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Showing posts from October, 2020

US Secretary of State Pompeo set to boost Indonesian religious reform efforts

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By James M. DorseyUS Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is set to boost efforts by the world’s largest Muslim movement to recontextualize Islam during a forthcoming visit to Indonesia as part of a three-nation Asian tour. The tour is likely to be the secretary’s last official trip prior to next month’s US presidential election.Mr. Pompeo’s engagement with Nahdlatul Ulama, a powerful Islamic grouping in Indonesia, with an estimated following of 50 million people, takes on added significance against the backdrop of the Trump administration’s push for a definition of human rights that redefines notions of freedom of religion at the expense of other basic rights in advance of a hard fought election that Donald J. Trump could lose.It also comes as French President Emmanuel Macron kicked into high gear his self-declared mission of reforming what he has termed an Islam that “is a religion that is in crisis all over the world” in the wake of the gruesome murder of Samuel Paty, a 47-year old teach…

War in the Caucasus: One more effort to shape a new world order

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By James M. DorseyFighting in the Caucasus between Azerbaijan and Armenia is about much more than deep-seated ethnic divisions and territorial disputes. It’s the latest clash designed, at least in part, to shape a new world order.The stakes for Azerbaijan, backed if not egged on by Turkey, are high as the Azeri capital’s Baku International Sea Trade Port seeks to solidify its head start in its competition with Russian, Iranian, Turkmen and Kazakh Caspian Sea harbours, to be a key node in competing Eurasian transport corridors. Baku is likely to emerge as the Caspian’s largest trading port.An Azeri success in clawing back some Armenian-occupied areas of Azerbaijan, captured by Armenia in the early 1990s, would bolster Baku’s bid to be the Caspian’s premier port at the crossroads of Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe.The Caspian is at the intersection of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) from China to Europe via Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey and t…

JMD on NBN: Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative

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ALAN CHONG AND QUANG MIN PHAMCritical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road InitiativePALGRAVE MACMILLAN 2020October 16, 2020 James M. DorseyPolitical scientists Alan Chong and Quang Min Pham bring with their edited volume, Critical Reflections on China’s Belt and Road Initiative(Palgrave MacMillan, 2020)originality as well as dimensions and perspectives to the discussion about the Belt and Road that are highly relevant but often either unrecognized or underemphasized.The book is about much more than the material aspects of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. In fact, various chapter authors use the Belt and Road to look at perhaps the most fundamental issue of our times: how does one build a global world order and societies that are inclusive, cohesive and capable of managing interests of all stakeholders as well as political, cultural, ethnic and religious differences in ways that all are recognized without prejudice and/or discrimination?dIn doing so, the book introduces a moral cat…

The Battle for Jerusalem: Turkey’s Erdogan stakes his claim

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By James M. Dorsey Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t mince his words at this month’s opening of parliament. In his first assertion of a claim to a lost non-Turkic part of the Ottoman empire, Mr. Erdogan declared that Jerusalem is Turkish.“In this city, which we had to leave in tears during the First World War, it is still possible to come across traces of the Ottoman resistance. So Jerusalem is our city, a city from us,” Mr. Erdogan said.He went on to say that “the current appearance of the Old City, which is the heart of Jerusalem, was built by Suleiman the Magnificent, with its walls, bazaar, and many buildings. Our ancestors showed their respect for centuries by keeping this city in high esteem.”Mr. Erdogan was referring to the 16th century Ottoman sultan, a sponsor of monumental architectural development, who is widely viewed as having protected his Jewish subjects.In July, Mr. Erdogan described that month’s return of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, a sixth century Orthodox-c…

Changing attitudes towards religiosity: A double-edged sword for Arab rulers

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Changing attitudes towards religiosity: A double-edged sword for Arab rulers By James M. DorseyPublic opinion polling in the Arab world suggests that autocratic leaders like Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his UAE counterpart, Mohammed bin Zayed, have gotten some things right.Both men have to varying degrees replaced religion with nationalism as the ideology legitimizing their rule and sought to ensure that countries in the region broadly adhere to their worldview. It is a worldview that rejects any political expression of Islam, propagates a religious duty to obey the ruler with no exception, represses freedom of expression and dissent, and leaves unchallenged religious concepts such as notions of infidels and slavery that are viewed by Muslim reformers as well as significant segments of Arab youth as obsolete or outdated.The two crown princes’ similar worldviews constitute in part a response to changing youth attitudes towards religiosity evident in various public opinion …

Saudi chairmanship of G20 proves to be mixed blessing

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By James M. DorseySaudi Arabia’s chairmanship of the Group of Twenty (G20) is proving to be a mixed blessing. The country and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman saw their chairmanship as an opportunity to showcase the kingdom’s leadership and ability to be a visionary global player. But plans to dazzle the grouping and international community with glamorous events in which officials, experts, analysts and faith representatives would develop proposed cutting-edge solutions for global problems at a time of geopolitical rivalry and jockeying for a new world order had to be shelved as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the worst global economic downturn since World War II.Lockdowns and other public health safety measures, coupled with the evisceration of air travel, meant that numerous preparatory meetings and brainstorming sessions had to be virtual, replacing glamour, generous hospitality, and organic networking with the sterility of online gatherings. For example, Riyadh had hoped …