Frequently Asked Questions

Benadiri, The

The Benadiri are a southern coastal ethnic minority descended from ethnic Somalis as well as Arabs, Persians, Indians, and coastal Bantu peoples. Historically, they formed a successful nonpastoral mercantilist class and were instrumental in the spread of Islam in Somalia. Benadiri participated in nationalist politics at independence, forming their own political parties. Despite these auspicious roots, the Benadiri were severely disadvantaged during the civil war, in part because they did not form a...

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Bilharzia is a freshwater parasite that causes the disease schistosomiasis, an infection which impacts the liver, kidneys, bladder, rectum, and can lead to death. The vector for the parasite is freshwater snails, which thrive in the standing water that fill Egypt’s irrigation canals. Rates of bladder cancer—the most common form of cancer in Egypt—are directly tied to rates of bilharzia.


Shady Salem, et al. ...

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Black Hawk Down

Black Hawk Down or the Battle of Mogadishu was a military incident that took place on October 3-4, 1993 between United States and African Union (UNISOM) forces and Somali militias under the leadership of General Mohammad Aideed. The battle was named for the two American Black Hawk helicopters shot down by Aideed’s militiamen. The military operation to rescue the downed servicemen led to the death of 18 American troops, one Pakistani and one Malaysian soldier, as well as hundreds of Somalis, both combatants and noncombatants. Public...

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One who speaks irreverently about God or sacred things. 

Boko Haram

Boko Haram is a militant Islamist organization whose main target is the secular Nigerian government, although its victims are largely Muslims in Nigeria's north. Boko Haram means “Western Education is forbidden” in the Hausa language, reflecting a teaching of the early Boko Haram leader Muhammad Yusuf, who maintained that western-style education and holding government jobs are religiously forbidden under Islam. The group’s Arabic name is Ahl al Sunna li al Da’wa wa al Jihad, which can be translated as “Salafis/Sunnis for Calling People to Islam and Engaging in Jihad.”

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Brazilian Conference of Bishops

The Brazilian Conference of Bishops (CNBB) was founded in 1952 by a group of bishops who were deeply critical of the economic and political status quo. This perspective grew out of the bishops’ backgrounds, many of whom were from poorer, rural states, but was also related to independent funding received from European Catholic organizations that allowed for autonomy from the state. The CNBB advanced the adoption of Paulo Freire’s model of “critical consciousness,” an educational method that emphasizes...

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Buddhism in France

Though Buddhists make up less than 1% of the French population, the Buddhist community is represented by various ethnic groups with a French convert minority. The presence of Vietnamese and Cambodians Buddhists in France reflect the French colonization of those nations and the resultant cultural affinity, as well as refugee populations that arrived in France during the 1970s during the reign of the Khmer Rouge and during the Vietnam War. However, Chinese migrants represent the largest segment of French Buddhists. Zen Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism are the most common traditions practiced...

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Buddhism in Myanmar

Close to 90% of people in Myanmar today are Buddhist, and virtually all of them practice Theravada Buddhism. This branch of Buddhism adheres most closely to the oldest texts in the Buddhist tradition and generally emphasizes a more rigorous observance of the monastic code than other schools of Buddhism. Theravada Buddhists ultimately aim to be released from the cycle of suffering, samsara, and to achieve nirvana. To achieve success in this world—and to advance to enlightenment in subsequent rebirths—they must build positive karma, or merit.

Lay people...

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Burma Citizenship Act, The

The Burma Citizenship Act of 1982 granted citizenship to individuals residing in Burma who could trace their family residency to prior to 1823, that is, the year of the first British military campaign on Myanmar and with it, a wave of immigration from India and China. The law was deeply problematic, as for many families of various ethnic groups, transnational ties were common and there was rarely documentation to prove whether a person had deep roots in Myanmar.

The law was part of a series of actions taken by the nationalist Burmese government meant to shore up Burmese ethnic...

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