I have spent an inordinate amount of time outside my own cultural zone. Specifically, I have spent almost three years working and traveling in Muslim-majority countries. Being a staunch humanist/pluralist/insufferable optimist, I have enjoyed the opportunity these travels have afforded me to smash stereotypes of Muslims, the non-Western world, and life outside the USA in general. Going back “home” is always an occasion to share these revelations, but almost always in painfully redacted form.

By writing this blog, I intend to offer a more detailed and complete record of these experiences. I also wish to unpack and present my thoughts. Some posts will focus on the current time, but I also hope to revisit memories of past events.

Having endured several months of wheel-spinning “back home” in 2012, I rang in the new year by taking an offer to teach English in Yemen in return for a place to live, paltry pay, and free Arabic lessons. While the experience was marred by a lousy work environment and a quickly deteriorating security situation, I’m glad I went. It started me on a more productive path, which I am now continuing as a history teacher in Lebanon. I’ve progressed in my Arabic, my worldly knowledge, and my approach toward personal goals. I’m ready to take a more active, less risk-averse approach to achieving what I care about.

Currently, I want to find my voice. My “personal agenda,” promoting pluralism as a pragmatic answer to today’s special brand of fucked-up-ness, requires frank ethical discourse and the open sharing of experiences and facts. I’m tired of hedging my personal image to widen its appeal. It’s not authentic, and it sure hasn’t landed me any fabulous opportunities.

So, you’ll be reading some honesty in this blog. I am an open-minded person with a healthy respect for differences of belief and lifestyle, but I do not intend to avoid difficult subjects or negative conclusions. I love that young Omani mothers can attend college while their families help provide childcare, but I hate that most of them have been genitally mutilated in the name of “honor”. I don’t believe in covering up truth. I don’t believe that highlighting positive aspects of a society makes me an apologist, nor do I believe that pointing out negative aspects makes me its enemy.

Honesty doesn’t always feel safe or appear polite, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a person who reads this feels uncomfortable or offended at some point. That’s fine with me. Please know, however, that I am open to thoughtful, reasoned criticism or debate of whatever I share. I may choose to disagree with you, but I appreciate new information and intellectual/ethical challenges. Please engage candidly if you can maintain respect for our differences.


4 thoughts on “Preface

  1. Right on ukhti! You know there are a lot of Muslims out there who are p.ed off about the same stuff and are actively trying to change the things you are also (rightly) p.ed off about. There’sa lot of changes going on among Muslims now, especially those of us in the West who don’t see any sources for the things we get especially angry about in Islam, or any way of justifying them in our present context. Seems like your travels will have broken the illusion that the Muslim world is a homogenous, non-questioning, culturally retrograde lump…I was born Muslim (I’m American-English) and all of this seems crazy at times. But as a cultural Westerner I also see the value out pointing out problems, if there’s some way of getting to a solution (which is definitely not going to happen if it’s not known about). Inshallah there’s a way to that through a blog!

    1. Thanks Cavemum! I got to know a lot of really great super-engaged American Muslims in college, and I’ve met plenty of others in my travels. I’d like this blog, in one way, to show solidarity toward them. But I think my other intended audience is the kind of people I grew up with in (esp. rural) middle America who simply don’t get a lot of honest/knowledgeable voices on the Muslim “other”. Contrary to some views, they aren’t less intelligent or necessarily willfully ignorant. They are constantly fed the same BS stories about Muslims and the Muslim world. That’s why I’m determined to give my own views straight-up, and hopefully the authenticity will counter some of what American media has to offer!

  2. hey – interesting articles! where do you currently work and and live?
    am a teacher based in birmingham, UK> have travelled to yemen too as it happens! and have plenty of friends in lebanon

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