This I Believe

Salah - Florence, Alabama
Entered on December 7, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: tolerance

Bridging the World

Samuel Huntington writes “The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural.”

I believe in Tolerance. I grew up in a 99% Muslim Moroccan environment for the last 22 years, and that environment along with my studies about the Western World eventually shaped some of my views about people from distinct cultures and religions. I won’t deny that I saw them to some extent xenophobic and prejudiced. Nevertheless, I had an inward conviction that my feelings and stands were influenced by that fact I wasn’t away from my country since I was born and that I was not brought into direct contact with foreigners. The turning point came when I was awarded a Scholarship of cultural exchange to the U.S. designed to bridge and lower misunderstandings and stereotypes between cultures. It came in its right time when I started questioning the clashes of religions and cultures, and the ways to promote tolerance and coexistence between them.

I was surprised by the openness and warmth I was shrouded by when I got to Montana State University. My fellow American, Japanese and Kazakh floor mates with smiling and curious faces asking what was my name and nationality, and what I was there for. I desperately needed that emotional help in a time of stress and culture shock. Shortly after, I expanded my network of friends with whom I shared my thoughts and cultural background. It was really neat to show some of them that not all Africans are Black, and that not all Arabs are Muslims while learning with amazement about their cultures. With all those conversations at hand, bereft of any religious sensitivity and fanaticism, I started seeing a better future for the world. I started believing that people regardless of their cultural and religious affiliations should clash no more if there any clash at all, but instead should learn from each other while focusing on what is common and super ordinate to all.

One of my best friends at UNA is a Greek Orthodox Christian from Bethlehem with whom I get along great. I colored the eggs with her last time on Easter, and she cooked me some Middle Eastern food on the last Iftar, celebrating the end of Ramadan. We often exchange cards and gifts on religious ceremonies serving as a good example of religious coexistence. My ex-girlfriend was Catholic, and I never felt our two different religions constituted a threat to our relationship. We loved each other fiercely, and we are still in touch after our breakup. I believed that our reciprocal respect and understanding have brought us together.

Human beings are social by nature. I need to be around my friends whatever differences they exhibit. My need for interpersonal relations ranks higher than any religious discrepancy that may drive me away from my friends. From my experience, I observed no cultural conflict whatsoever that can bring humankind into clashes. Huntington’s theory of cultural conflict is politically charged and vindictive. It doesn’t capture the reality of love and tolerance that unites the world. Tolerance is the key to my existence, and the framework in which my differences are preserved. To live is to tolerate.