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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

5 Impressions From Talking To An Arab Muslim Woman

This morning I had the opportunity to speak with a woman from overseas, an Arab Muslim. She was kind enough to answer some of my questions, and then she asked me a few.

The conversation itself was not all that enlightening in terms of the Q&A. But what did strike me were the unspoken things.
  • First and foremost, and I know this is obvious, ignorance is a tremendous barrier to intercultural understanding. It is simply not possible to form all of your opinions from reading or watching the news, movies or TV. You have to talk to people to really understand and you probably also have to study history to an extent. Whatever I know, I don't know enough.
  • Second, I know there is this idea that Muslim women are oppressed. Clearly many are. But I think there is a large and silent middle, don't know how secular, that simply is not. True this lady wore the hijab (but many religious Jewish women wear wigs or total head coverings too, so what does that prove?). She spoke in a way that said confidence, not fear. I did note the gender separation and formality between her and her companion; it was clear that when I asked her for permission to ask questions (and said I was a blogger) that she was immediately designated to talk to me, woman to woman.
  • Third, she allowed me to be honest and was direct with her questions in return (not fake polite). I wasn't afraid to ask - there was no sense of intimidation like I could say the wrong thing and be offensive. So I came right out, since we know that most Muslims are not the radicals that are portrayed on TV, why don't more speak out against it? She simply said: "I agree with you. We don't do nearly enough."
  • Fourth, I hate to say it, but I could tell she was uncomfortable when I said - in the spirit of disclosure - that I am a Jew and a Zionist. I felt it, although I will also say that she tried to be polite. I wasn't that I felt hated, per se, but more like the word "Zionist" is a real hot potato.
  • Fifth, and finally, as she left she asked me what I thought was an odd question: I had been recording her? It was odd because even before I said one word to her, I pointed to my computer, said I was a blogger, and said I'd share some things with my readers from her perspective if she didn't mind. Maybe she thought I was a Mossad spy? Who knows - I think I should be glad that she actually took the time to speak to me.
Overall, and this may be my Orthodox Jewish upbringing, I felt like I instinctively understood her communication style and method of comporting herself in a way that I think Western feminists cannot.

As she and her companion got up to leave, another person sitting a few feet away said, "I couldn't help but overhear" and then said something to them that seemed positive.

Washington, DC is a good place to learn about getting along with other cultures. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to move here.

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All opinions my own.