A people without the knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots-Marcus Garvey. Garvey uses this simile to illustrate that culture defines a persons individuality. Without everyone obtaining unique characteristics, life would be mundane. To experience a new culture, I decided to attend an Islamic prayer service. My decision was influenced by my ignorance of the Muslim culture. I had several negative opinions about this culture which include my thoughts that all persons associated with the Muslims are Arabic, they do not appreciate other cultures, they must kill a person to ensure that they will go to heaven, and women are severely mistreated. Prior to attending the prayer meeting, I was very uneasy about being allowed to investigate the mosque. However, I was enlightened on many aspects of this culture during my visit. Some of the areas that I got to learn about include religion, language, and cuisine. However, a disturbing issue came to light during this visit. While many Americans consider equality to be realistic, the actuality is the Muslim culture suffers from oppression in silence.
The prayer service consisted of both adult men and women. The service entailed several activities which include reciting an Arabic prayer, listening to a lesson, and enjoying a late lunch afterward. The mosque itself was extremely stodgy; it had a few decorations, and all the walls were painted white. To top it up it was located in an industrial park, and it was very secluded. I was welcomed into the mosque with all the other attendees with open hands. The warm atmosphere instantly melted away my anxiety. Before I was permitted to go into the meeting room, I was encouraged to wash my hands and remove my shoes. The Muslims believe you must physically cleanse your body before entering the worshipping place. The desolate meeting room contained a stage, and a dark green carpet. The absence of seating allowed everyone to kneel and pray. The women usually kneel at the back while the men kneel at the front. The service was introduced with a long lengthy prayer fully in Arabic. I observed that most races were represented in this service. There was a short lesson or sermon regarding the current political race. It was fascinating that they encourage the discussion of politics in church. To conclude, there was another short prayer. This service reminded me of a Catholic service during Lent season.
Although the actual service educated me on the religion, interacting with the members provided me with more knowledge about the culture. Upon exiting the center, the overwhelming smell of foreign food filled the air. I was encouraged to join the feast that had been prepared. Most of the dishes were traditional Muslim food; however, there was Americanized food as well. I tried two traditional dishes, Falafel, and Manakeesn. During this time, I was able to converse with many different women. One woman in particular shared personal experience she endures because she is a Muslim. She told me about a time when she was unable to purchase something because of her headdress. The store owner told her she was not allowed in the store because she was a terrorist and would offend the other customers. Several women expressed their concerns about letting their children go public schools because they are bullied. The stories and concerns left me emotional disturbed. I have since gained a new image of this culture which is warm, inviting, and humble. These people are just like any other culture and deserve to be treated that way.
I was able to grasp the reality of this culture through religious practices, language, cuisine, and customs and traditions. I believe the ability for the Muslim people to share their religion with me proves that this event was cultural. I would have gone to the mosque, and that would be all, but I went a step further to interact with them and taste their food and this way I got to fully experience the culture. My opinion of the Muslim culture changed drastically through this experience. I came to the realization that although cultures separate people, you can always find similarities to bring people together. I respect the culture for all the hardships and discrimination they go through. Any community who can have a positive impact on life, yet are unable to exercise rights should be appreciated.
The evident oppression of this community can be closely related with the injustices suffered by the African Americans post civil war. The era of literary works is called Realism. The principle of expressing yourself during this time was to tell the truth. Through doing this the raw and cruel image of everyday African American life was revealed to the public. I believe in todays society if American were exposed to the everyday life of Muslims, they would be more sympathetic. As Theodore Dreiser wrote The extent of all reality is the realm of the authors pen, and a true picture of life, honestly and reverentially set down, is both moral and artistic whether it offends the conventions or not (Dreiser 1747), I think it just takes one brave person to expose the truth to help educate America on the oppression of the Muslim people.
Dreiser, Theodore. "True Art Speaks Plainly." The Norton Anthology American Literature.
eighth. Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2013. 1746-1747. Print.
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