How a Bosnian Muslim Changed My Perception of Islam and of Muslims in General
Awhile back, a new person was assigned to the cubicle across from me. He was young, strapping, polite and just seemed to carry himself well. He is white but had a foreign look to him. By interacting with him, I was to find out he was from Bosnia and to my surprise a Muslim.
I never would have guessed he was Muslim. How can he be a Muslim? He is as white as me and is clean shaven. Here in the USA when we think of Islam we typically think of the Middle East. I sensed no anger or hatred on his behalf. He didn't seem intolerant, irrational or violent. He was not making a scene by praying 12 times a day in his cubicle towards Mecca. I actually would not mind if he did do this as long as he was not too loud :)
No, I'm not uneducated; in fact, I have a college degree. Stereotypes are very powerful things and this Muslim/Islam one I had never quite left behind. I was born in the late 60s and brought up in the rural Midwest. As a young boy, Western stereotypes of Islam and of Muslims were fed to me and often reinforced through the media. I'm middle aged now and of course realize there are millions of Muslims in Indonesia and elsewhere around the world---not just in the Middle East.
Becoming friends with this individual has changed my views of Islam and of Muslims for the better. I'm glad my belief system in this regard has been challenged and shaken. I never really wanted to believe all Muslims were that horrendously bad anyway. We human beings tend to generalize don't we? Bad, bad, bad!
He and I are now friends. He is in his late twenties now but lived through all the horrible stuff that took place in the Balkans a few years ago i.e. Milosevich, Nato Bombing under President Clinton, Nationalistic/Ethnic/Religious turmoil...remember? He found himself in a Serb concentration camp and has shared many stories with me from that time.
His life is very different now. He comes across as rock solid in every way i.e. talent, intellect, decency, is well liked and on and on. I trust no one more than he in the entire office and there are many employees. I'm not worried about him beheading me or blowing himself up as a martyr :) He is married to a beautiful, Bosnian, Muslim woman and has, in general, a very bright future. I am much older than he and make sure I am good to him and look out for him. I don't go far out of my way for many in the work place but do for him because I admire and respect him so much.