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  • Andalusia’s ambivalence: between convivencia and Islamophobia

    The seven centuries of Islamic rule over the southern Spanish province of Andalusia are often romanticized for its convivencia: the peaceful coexistence of Muslims, Christians and Jews. Today, the region exploits this history for tourism, but is not devoid of Islamophobia.

    I wrote this article for the Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

  • Identity and nationality in the Gulf

    Few countries in the world have more foreigners than locals living within their borders. It is the case in the Arab Gulf states, where the majority of the population consists of immigrants: up to more than 85% in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. For the locals, this poses unique challenges to their concepts of identity and nationality.

  • Islamic State: media and identity

    The so-called Islamic State might have been defeated, but ideas do not die so easily. In this essay I deconstruct its ideology and self-identification and show that it is different from the way ‘the West’ has categorized it.

  • Amritsar: conflict and harmony

    The city of Amritsar in north-western India is not big, but attracts more visitors than the Taj Mahal. The two main attractions are symbols of harmony and conflict, respectively: the Sikh religion’s holiest temple complex where everyone is welcome, and the nearby border with Pakistan where on a daily basis people on both sides assemble to celebrate the gates closing.

    I wrote this article for the Center for Intercultural Dialogue.

  • On India, poverty and religion

    Different religions deal with poverty differently, and in India you find a lot of both. At one point or another, the visitor of the subcontinent will inevitably be faced with more misery than one can bear and the challenging question how to approach it. What answers do religions provide?

  • Movie: Silence by Martin Scorsese

    It is a mystery to me why Martin Scorsese’s 2016 movie Silence, about Christian missionaries in Japan, premiered at the Vatican. Although Scorsese is Catholic and at some point in his life even wanted to become a priest, it seems that more than just offering a historical account of an encounter between cultures and religions,…

  • Still(ed) waters: a very short history of Mexico City

    How a lake turned into one of the largest cities in the world: this is the story of Mexico City.

    Before the Spanish conquest, Mexico City was a kind of Venice in the middle of a couple of connected lakes, surrounded by volcanoes. It was called Tenochtitlan: ’the place of many tunas’ (notwithstanding the watery environment, a tuna here being the fruit of a cactus).

  • Antithesis

    Amid the chaos of the city that she was calling her home for a little while now, there were only two sights calm and peaceful: the surface of the river and the setting of the sun. On the bridge, people were gathering to welcome the evening coolness closing in. She walked by them over the…

  • If only the world made sense

    If only the world made sense. It’s a jumble of arbitrary events, a mess of moments, admittedly related, but few of them making any sense to us. It’s an age-old problem: we just can’t wrap our heads around life. Religion has traditionally been a good resort. It gives answers and explanations, an understanding of the world, certainty. And if…

  • The stories of Eskibahçe

    This is an extra chapter for the book Birds without wings by Louis de Bernières. It provides a new perspective on the novel. “Lately, I have been having dreams about the former times of Eskibahçe. I have never had the habit to remind myself of those days, but it suddenly seems to be imposed to…