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لدينا تجربة مع المسلمين (Our Experience with Muslims)

In case you missed it, it is not a good time to be a Muslim living in the Western World. Aside from Donald Trump’s verbal diarrhea about Muslims celebrating the 9/11 attack, the post-Paris backlash has reached ridiculous levels with stories containing the following news headlines:

This is absolutely shocking and disgusting.

For the ignorant lowlifes who feel compelled to commit hate crimes and acts of violence, let me shed light to what Muslim people are actually like. This is based on our traveling by bicycle for over two months in five countries with a strong Muslim presence (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Turkey).

Spoiler alert! Muslims are just like Americans! Or French. Or the Brits. Or Canadians. Or humans. They eat, they sleep, they pray, and even have the same desires as any other human being. As the respected American psychologist Maslow noted in his 1943 WWII era paper “A Theory of Human Motivation”, all humans have the same five needs in a hierarchical order.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs applies to ALL human beings, including Muslims. Disclaimer: it may apply to cats too.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs applies to ALL human beings, including Muslims. Disclaimer: it may apply to cats too. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_Maslow

Enough historical perspective, let me be specific in our first hand experience with Muslims:

Friendly

The Muslims we encountered were some of the most warm and friendly people we have met during our entire journey. Period. Whether offering directions, helping us find a grocery store, or even giving us their beds for the night, we have found that Muslims go above and beyond to be hospitable and welcoming. We have even experienced random acts of kindness in the forms of small gifts from our hosts like food or good luck charms. While Muslims generally view dogs as unclean (though this is changing), a number of hosts provided a warm shower and a place to sleep even with our dearest Sora in tow. From their Muslim perspective, it was more important to show hospitality and regard our pet-friendly culture, than to turn us away.

A random Bosnian farmer insisted we sleep in his cottage with Sora. He even gave us fresh honey combs from his farm.
A random Bosnian farmer insisted we sleep in his cottage with Sora. He even gave us fresh honey combs from his farm.

Compassionate

We have been impressed by the compassionate cat culture in Turkey, as noted by Jen this past week. With felines living on nearly every corner, one gets a sense that while population control may be an issue, health and care are not. We have met countless Turks who make it their own personal responsibility to play care taker for the local cats. This includes feeding them, ensuring proper vet care, and quality time. It’s very heartwarming to see such compassion and love on display. Not always, but often, this kindness extends to dogs and even feral donkeys. Compassion and mercy is central to Islam and from our experience, it surely radiates in their care of cats.

A Turkish man feeding his local cat colony in a public park.
A Turkish man feeding his local public park cat colony.
A old woman saw Jen wincing in pain after hurting her back. She immediately came out of her house and offered warm tea and some pain medication and topical cream.
A old woman saw Jen wincing in pain after hurting her back lifting the trailer down a flight of stairs. She immediately came out of her house and offered us warm tea and some pain medication and topical cream for Jen.

Respectful

No one has shown any intolerance or given us problems for being Americans. In fact, quite the opposite has occurred. When asked “where are you from?”, we proudly respond the United States, with a smile. Ninety nine percent of the time, we get a response of a smile or murmur of approval, accompanied by “ah, America!” It has not been our experience that Muslims look down on America, or see it as the enemy. Quite the contrary, they see America as a country of culture and morals, and one heck of a confusing political system.

Our host Ayhan in Söke, Turkey welcome Sora into his home and took us on a local bike ride through some Roman ruins.
Our host Ayhan in Söke, Turkey welcome Sora into his home and took us on a local bike ride through some Roman ruins.


Curious

The Muslims we met were more than curious to learn about our country and culture. We often get questions about what it is like to live in the USA? What is the healthcare like? How expensive is it? What food do you eat? What is the scenery like? I often found myself debunking standard American myths like every single person owns a gun or that not everyone eats fast food.

A local school class wanted to know everything about us and our trick happy Australian Shepherd during a lunch break in Turkey.
A local school class wanted to know everything about us and our trick happy Australian Shepherd during a lunch break in Turkey.

Throughout our journey, Jen and I have learned a lot about Muslim culture and have deep gratitude for the ubiquitous compassion and hospitality shown to us. By far, it has been one of the cultural highlights and biggest learning opportunities of our trip.

The next time you hear the media machine or a political establishment spewing anti-Muslim rhetoric, ask yourself the following questions:

“Has this person ever visited a Muslim country?”

“Does this person even know a single Muslim?”

“Is this an accurate view of all Muslims, or just a toxic minority?”

I beg and plead to you, don’t let the propaganda media apparatus instill unjust fear and loathing of all Muslims, when a singular specific radical subgroup of a larger religion is causing acts of violence.

Imagine if other countries thought that all Americans are members of the sign-yielding xenophobic Westboro Baptist Church (www.godhatesfags.com – I included this URL to just show how crazy these people are) and should not be granted the freedom to find a safe, peaceful, and fair life.

Dave Hoch

Dave finds joy in supporting a vegan, intentional, and spiritual lifestyle. When he’s not jamming out to Phish and reggae, he’s running, volunteering at animal rescues, playing in nature, and being alive.

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