Tuesday, 5 July 2011

There is no such thing as Islamic culture, only cultures that adopted Islam in different ways

I'm planning to go away, again. This time into the deep, diverse, complex patterns of 20 different Islamic cultures. 

In one of my recent workshops at the university, when asked to provide word associated with “Islam”, ALL my students gave “terrorism” among their first three entries.

Ignorance is the breeding ground of suspicion and distrust. A great amount of issues and problems that are automatically connected with Islam are not essentially Islamic: Female genital cutting is mainly in Christian Ethiopia and Africa, Honour Killing is popular among Hindus and Sikhs, even some Christian Mediterranean countries; and Corporal Punishment is severe in Singapore. Indonesian Islam is greatly different from Iranian or Somalian Islam. Many practice and even terrorist acts are NOT in the name of Islam or are being done DESPITE of Islam. 

However, Islam has become a quick fast food explanation that can easily appeal to people. Don't know how to explain certain thing? Say it's just because it's a Muslim thing, and people will give you that "Now I understand!" look. 

Thus, I have planned for a year-long field trip in 2012 dedicated to a journey of understanding, taking myself as a living element within Islam’s living texture. My journey will start in Mecca where Islam began; follow its footstep of expansion through Arabian Peninsula, westward to Africa and eastward to Asia, completing the Pan-Islamic that used to be the vision of a strong united state. 
My profile is neutral: I come form the East, live in the West and try understand the Middle. And with this balance, I will travel slowly and locally, picking up the community threads and identifying cultural cues that international media overlook in portraying news or bolstering stereotypes: Meet thought-leaders, engaging with society through teaching, learning, voluntary work and observation. All activities are designed to unearth the real that lies hidden behind the apparent.

This project encourages people to utilize their freedom, to take a proactive approach and go beyond the ready fast-food that is often spoon-fed by media, especially amid the current turmoil in Egypt, Middle East and Libya. It challenges stereotypes and pre-assumptions, both about Islam and about its viewers. On the one hand, it helps to make clear that there is not one Islam in the world, nor is there a typical Muslim. On the other hand, it shows that a young, female, unmarried non-Muslim woman with no particular power can embark on a world trip with deep involvement within the Islamic life in search for ultimate understanding. Goodwill will invite goodness and negative pre-assumption may turn the bearer themselves into victims.

I hope we have some common interest in this project, and I hope to have your support. Looking forward to sharing my travel stories with you in this blog. Please subscribe your Email to get New Posts, share them on your face book and network, and follow my twits. Suggestions, advice, contacts, supports and cooperation are very welcome! 

Hope you can be part of this journey!


  1. Brave person!

  2. Jessica S. Woods5 July 2011 at 19:50

    This is great Mai. Keep on doing the good work. I'll search my network for contacts in Middle East and North Africa.

    Are you learning Arabic? There must be a language school that is interested in sponsoring your course.

    We had here last week a seminar on Asian perspectives and Global Marketing, well, your expertise. It's good to inform our friends so you can deliver such workshops on your way.

    I can imagine your students would be so exited about this cool project :)

    Keep in touch in facebook


  3. Homeless Forever7 July 2011 at 19:21

    I know a contact in Saudi Arabia, will drop you a line to your email. Safe journey. We would love to hear all about it, and the preparation as well.

  4. omg im jealousy! Ton hieu Anh

  5. bondijames2010@hotmail.co.nz11 November 2011 at 23:15

    This is indeed a brave move. I guess you must realise that as a woman, you are very fortunate are not a national of the region. If you were, you would find you could not travel around alone, without the company of your husband.

    As it is, I am a Christian. I am classed 'dhimmi' in Islamic society, and I encourage you to research the meaning of the term whilst you make plans to embark on your journey. Equality is a very important value which is actively fought for and upheld in the Western. However not all peoples in the Shariah run society are classed as equal.

    As it is, I wish you all the best on your journey.

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