Sunday, June 12, 2016

My Experience With Another Culture


Well have you ever befriended a Muslim?”- The first question I ask when people express anti-Islam sentiment in regards to a vast portion of the American population.


I will start off this article by declaring that I am a moderate conservative and if you’re just not in the mood to read another article with some politicized statements in it then just go ahead and skip this one- I won’t be offended and I get it with how the media is these days. But in light of recent of events and the days to come, I wanted to share my experiences with Muslim Americans and to humanize those moments.


I'm also not going to start ranting about how our country was based off of immigrants, freedom of religion, and compassion for the other because I think that’s been written about numerous times. But instead I’ll begin by discussion one of my best friends when I was in high school- Rachel*. When I first met Rachel she just seemed to effortlessly cool. She always had put together outfits and the most magnetic personality. She also happened to be so hilarious she could make me pee in my pants. We would talk about boys for hours, go to concerts, ride around town, sleepovers, get our nails done, go shopping, share make-up tips (she once brought me this sick eyeliner from Pakistan) watch movies, and every other event you'd think a typical high school girl does with her best friend. But she was Muslim and I’m a Catholic- it never seemed to matter. 

I’d go to her home and met her lovely mother and her absolutely sweetheart of a father. I would eat with them and they treated me so kindly every time I was a guest in their home. I was invited to her brother’s wedding where I got to wear traditional clothing from Pakistan and experience the culture in a way most people may never get a chance too. At the wedding the men and women danced in separate tents and the women’s tent was SO FUN! It was like the best girls dance party you could ever imagine. Through Rachel I got to meet many other Muslim girls and further learn their culture. Some of Rachel’s family members and friends chose to wear a head covering because that is the way they personally wanted to display their modesty. 

I also had a few Muslim male friends at my high school who were also completely integrated in our school’s social scene. Reza*, who also happened to be class President our senior year, was one of the most lovely young men out of all of my guy friends. A mini story: My friend at the time was jogging through a bad area at sundown outside of our campus, got a leg cramp and fell to the ground. Like an angel out of no where Reza pulled up in his car, got out, and physically picked him up to place him in the car and brought him back to campus for medical attention. I feel blessed that my school was religiously diverse and I was able to have these experiences that I think your average American does not get exposed to.

The second experience I had was in college when I was in my World Religions course at Notre Dame. The professor was asking members of the class to join him at a local mosque for Ramadan to experience another religion first-hand. My friend and I were the only one’s to show up. Everyone I met that day was completely lovely and welcoming of us. No one gave me a bad eye, looked at me funny, or made me feel uncomfortable. Instead I got to take part in prayer and hear about all of their experiences of living in Indiana. Some stories of what it’s like to be Muslim at Notre Dame and some of just what it’s like to be in the Mid-West in a generally Catholic town. It was an eye-opening opportunity and I’m grateful to have been able to do so with open arms greeting me. 

Now these life experiences I’ve had were not with members of radical Islam. The relationships I formed and experiences were with your average Muslim American, the 3.3 million people that some politicians are trying to make you scared of. And your average Muslim American is the VAST majority of muslims in our country. Please do not confuse radical islamic beliefs with the sweet old woman in your grocery store wearing hijab. While I could go on about our foreign policy and tactics to help combat radical Islam abroad and domestically- it’s not my forte and I do not want this blog post to be about that.

So instead of allowing the recent events to be turned into political fodder to feed into Islamaphobia and how we should have ALL American muslims report their religion and essentially get tracked, etc (WHICH IS SO AGAINST WHAT WE STAND FOR AND THE CONSTITUTION THAT MY HEAD WILL EXPLODE) but instead we should start with what we can actively do now that is still in line with constitutional American values. 

It’s very important to understand that Radical Islamists want Americans to turn their backs on Muslim Americans- to create dissidence, fear, and hate. When we do this we isolate a population of Americans and it will ultimately get us no where- we need to work together to identify who the Radical Islamist are within our communities. We must beat this with love and compassion, instead of becoming infested with fear.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.


*Names were changed.

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