Hello and welcome to my weblog. I know very little Arabic, but am slowly learning. Marhaba in Arabic means hello; welcome!

I am in the final stages of writing a book. My ulterior motive, if you will, is to generate interest in this book and hopefully develop a database of individuals interested in purchasing a copy once it is available.

To many Americans, as well as other Western countries, it seems as though the Islamic world is our enemy. But it is not. Ignorance is our enemy.

It is crucial that we listen and understand another’s perspective, and not allow misconceptions to fester. This does not mean we must always agree with these perspectives. But we do have a responsibility to respect another’s opinions. It is all part of healthy, intellectual stimulation.

Culture is like the air we breathe; it cannot be seen, but it is there. And it is essential to life. As custodians of our cultures and individuals of moral character, we have a responsibility to shape and protect our culture. So exactly how do we go about doing that? How do we promote a healthy culture to our children, neighbors, and society as a whole?

Step one is to admit the ignorance of not knowing, recognizing, and dispelling gross generalizations, and finally, beginning to influence and inspire changing attitudes toward cross-cultural differences among family, friends, and coworkers.

Because the Middle East is such a large, diverse region where not only the status of women varies significantly from country to country, but also the Islamic culture, the book I am writing concentrates on the Arab Muslims of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

A first question I always hear is “where is Bahrain? I’ve never heard of it.”

The Kingdom of Bahrain is an archipelago of 33 islands located in the Arabian Gulf (also known as the Persian Gulf) and connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway. It is also home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Bahrain has been ruled by the Al Khalifa family since 1783 and is a constitutional monarchy having gained full independence from the UK in 1971.

My firsthand experience within this Islamic country began in December 2005. My “experience” was quickly transformed into “emersion”. I came to Bahrain with no preconceived expectations; as a matter of fact, I viewed that initial two-week trip as simply an adventure and experience that I would probably never have a chance to repeat. Since that first visit, I have spent seven months spread over two years in the Kingdom. By no means an expert on its culture – nor will I ever profess to be – I have nevertheless listened, observed, asked questions, read voraciously, and met and made new friends, yet retained an open mind.

Some aspects of this culture’s social fabric remain confusing, such as its ongoing debate over whether Muslim women should or should not be veiled and cloaked (and in heat-absorbing black yet!), while others are merely unfamiliar religious customs that are better understood while living in Bahrain, such as Ramadan. I am reminded nevertheless that many Muslim Arabs in Bahrain think the same of we Americans and some of our social practices.

With more than one billion Muslims, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and undoubtedly, the most misunderstood. The average American is unfamiliar with how the Arab Muslim culture is integrated within its religion, just as the Bahraini Arabs mistakenly equate Americans as being controlled by special interest groups opposed to Islam.

In this post-9/11 world, damaging stereotypes and false generalizations swirl. Despite the fact that public polls indicate Americans’ new willingness and interest in learning about Arab Muslims and their fabric of society, myths and misconceptions continue to abound.

There is profound ignorance on both sides between what we know to be true and what we choose to believe. My intent with this book is to address those most prevalent generalizations that arose through interviews with both Americans and Bahraini Arabs, and try to dispel the rabid inaccuracies.

Stay tuned.

1 Comment

Filed under Arab culture vs. Islamic religion, culture

One response to “Marhaba!

  1. There is no reason not to learn. As Mary says, it is part of the ignorance, on both sides, when all we know is what we hear or what the Media tells us.
    Mary has spent hours over in Bahrain learning the culture, meeting the people, and interacting with the culture. She has been through many unique experiences and it would be a shame if whast she learned is not part of what you know.

    Mary and I went to college together, both of us working full time and raising families. She is the one person I know that truely has an open mind and absorbs everything, both on the surface and behind the scenes. This book will be full of information, details, and stories about her experiences in Bahrain and the people of this region.

    I look forward to reading it.

    Toni Grundstrom
    Co-Worker, Fellow Student, and Friend of Mary

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