from The Great Debate:

The pope’s door is always open to ISIS. Why America’s should be, too.

By Jonathan Powell
December 8, 2014

Hamas fighter speaks on the phone as he sits inside the personal meeting hall of President Abbas after they captured his headquarters in Gaza

Pope Francis strayed into controversy recently when he said that, while he supported military action against Islamic State, he also would not rule out speaking to the group if it would help bring peace to Syria and Iraq. “It is difficult, one could say almost impossible, but the door is always open,” he said.

from The Great Debate:

We all know about jihadists, but what about those waging an ‘anti-jihad’?

By Karima Bennoune
October 1, 2014

Human rights activist holds a placard during an anti-Talibanisation protest in LahoreAs the UN Security Council tackles the entity claiming to be “Islamic State,” and President Barack Obama invokes global Muslim responsibility, many ask whether people of Muslim heritage do enough to counter extremism.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fleeing Islamic State

September 25, 2014

Suruc, Turkey
By Murad Sezer

Tens of thousands of Kurdish Syrians have fled Islamic State and flocked to the Turkish border. Most of them are from the Syrian border town Kobani and its surrounding villages, where the group’s fighters have launched attacks, but other refugees have travelled from further away.

from The Great Debate:

Air strikes won’t disrupt Islamic State’s real safe haven: social media

By Rita Katz
September 24, 2014
jihad tweet President Barack Obama has pledged to destroy Islamic State and ensure fighters “find no safe haven.” But even as U.S.-led airstrikes are underway in Iraq and Syria, it is clear that bombs alone will not do the job. For Islamic State hides out in the most perfect haven: the World Wide Web.

In June 2014, the militant group that Obama refers to as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, grabbed the world’s attention after it took over much of northern Iraq in roughly four days. Islamic State accomplished this by building a massive, sophisticated virtual network of fighters in addition to those on the ground. Indeed, its expansion online has been as swift as its territorial gains. It is this virtual power grab that will be most difficult to combat.

from The Great Debate:

Avoid a classic blunder: Stay out of religious wars in the Middle East

By Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
September 16, 2014

hoffman top

Muslims in the Middle East are fighting wars of religion. Like the carnage between Protestants and Catholics that haunted Northern Ireland during the last third of the 20th century, there is little anyone can do until local peoples crave peace so intensely they are willing to cultivate it.

from Photographers' Blog:

Prayers during wartime

February 10, 2014

Midyat, Turkey

By Umit Bektas

Sunday mass has just begun in Mort Shmuni Syriac Orthodox Church. It is seven o’clock in the morning and the streets of Midyat, where the majority of the population is Muslim Kurdish, are empty.

Mideast Christians struggle to hope in Arab Spring, some see no spring at all

June 23, 2011

(A Muslim holding the Koran (top L) and a Coptic Christian holding a cross in Cairo's Tahrir Square during the period of interfaith unity on February 6, 2011/Dylan Martinez)

Syria’s Christians fear for their religious freedom

By Reuters Staff
May 18, 2011

(A Christian woman lights a candle during a mass to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas at Saint Serkis church in Damascus January 6, 2011/Khaled al-Hariri)

Syria’s Assad retrenches into power base of his Alawite Shi’ite sect

May 4, 2011

(A supporter of Syria's President Bashar al-Assad holds aloft a photograph of the president at Hamidiya market in Damascus April 30, 2011/Khaled al-Hariri)

Syria lifts niqab ban, shuts casino, in nod to protesting Sunnis

By Reuters Staff
April 7, 2011
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(A visitor browses through books at the 26th International Book Fair near Damascus July 31, 2010/Khaled al-Hariri)