As I stepped into the home, I immediately began to feel welcomed. I entered the home of the parents of one of my wife’s students to learn about their culture. Having an interest in learning more about Islam and Muslims, I had arranged to meet and sit down for an evening in an open discussion about both our cultures and religions. I wanted know how they were the same, and how they differed. This was the start to a long, deep, and one of the most interesting conversations I have had in a long time. We started with the exports of Morocco, its neighboring countries, and who had controlled it. Our discussion expanded and evolved to include topics such as the beginning of slavery and how it related to the Bible, the 5 pillars of the Islamic beliefs, and the origin of the name America. As well as many more topics that twisted, turned, came back, and seemed to take on a life of their own.
As I met Saliem at his door the first thing I noticed was he didn’t fit the “typical” Muslim profile as represented in the media. The main difference being he was African-American. I knew that many Muslims and people of the Islamic faith were not all Arabic but this still caught me a bit off guard. He greeted me and took my coat and hat before inviting me to the living room to meet his wife, Manana. Sitting down I opened with the basics of the assignment and what I was hoping to learn. I wanted to learn, and experience as much of their culture as I could in this one evening. I let them know that I knew a bit about their religion from talking to a trainer I had had a few years back, and a few quick Google searches I did to get the basics. We started with discussing Morocco, where Manana is from, and how they met. I was surprised to find out that Saliem met Manana’s father on his Hajj, a religious pilgrimage that is one of their five pillars. When he mentioned he was looking for a wife, Manana’s father said he had a daughter