes, addicted to being manipulated. Should Gollum be pitied, loved, redeemed or cast out?
At first sight, there was nothing unusual about the shelled mosque, with the aluminium roof of the minaret hanging on the side, in the village of Carraleve in 1999. To many reporters passing through the gutted villages of Kosovo during the yearlong war, this village in south-western Kosovo was merely a ghost town, just like scores of other villages whose residents were forced to flee to nearby woods to escape certain death, leaving behind their houses and places of worship engulfed in flames.
On the one side, there is the constant refrain that the real cause of a particular conflict is not religion. When people are burning down each other's mosques, temples and churches, this can sound implausible. On the other is the impression, reinforced by the mass media, that religion is today's number one vector of the virus of hatred around the world. Well, steady on; it's not that simple. There is another story to tell.
The development of Nigeria with its population of some 150 million people, oil reserves, and an abundance of entrepreneurial spirit, is arguably critical for the future of sub-Saharan Africa. It has had more than its fair share of misfortunes: civil war, serial military coups, tyrannical military government, spectacular corruption and all the downsides of its black gold economy.
In 1999, in the midst of the Kosovan war and in the aftermath of a global financial crisis, I set out six areas I believed needed serious focus in order to build a peaceful and long-lasting global community: global finance, free trade, the UN, NATO, action on climate change and third world debt.
It is, as Einstein once said, ‘very difficult to explain the obvious’. So it is best not to labour over why religious freedom lies at the heart of any meaningful concept of human dignity. Better to assert simply that interfaith relations that attempt to ignore this truth, or keep it for an ever receding “next meeting”, are barking up the wrong tree. Outside of references to “reciprocity” from the Vatican, it is rarely on any interfaith agenda.
The recent visit by Pope Benedict XVI to Britain took the edge off the contemporary Punch-and-Judy show between secularism and religion in the public square. There was certainly a binary opposition in his talks but it was between “aggressive secularism” and “an open secularity”. The message was to stop the attacks, let’s talk and have a conversation. Keep the doors open. Keep the public square open for religious counsel.
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