While the US was deeply engrossed in the controversial debate about the Mosque at Ground Zero, and the crazy lunatic who wanted to burn the Qu’ran, I escaped to the relative safety of the Middle East. This civil/uncivil dialogue about Islam can challenge the sanity of the most knowledgeable and articulate people I know. Don’t get me wrong, I have no illusions about the enormous task that the ‘moderates’ in this region are facing, yet when I speak to young Arabs I feel that I can “keep hope alive.”
I have just arrived to Kuwait on one of my routine trips to the Middle East. While waiting to board my plane at Dulles airport, I met a young Saudi man who wanted to engage with me about the value-systems of different cultures. He shared that King Abdullah, has been sending young people to get an education in the West, paying their tuition and affording them a comfortable life while studying. I asked if he thinks the king wants them to go back to Saudi Arabia and pay it back with a mandatory contract for couple of years. To my surprise, he thought that the number one reason they were sent to the West was to open their minds to embracing other cultures.
” Before ever setting foot on American soil, I had a negative perspective on Americans. My views were cemented in my mind in part by Hollywood’s portrayal of Arabs and Islam and in part by the rhetoric of some of the Arab media. When I came to Colorado to study at UC, Americans embraced me like I was one of their own. Not just me, we were a group of young people from Libya, Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi and Iraq. We were all sent on scholarships, and we were all embraced by Americans. I feel like this is a second home for me.” Mohammad, the young Saudi, said with a twinkle in his eye. “Our rivalry was centered more around our football teams, than on our nationalities.”
We talked about many other subjects that restored my faith in humanity and in our ability to live in harmony and thrive. Too bad that such positive stories don’t make for a ratings bonanza for Hollywood or the biased Arab media. I guess, in a sensationalized 24 hour news cycle, one has to step back and talk to ordinary people to be reminded of how much sanity prevails over hatred around the world on any given day.Islam, Kuwait, Quran, Saudi Arabia, Value-systems, Young Arabs