Culture

 
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You are different

March 2016 – “You are different” is a simple sentence with confusing connotations. What does that even mean? What sort of different?

Orientalism for kids

November 2015 – Despite the racism contained in Tintin and other classic children’s tales, I believe that children should be exposed to them.

Omar Sharif: Actor without borders

July 2015 – The late Omar Sharif was living, breathing, walking proof that there is nothing inherently irreconcilable between the Middle East and the West.

Hagia Sophia: A symbolic bridge or wedge?

June 2015 – The Hagia Sophia must not become a mosque. If its status must change, it should become a space of tolerance, where both Christian and Muslim worship.

Living in a selfie-centred world

March 2015 – The selfie fad has reached epidemic proportions, but we don’t live in more narcissistic times. Selfie-absorption is as old as civilisation itself.

The box

May 2014 – Andrew knew the first time he opened the box that it would lead to no good. But he did it anyway. He couldn’t help it.

The Christian Allah

October 2013 – Muslim and Christian bigots who don’t speak Arabic believe that “Allah” is only for Muslims. They are wrong: Allah is God and God is Allah.

How iSlam made the West cool

May 2013 – Those who fear Muslim influence should raise a glass to the Sultan of Style when they freshen up, don the latest fashions or enjoy dining out.

Gay marriage but no polygamy?

May 2013 – If we can have gay and interfaith marriages in the West, then why not polygamous ones?

Ugly discrimination in the face of beauty

May 2013- The curious case of Arab men reportedly deported for being “too handsome” demonstrates that the beautiful can also be the victims of discrimination.

The human wrongs of the Holocaust

February 2013 – A new museum in Belgium seeks to make the Holocaust relevant for contemporary visitors by placing it in the wider context of human rights.

Russia takes a “grown up” beating

January 2013 – The acid attack on the Bolshoi ballet’s director highlights the worrying spread of organised crime and corruption to all facets of life in Russia.

Half-baked rules that take the biscuit

January 2013 – Half-baked rules about homemade biscuits say a lot about the sort of society we live in and undermine community spirit.

The hair that binds

January 2013 – Despite its bonding potential, a trip to the hairdresser’s can inflict trauma on soap-phobic pre-adolescent boys and their mullet-phobic fathers.

Zwarte Piet, a bitter treat

December 2012 – Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) brings joy  to millions in the Low Countries. But his dark-faced helpers, Zwarte Pieten, are racist and a colonial throwback.

The last word in music

July 2012 – It was the last word in music, and turned words into music. The WORD, which defied the decline in print media with wit, edge and artistry, is no more.

Striving for imperfection

April 2012 – The subtext of the bestselling novel, The Imperfectionists, are elusive… Is it a perfect take on the imperfections of the media and modern society?

Will the real Olympics please stand up!

April 2012 – As propaganda and branding goes, no one holds a candle to the Olympics. But is growing commercialisation protecting or threatening the Olympic spirit?

International Women’s Day: Male feminist pigs?

March 2012 – Some regard possession of a vagina as crucial for membership in the feminist movement. But can’t a man be a feminist too?

Papa’s got a secondhand car…

February 2012 – Is buying a secondhand car after nine months of contemplation akin to becoming a father or a lover?

The scientific handbook of love

February 2012 – For the perplexed this Valentine’s, The Chronikler offers this “scientific” guide to winning hearts and getting high on the “drug” of love.

Sarah Palin v Queer Theory

February 2012 – Which is more empowering or threatening for the gay community: the idea that sexuality is a lifestyle choice (unnatural) or an innate trait (natural)?

From the Chronikles: In the name of equality

January 2012 – As Belgium toys with the idea of allowing mothers to pass on their surnames, is there a way to make naming practices fairer?

The madness of bigotry

December 2011 – Anders Breivik’s “paranoid schizophrenia” may have pulled the trigger but he chose his victims through the crosshairs of far-right politics.

‘Redheads under the bed’ as a substitute for good reporting

September 2011 – A story that redhead sperm is not welcome at a Danish spermbank has gone global, reflecting how good reporting is being crowded out of the media by ‘incredible free content’.

Feeling Europe’s pain

September 2011 – All is not well in the old world of organisational paternity, job security and economic rationality. But the silver lining is that we have millions of virtual ‘friends’ to feel our pain.

Mid-life gardening… fertile futility

July 2011 – You cut, trim, mulch, fertilise, spray, dig, weed, rake and tidy up for half your weekend. The other half you keep looking at what still needs doing as the futility of mid-life gardening grows deep within.

When two tongues collide

March 2011 – No this isn’t a perverse way of describing French kissing, but a new theory of how two languages can peacefully co-exist in one country.

When the chips are down

February 2011 – Arab revolutionary fever has spread to Europe as Belgians raise their freedom fries, not to bring down a regime but to ask for one to be formed.

iPhony reality

February 2011 – We’re entering a world of augmented reality (AR) which might sound scary to rational-thinking grown-ups but perfectly natural to iPhone-savvy toddlers.

Not so simply red

December 2010 – The Simply Red lead singer’s admission that he slept with thousands of women shatters one longstanding ginger stereotype, but discrimination against redheads goes way back.

Falling in love… too literally

November 2010 – ‘Spurned skydiver murders love rival in Belgium’. Big news in a little country, and a film just waiting to be made.

The Arab myth of Western women

November 2010 – Unflattering as some Western stereotypes are of Arab men, Western women also get a bad press in conservative Arab circles.

The Arab man’s burden

November 2010 – Some in the west are more likely to believe in elves in Middle Earth than in Arab men in the Middle East who are secular and do not oppress women.

Who wants to be a millionaire? I don’t (know)

October 2010 – Yes, it’s a famous Cole Porter song but an even better ambition for a fading socialist of the 1980s kind.

Less Catholic than the pope

October 2010 -‘Catholic’ education thrives in Belgium, but the decision between principle and pragmatism is not easy when choosing a school.

Moving, not moving on?

September 2010 – Moving house is a back-breaking master class in logistics. But it’s also an emotional rite – moving from what was to what will be, purging yourself of possessions and packing some away for good.

Why doesn’t God use Faithbook?

September 2010 – If God wants to reach out to humanity, why rely on prophets and scripture when he presumably has the power to connect with each of us directly?

Smashing different planets

September 2010 – The Scientists shouted they would get “smashed in a different world”. But do the words of this punk band reveal something profound about human nature?

An ode to Arab love songs

August 2010 – Love is a universal theme in music, but there are good reasons for the Arab world’s preoccupation with romance.

Dumbfounded by smart-arse software

July 2010 – Constant popup reminders telling you to update software,or even to scrub your fingernails… Why have computers become such smart-arses?

The freedom of non-expression

July 2010 – Advocates of banning the face veil want to take away the only choice some women have – the choice to conform.

Seeing the world through new tongues

June 2010 – Being monolingual can be limiting, so why not learn another language and get a new perspective on the world?

Queer times in Belgian politics

June 2010 – The product of an odd political marriage between left wing Belgian unionists and radical Flemish nationalists could be the world’s first openly gay male premier.

Smoking, from sticks to carrots

May 2010 – Belgian MPs raised eyebrows with their recent banning of facial coverings. Now, with a twist, factions have set their sights on smokers and work.

Is Europe not working?

May 2010 – The chair of a leading multinational claims that Europeans do not work hard enough and do not value work enough. I beg to differ.

Miss USA 2010 and an Islamic cover-up

May 2010 – Rima Fakih’s Miss USA win is welcomed by many Arab-Americans, but some neocons denounce it as a sinister Islamic plot.

Good news, bad ads

April 2010 – Global TV networks provide us with insight into major events around the world. But surely we can do without the terrible ‘global ads’.

Embodying the mind

April 2010 – In philosophy and religion, the body is merely a hollow shell for our mind and soul. But what if our bodies not only confine but also define us?

A question of upbringing

April 2010 – In multicultural families, deciding on where to raise your child is no easy matter and has profound implications for the future.

Trashy fascism

April 2010 – I spend so much time sorting my rubbish that I’m thinking of putting it on my CV as a skill or taking it up as a profession.

Climate change in Camelot

March 2010 – In South Dakota, everyone knows that the climate is just right – and that global warming is just the hot air of science.

What a queer language

January 2010 – From ‘gay girls’ to ‘shagging flies’, the changing meaning of English words causes no end of confusion.

Hating the ‘world’s smartest woman’

January 2010 – Linda De Win is clever, competitive and middle-aged – would Belgians respect her TV victories if only she were male too?

Polygamy for all

January 2010 – A Saudi journalist is demanding that women be given the right to four husbands. Should equality mean monogamy or polygamy for all?

Labouring under a false premise

December 2009 – Barring men from the delivery room will not make giving birth any easier. In fact, it is a case of throwing out the father with the bathwater.

Facebook: consider yourself de-friended

December 2009 – Facebook, Sellaband, Twitter… social networking is like the classics with the clap. And a bloody waste of time to boot.

Getting in your face – it’s a sensitive issue

December 2009 – Do you breed people like Nick Cave, or do they grow organically? Some adults and children are just more in tune with their surroundings.

Tis the season to be sociable

December 2009 – The British are famously reserved, but so are the Belgians. Let’s break the ice and make the public sphere more friendly.

Language: the food of understanding

November 2009 – Learning Arabic is tough but it can open you up to a whole new world of cultural experiences and opportunities, not to mention build understanding.

Faith in our children

November 2009 – Much as we’d like our children to hold the same things dear as we do, we should have enough faith in them to let them choose their own belief system.

Beyoncé: saint or sinner?

November 2009 – As the singer prepares to visit Egypt, Christian and Muslim fundamentalists agree: Beyoncé is the root of all evil.

Good grief!

November 2009 – There is something of an inner circle to mourning whose circumference varies from culture to culture. Knowing where you fit in takes some research.

Ambient stupidity?

October 2009 – Is technology designed to monitor and report on our every move a sign of ambient intelligence or stupidity?

Dad’s demise?

October 2009 – Having kids is no longer the preserve of married couples, or couples full stop, it now seems. That’s all good and well, but does it mean dads will soon be surplus to requirements? No way!

Swedish idiom and the sum of all cardamom

September 2009 – If I were to vanish into thin air, my Swedish in-laws would have a suitable expression for this.

Stilettos: career boosters for the down at heel?

September 2009 – Just because I want to wear high heels to work, that doesn’t make me a brainless bimbo.

Bugging the culinary operating system

September 2009 – Elevating food to celebrity status has turned the theory of motivation upside. It’s time to stick one up the foodies.

TV’s desperate Muslim romantics

August 2009 – Sexual relationships among ethnic minorities offer richer dramatic pickings than cliched stories about arranged marriage.

Faith and desire in Albert Square

August 2009 – EastEnders is breaking new ground on gay issues by exploring what happens when Muslim boy meets boy – but marries girl.

New model citizens

August 2009 – Tougher naturalisation laws are counterproductive. What we need is to redefine our understanding of citizenship.

That joke isn’t funny any more

August 2009 – What passes as a good joke in the office or at a party nowadays? Not much, it seems.

Labour saving devices

August 2009 – Could pregnancy outside the womb save women the pain of labour and herald in a new level of gender equality?

Losing the plot

July 2009 – Wacky conspiracy theories cause damage by drawing attention away from the real plots being hatched by our governments.

Revenge of the ‘baby doomers’

July 2009 – Could the disgruntled ‘baby doom’ generation turn on Europe’s baby boomers?

Poetry,  nonsense or what (not)?

July 2009 – Beauty, failure, enchantment, … you name the emotion and poetry’s got it. But this noble art is not for everyone. And it’s by no means easy to call yourself a poet.

Equality: not even in death

July 2009 – Tragic as the deaths of young British soldiers in Afghanistan are, why is the media not mourning Afghan civilian casualties?

Mind your thumbspeak

July 2009 – Deciphering hieroglyphs is much more fun than decoding the ‘thumbspeak’ of SMS texting.

Birth of a new order

July 2009 – A revolution is on the way and it’s going to change everything – in our house.

Faking the meaning of life

July 2009 – It’s bad enough, in the Friends era, being able to quote Ross Geller – the nerdy palaeontologist – but being fully versed in the McDreamy language of Grey’s Anatomy is a nauseating form of existentialism.

Misery is its own medicine

July 2009 – Being called a miserable sod might not be everyone’s moniker of choice, but  Shakespeare was on to something with his comment “The miserable hath no other medicine but only hope”.

Promises of immortality

July 2009 – Religion has been promising us eternal life after death for millennia, can science deliver us immortality right here on earth – and do we want it to?

Gastronomy without the gas

May 2009 – The Belgian city of Ghent has declared Thursdays ‘meat free’. Should cities around the world also join the vegolution?

We don’t need no age segregation

April 2009 – Segregating school students by gender, or grouping them according to age simply doesn’t make sense.

On a ring and a prayer

March 2009 – God now has a number. Sadly, it goes straight to voicemail, but I’ve got my messages ready. What about you?

The great Santa controversy

December 2008 – It’s the Western world’s greatest childhood controversy: does Santa Claus exist? The answer is both comforting and disturbing to the children among us and within us.

Pale imitations

November 2008 – Why is fairness so coveted in societies with darker skin?

Guardians of the unborn

November 2008 – The Dutch parliament is considering whether protecting unborn children should supersede the rights of parents to procreate.

Natural born killers

November 2008 – Does scientific evidence that war is hardwired into human society mean that we are doomed to live in perpetual conflict?

Taking Hitler off the menu

October 2008 – Was Belgian television justified in pulling an episode of a cooking programme featuring Hitler’s favourite dish?

Ramadan for drinkers

September 2008 – With booze in short supply, the month of fasting can be a thirsty wait for some Muslims.

Murder at rush hour

September 2008 – A murder trial is delving into the mystery of why and how a young Belgian was stabbed to death for his MP3 player during rush hour in the capital’s busiest train station.

 

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