This report investigates how Salafist groups conduct and manage the illegal trafficking of antiquities in south-west and north-west Syria, with a particular focus on Idleb Governorate. It provides details on the interactions among the actors involved (diggers, traders, armed groups and smugglers) and analyses the various kinds of interactions between religious beliefs and norms, on the one hand, and the illegal trade in cultural assets, on the other.
Caught in the crossfire of ambitious geopolitical players, Al-Azhar struggles to chart a course that will guarantee it a measure of independence while retaining its position as the guardian of Islamic tradition. So far, Al-Azhar has been able to fend off attempts by Mr. Al-Sisi to assert control but has been less successful in curtailing the influence of Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that increasingly are pursuing separate agendas.
Dr. James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, an adjunct senior research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute and co-director of the University of Wuerzburg’s Institute of Fan Culture.
© 2019 James M. Dorsey
Although a theoretically ever-expanding Caliphate does not recognize international borders or traditional states, its leadership nonetheless strived to reproduce all the traditional signs of sovereignty. Last but not least, they created a new currency. Minting of dinars and dirhams was the final component in solidifying the physical reality of the group’s millenarian utopia.
Neopagan supporters and detractors of the U.S. presidency of Donald Trump are using magical rituals to either bless or curse the new administration and their political opponents. While Neopagan groups have long joined magic with politics, this marriage of mysticism with activism was most strongly evident in the months after Trump’s election in 2016, drawing criticism from some quarters of the American pagan community.
Astrea, “Join the Magic Resistance. Bind Trump”, Starlight Witch – Patheos, Oct. 28, 2017
Tara Isabella Burton, “Each month, thousands of witches cast a spell against Donald Trump”, Vox, Oct. 30, 2017
Analysing the current phenomena of alternative religiosities through a post-Soviet lens may be productive in the Azerbaijani context, given the so-called “religious revival” experienced by the countries of the former Soviet Union. This article focuses on three specific groups/areas in Azerbaijan: ekstrasensy and parapsychologists, popular “occulture”, and the Hare Krishna community.
Church planting, once the specialty of evangelicals, is now becoming more common among mainline Protestants seeking to reverse decades of decline in their ranks. In the process of starting new churches both kinds of Protestants are reworking their identities to appeal to the growing ranks of Americans loosely tied or not affiliated with religious institutions.
Richard Cimino is the founder and editor of Religion Watch, a newsletter monitoring trends in contemporary religion. Website: www.religionwatch.com.
The tiny kingdom of Bhutan is pitching for a Buddhist approach to economics citing concerns beyond a country’s financial health. The term GNH was coined in the 1970s by Bhutan’s fourth king, who famously pronounced that for his country, Gross National Happiness was more important than Gross National Product.
Vishal Arora is a New Delhi, India-based journalist, photojournalist and video journalist, who travels for stories on politics, culture, religion, foreign affairs and human rights, primarily but not exclusively in South and Southeast Asia. His work has been published in the Guardian, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, the Huffington Post, USA Today, World Politics Review, Nikkei Asian Review, Bangkok Post, The Diplomat, Religion News Service, and many other outlets in the U.S., the U.K., Japan, Thailand and India. He is formerly the features editor of the Caravan Monthly, India’s first and only narrative journal of politics and culture. He has also worked as an editor with Indo-Asian News Service, India’s largest private news agency. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
In the 1990s, some Western European countries published reports and established state agencies or state-sponsored information centres to deal with “cults”. Why did such an intriguing development occur? This phenomenon deserves attention, in order to understand the dynamics leading to concerns about some groups, especially in an historical context where state neutrality in religious matters has become increasingly emphasized.
Note: An initial version of this paper was presented in February 2014 at a conference in Istanbul that was part of the programme “New Religiosities in Turkey”, which is a collaborative research project of the Orient-Institut Istanbul (OII) and the Centre d’études turques, ottomanes, balkaniques et centrasiatiques at the EHESS in Paris. A similar, but partly different paper in French was presented in May 2015 at the Académie des sciences morales et politiques (Paris) and has been published separately.
Jean-François Mayer is the founder and chief editor of Religioscope. For additional biographical and bibliographical information: www.mayer.info.
To Western scholars and specialists Salafism holds a double fascination: foremost it is treated as the fountainhead of jihadist ideology; second Salafism’s uncompromising socio-religious doctrine is widely believed to be inimical to integration and community cohesion. A recent book offers a stunningly in-depth treatment of the foundational doctrine of Salafi ideology, namely Al-Wala’ wal Bara’.
Mohamed Bin Ali’, The Roots of Religious Extremism: Understanding the Salafi Doctrine of Al-Wala’ wal Bara’, London: Imperial College Press, 2016, 300 p.
Mahan Abedin is a research journalist specialising in Islamic affairs.
At the conference ‘ISIS in Europe’ a panel of scholars and security experts tackled the interlinked issues of jihadi radicalization and terrorism in Europe from both a sociological and security perspective. The conference attempted to examine the reasons why Europeans engage in violence inspired by a jihadist narrative, whether at home or abroad, and how state security agencies can better cooperate and coordinate their actions to counter the recruitment of these Europeans into groups such as ISIS.