France’s puzzling home-grown Jihadis
Politics / Society / World News

France’s puzzling home-grown Jihadis

European youths, by all standards, have it pretty good: born decades after the plague of war loosened its grip on the continent, they were bred in an era of relative material comfort, affordable education, and generally a high standard of living. So it’s only more puzzling when some choose to leave behind these comfortable lives for war, martyrdom or cold-blooded mass murder Continue reading

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The Islamic State is Erasing History
Culture & Art / Politics / World News

The Islamic State is Erasing History

In May 2015, news broke that ISIS had gained control of Tadmor, a small desert town perhaps better known as Palmyra, the home of the Middle East’s most beautiful historical sites. While the unsurprising fate of Tadmor’s inhabitants at the hands of Daesh did not cause much of an outcry in the West, the capture of Palmyra ignited fears over what lay ahead for the invaluable 2,000-year-old ruins. Continue reading

Contamination and Catharsis: Purification through Religious Rituals
Culture & Art / Religion / Society

Contamination and Catharsis: Purification through Religious Rituals

Common to all religious beliefs is a strong sense that in life, some things, events or spiritual forces can be associated with purity, that is, a state in which nothing undesirable is present, and others with impurity or dirt. This dissociation between the pure and the impure obviously entails the definition of norms that can differentiate between what is seen as “natural”, acceptable to the gods or spirits, positive, and its opposite. Continue reading