The contemporary world is composed of individuals from different cultures. Each culture is characterized by its unique set of beliefs, behaviors, language, diets, association, dressing, language, occupation, geographical location, among others. Though different cultures have different ways of doing things, the beliefs and norms of one culture should not affect those of another, as this may not only stimulate the violation of human rights, but also contribute to the discrimination and tribal conflicts.
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In the present times, the world has become highly globalized especially due to the numerous technological developments that have occurred, and this means that association of interaction of individuals from different cultures cannot be avoided. Apparently, for effective association, most governments, both the developing and the developing ones are advocating and educating individuals concerning the importance of individuals respecting and appreciating other people`s cultures. When one interacts with individuals who comes from different cultures, he or she does not only manage to respect and appreciate those cultures, but also gain deeper insights concerning various tenets belonging to those cultures. In the 30 days series, episode three entails the perception and experience of Dave Stacy who, for 30 days lived as a Muslim. Personally, I have also interacted with Muslims for a whole day and I have learnt a lot concerning this religion. In this paper, I will describe my experience with the Muslims, relate this experience with this episode, and link it to what I have learnt about intercultural communication. I have been born in a Christian family and this means that I hold Christian beliefs, norms, and practices. In addition, most of my friends in school and in the neighborhood are Christians as well.
Apparently, when I joined college, I happened to meet Muhammed Abdi, whose origin is Saudi Arabia. We found our self in the same group discussion and through class-oriented interactions we slowly became friends. Our friendship has grown stronger and Abdi has been requesting me to visit their home a couple of times but I have never managed to do so until yesterday. I reached at their house some minutes to noon, and when I knocked the door, Abdi showed in and requested me to put off my shoes and leave them at the door. His parents and three other siblings (two brothers and one sister) were present. Abdi, his father, and his two younger brothers had worn a white lobe while his mother and his sister had worn a black lobe and their head was covered with a veil. Soon after arriving, Abdi asked me to join the other family members at the dinning room. In this room, there was a dinning table with a number of chairs all round on one side, and a carpet on the other side. When lunch was brought, each the family member knelt on the carpet and pray facing in the sky and raising both hands. After praying they used to bend forward in such a way that the head touches the ground. Since I am not used to the custom, I didn’t kneel to pray like they were doing, but I prayed the way I am used to (praying for the lunch). After taking lunch, I was inquisitive concerning the Muslim practices and it is at this point I asked Abdi to explain for me some of those practices, starting with the lunch time payers which I have just participated. He explained to me five types of prayers that they conduct in a day, the time that each prayer is made, and what each means. This orientation and my observation made me to start participating in prayers just like the way Abdi and the other family members were doing. I participated in Muslim prayers before I started my journey home. My experience with the Islamic culture At first, I was reluctant to visit Abdi`s homestead just because he is a Muslim and I am a Christian. I have never been in an environment where all individuals around me are Muslims. Though Abdi had I had gone to the extent of being close friends, I still held a negative perception about his religion, especially due to the fact that I have grown knowing that Muslims are dangerous and should be avoided as a plague. I have heard numerous cases where Muslims are involved in bombing and terrorist attacks in various parts of the world, including the September 11 terrorist attack that claimed the lives of numerous innocent Americans (Katherine 56). Precisely, in the United States, most Christians hold the perception that all Muslims are loyal to their religion and country to the extent that they are always willing to die for the same of their religion and country.
Actually, most Americans believe that in the Koran, there is a teaching that stipulates that when a Muslim volunteer to die in the line of protecting the Muslim religion, he or she is treated as a martyr and directly goes to heaven. According to most Christians in the U.S., this believe is the one that motivates most Muslims to accept to carry explosives on his or her body and detonates it at the midst of Christians, who are perceived to be the major enemy to the Muslim religion. My initial perception concerning Muslims perfectly relates to that of Dave Stacy, who also perceived Muslims as terrorists. When Dave was asked by Morgan Spurlock concerning his perception about Muslims, he stated that he only pictures a woman with a sheet and men with an AK-47 (Morgan n.p). Additionally, Morgan also noticed that majority of Americans also has a negative perception towards Muslim. For example, when he asked people what they associate with the word ‘Muslim’ majority responded that they associate Muslim with terrorists. However, after observing and interacting with Abdi and the other members of his family, I learnt that Majority of Muslims are God fearing, prayerful, peaceful, law abiding, and most importantly, individuals who respect other religions including Christianity. To be precise, Muslims read Koran and pray more times in a day compared to the manner in which Christians read the Bible and pray in a day. Actually, through the one-day interaction and observation of the Muslim culture, I noted that Muslims pray five times in a day, and each prayer has its meaning. Abdi informed me that the five prayers are Fajr (which is performed before sunrise its aim is to thank God for the new day); Dhuhr (which is performed after one has started the day`s work and its purpose is to remember God and to seek his guidance; ‘Asr (performed in the later afternoon and its purpose is to remember God); Maghrib (performed after the sun goes down and its purpose is to remember and thank God for the day); and ‘Isha (which is performed before retiring to bed and its purpose is to seek God`s guidance, presence, mercy, and forgiveness (John n.p).
Among these prayers, the one that I found challenging is the Fajr, especially due to the fact that it is performed exactly at 5:00 AM, and Muslims are awakened to pray by a loud bell that is always rang in the mosque. The most interesting thing is that one can woke up, pray, and then go back to bed if he or she does not have a tight schedule in that day. Since I spent the night in that house, I personally didn`t woke up but I clearly heard Abdi and the other family members praying. Initially, I used to see Muslim believers kneeling and praying but I never knew there are stipulated number of times that they are ought to pray in a day. This also corresponds to the episode three of the 30 Day series, especially where Shamael informs Dave that Islam is made up of five pillars which are not limited to charity, faith in one God, pilgrimage to Mecca, fasting and prayer five times a day (Morgan n.p). In addition, Imam Al Husain (the prayer leader in the local mosque that Dave attended) informed Dave that Christianity, Muslim and Judaism all worship one and the same God since all of them are major divisions of religion that came from the same family tree. The difference arises on the mode of worshipping God. Moreover, I also learnt that it is unfair to generalize all Muslims as terrorists since majority of them are good and peace-loving individuals, and those who are terrorists are a threat not only to Christians, but also to most Muslims as well. I learnt this from the sentiments of Abdi`s father, who claimed that most Americans associate Muslims with terrorism because of the guilt by association. Just because most terrorist attacks are propagated by Muslims does not mean that all Muslims are terrorists. According to Abdi`s father, most Americans forget that Muslim terrorists also terrorizes their fellow Muslims in Saudi Arabia other Arabic nations. This statement concurs with Ameena`s contribution (one of Shamael`s friends) that terrorists are bad characters, rather than bad Muslims (Morgan n.p). They are equivalent to a criminal (of a Christian background) who rapes, kills, abuses, and terrorize an integrated or diverse community. I strongly believe that the issue of associating Muslims with terrorism was enhanced by both the 9/11 attack and the behavior of leaders politicizing the issue (Katherine 56). For example, one of the campaign agenda of President Donald Trump was to deport all Muslims to their countries of origin since he maintained that the latter are terrorists, and they are the major factor for the increase of terrorism attacks in the U.S (The New York Times n.p). Though it is the mandate of every government to provide security to its citizens, it is unfair to discriminate, lay false accusations, and generalize all Muslims as terrorists. Consecutively, through the 24-hour interaction with the Muslim culture, I have contemplated that Muslim women puts on hajib or veil as a way of adhering and appreciating the Islamic traditions. Initially, I used to believe that Muslim women are forced to put on hajib by their patriarchal society and male chauvinism. This is why even the educated and civilized Muslim women living in the United States continue putting on hajib even when they are numerous miles away from their ancestral origins. This also concurs with the explanation that Sadia (Shamael`s wife) gave to Dave (Morgan n.p).
Subsequently, I learnt that there are some diets and drinks that Muslims do not take. For example, through our discussions about the Muslim religion, Abdi`s father revealed that Muslims do not take alcohol, pork, and any other meat that has not been blessed during the preparation. For example, if the family intends to take beef, the lamb has to be blessed during the slaughtering processes in order for the meat to be beneficial to their body. This relates to what one of the friends at the Shamael`s house demonstrated to Dave concerning how to bless meat during the slaughtering process. Precisely, the friend informed Dave that the anything that a Muslim intends to slaughter for food must face east, since east is the direction to the holy land of Muslims (Morgan n.p). They don’t take pork due to the fact that pork was cursed by God, and this is in reference to one instance in the Koran where the latter healed a man who had been possessed with demons and authorized them to go to the pigs. In addition, Abdi`s father informed me that he cannot take beer since it is likely to lure him to commit sins. Linking the experience with the intercultural communication The ultimate way of intercultural communication is gaining knowledge about the practices and beliefs of the other culture, applying the gained knowledge, and understanding the difference between cultures (Ingrid 28-37). Soon after being welcomed by Abdi, I started learning or gaining knowledge concerning the beliefs, traditions and norms of Muslims through both observation and interaction with Abdi, His parents and his siblings. I learnt various types of prayers, their meaning, and the time that they are performed. I also learnt some teachings of the Koran, the traditional Islamic diets, the meaning of their dressing codes, ways of blessing the meat especially during the slaughtering process, among others. Similarly, Abdi, his parents and younger siblings also gained some knowledge about Christianity from me especially concerning the beliefs, ways of praying, and various norms concerning Christianity. After gaining knowledge concerning the beliefs, norms and traditions of Muslims, I slowing started applying or adapting to the learnt knowledge by participating in some of the Muslim practices. For example, soon after being welcomed, I never knew how to pray in Muslim and this is why I just observed them praying. Precisely, I could not have managed to join the family in praying since I never knew how to go about it. However, after being oriented and after observing how they used to do while praying I managed to join them during their ‘Asr payers few minutes before I left to our home. I knelt down like them, looked up in the sky, raised both arms and started praying. Lastly, I managed to clearly understand the difference between the Islamic culture and Christianity in terms of the beliefs, norms, and traditions of each. For example, I learnt that pork is an acceptable meal to Christians but it is not taken by Muslims.
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