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Posts Tagged ‘Religion and Spirituality’

a work by nusret colpan depicting the islamic ...

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This time last year, I was beginning to think about voluntarily deploying with the TN National Guard to join the war efforts, mainly to get a steady paycheck. I had no love of this Arabic culture, which was a culture to me just weird, and even a little eerie. All of that strangely played music and singing. The strange dresses, even on the men. Just.. eww..

Well, here I am, a year later, with nearly that long of time spent in the countries of Kuwait and Iraq. I am amazed at the place these people have in my heart, and I do not speak lightly when I use the word “amazed.” I felt so proud to be in this region when the Iraqis went to the polls and voted.

“Iraqis are not afraid of bombs anymore,” said Maliq Bedawi, 45, defiantly waving his finger, stained with purple ink, to indicate he had voted, as he stood near the rubble of an apartment building in Baghdad hit by a huge rocket in the deadliest attack of the day. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/08/world/middleeast/08iraq.html?_r=1

The people have earned my respect with their big hearts. Sure, they are still learning how to have a working government – dare I say we are still perfecting that concept in the United States?

One of the best classes I have had here on base has been “Arab Cultural Awareness,” taught by a raven-haired Arab-American woman with a bubbly personality,  and I would like to share with you some of my chicken scratch notes, and formulated thoughts.

  • Culture – shared tradition of beliefs.
  • There are 22 Arabic Speaking Countries, which share language, traditions, and customs, separate from religion.
  • There is a lot of hand shaking going on. Every time they see a person, it is with the looong hand shaking, small talk, hospitality. It would be rude to do otherwise. Men will shake hands with each other. A man will offer a woman the top side of his hand to be polite, yet remain clean himself from touching the woman’s palm.
  • The 5 Pillars of Islam1.) Prayer, 2.) Pilgrimage, 3.) Testifying there is no God but Muhammad, 4.) The Fasting of Ramadan, 5.) Tithing, Charity.
  • Orient yourself to prayer time. Dawn prayers, noon prayers, afternoon prayers, evening prayers…about every three hours. This may explain why a person has to wait longer at certain times of the day for a cab to the airport, etc.
  • The Sunni follow teachings of Muhammad / The Shia believe the succession should have gone to Ali.
  • Algebra is from the Arabic Nations.
  • The country of Kuwait (where I am currently stationed), is a Constitutional Monarchy with a Parliamentary System of Government, which was recognized in 1961 from the Arab League of Nations.
  • There are many languages spoken in Kuwait, including Tagalog – from the Philippines, Tamil – from Sri Lanka,  Urdu – from Pakistan, and Hindi – from India.
  • There exists a multi-tiered citizenship system. All non-Kuwaiti residents would be no greater than 4th class residents, which is say what I would be, if I chose to live as a civilian in this country.

What I drew from this class,  from my mental notes that went beyond my notebook, was how there are safeguards built into the Arabic culture to protect the women. It is not a matter of them being lesser, it is of the women being separate. It is something that our liberated Western culture has difficulty grasping as good and normal. But for the Arab people, this is how they see fit to live. I do not have to live by the culture to respect it, as I do not have to live by the 5 Pillars of Islam to be able to respect them, and appreciate the great devotion its people have.

So many of our grievances come from a lack of understanding of other cultures. It takes effort to understand ideals other than those that ring true in each of us. But I truly believe it is worth the effort. Hmm…perhaps if Obama would bring Eastern and Western world leaders together to share tea, shoot, even some special brownies made from the herb that grows so freely in Afghanistan where we occupy…..maybe, just maybe, they would have moments of resistance being lowered enough to appreciate the God-given glory in each other.  These people are our brothers.

That is all.

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This is where i say “Hey world! A big *high five* to ya and i cannot believe i am living in this wonderful age of information!” Even so, it is interesting to me that we all have our own unique perception of what goes on around us, and in front of us on our computer screens. Our life experiences color how we view things. I would say my view is through those glasses with the springy eyeballs that fall out, haha. C’mon, it’s a fun ride, we can go wherever we want. Don’t miss a minute of it!

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