My experience with Muslims

Everyone is sick of online rants, but it’s an insane world out there right now, so here we go again…

One month after I graduated college I traveled to the country of Jordan to spend the rest of my summer learning Arabic, Islam and Middle Eastern culture before I entered the job market. Jordan’s population is 70% Palestinian — most of its citizens are either refugees or children of refugees from the decades long Arab-Israeli conflict.

As you would imagine, I was pretty scared to head over there, knowing that Palestinians / Jordanians might hate me because I was both Jewish, and from America (Israel’s #1 ally). Instead, the people of Jordan were absolutely the most welcoming people I have EVER met. Every single person, including complete strangers, went out of their way to make sure I found Jordan to be the friendliest country in the world. They welcomed me into their homes, helped me when I was in trouble during travels, and always made sure to tell me how much they LOVED America. This was also during the Bush years, where the Iraq War was raging just across the border, and America’s image in the Middle East was at its lowest (other than maybe, right now).

Even when I told them I was Jewish, they told me that the Arab Israeli conflict was a war between two countries, not between two religions. They respected Judaism, especially as Islam was created out of both Judaism and Christianity.

To be fair, I know full well that this is not how I would be received across all of the Muslim world. In Jerusalem, a Palestinian street merchant refused to address me as anything other than “George Bush”. In Cairo, most people were rude and thought I was an obnoxious tourist. But I attribute that to Cairo being a massive city — I’m sure I acted pretty similar during my 3 years in NYC. And I was “banned” from both Lebanon and (pre-war) Syria because of the Israeli stamp on my passport. But in Jordan, the people were nothing short of incredible. And not just the people I met through my program, I met plenty of people on the street, in hookah bars, in restaurants and in my travels. When you stand out like a sore thumb, people want to talk to you….

To everyone who has a fear of Muslims, I get it. ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram all use Islam as the excuse for their reigns of terror, and are frankly, evil. They spout fear, hatred, intolerance (sound familiar?), and worse, violence, torture and blind mass murder. But for every terrorist, there are hundreds of thousands of incredible, friendly, welcoming Muslims who love America and hate the terrorists even more than you and I do.

These people did everything for me, and I always told them that if they ever wanted to come to America, to contact me and I would go out of my way to do the same. To think that they are now banned from even entering the US makes me completely ashamed of my country. I never thought we’d be capable of such an act of malice — not just turning away the innocents, but those truly in need.

Next Friday I’m heading back around the world (to India) for the first time since that trip. I’m hopeful that the Indian people will welcome me into their country and make me feel at home, despite the fact that my country is doing the exact opposite.

Online rants are a dime a dozen these days, but I do believe that awareness can be a conduit to eventual change, and I’m hopeful that this is just a temporary, regrettable decision. #MuslimBan