cultural curiosity

Being Muslim in America

World to the Wise Podcast

I live in Nashville, which is in the middle of a boom. People are moving here in droves, cranes dot the skyline, and we currently bear the moniker of “It City.” In the trendy, extremely gentrified neighborhood called 12 South, among the hip restaurants, bars, and coffee shops, is a building some might consider out of place: the Islamic Center of Nashville.

This is where I met up with this week’s guest. I walked in the front door and took my shoes off, like everyone else, to the sound of prayers being chanted (in Arabic, of course), and a handful of men at the front of the carpeted main room standing with heads bowed. There was no way I was going to go unnoticed here. I sat down on a chair in the small lobby to wait for Rashed Fakhruddin, President of the Islamic Center. But before he came and ushered me into the office just off the lobby, a number of men invited me inside to where the prayer was happening. “It’s OK, please come in!”

Rashed, a mild-mannered brown-skinned man with an easy smile, arrived and we settled in for what I hope for you is an enlightening and interesting conversation on Islam, being a Muslim in America, and common misconceptions many non-Muslims have. Meet Rashed Fakhruddin.

If the end of the interview sounds a little abrupt, it’s because Rashed heard another call to prayer in the main room of the mosque and had to rush in to participate. I’m not sure whether that was because he is president, or just that as a faithful Muslim he is very committed to showing up for prayer five times a day. Whatever the case, I’m sure our paths will cross again, and I’ll likely have more questions for him. Do you have questions about Islam? Comments? Have we sent you running the other direction? Let us know by leaving a comment on this page.

And while you’re here, please consider becoming a patron so we can continue the work of fostering cultural curiosity.

Thanks for listening!

Cultivating Curiosity

Curious-Einstein.jpg

We are all born curious. Show me a baby who isn't drawn to shiny objects or who doesn't believe everything is intended to be put in the mouth. Then the baby becomes a toddler and all of a sudden the entire house has to be childproofed. Everything at eye level is fair game to be explored and often dismantled.

As a young child, I was a voracious reader. We were living in Australia, where, at least at the time, there was no kindergarten like we have in the US, and children started right into Grade 1 at the age of five. I was already reading when I started school in Perth, and I remember my teachers scrambling to keep me stocked with books. Seems I couldn't get enough.

As I've written and spoken about before, we moved back to the US halfway through my fourth grade year, and on the return trip my senses were assaulted by the sights and sounds of exotic lands and foreign tongues. Once again, I couldn't get enough.

Then something happened.

The thing is, I don't know what. Somewhere along the line -- perhaps it was puberty -- I lost my love of reading and the curiosity behind that love. Up to that point I remember loving to read about all kinds of things -- I was simply interested in the world and everything in it.

By my high school years my interests had narrowed to two main areas: music and foreign languages. I excelled in all my subjects, but some of them didn't require that much effort. I was indeed hungry to make progress in my two chosen areas, but I don't remember deriving much satisfaction from anything else.

I'm sorry to say my college years were not much different. Music and foreign languages still dominated my brain space (foreign language eventually gained the upper hand) -- along with an overactive social life.

I was well into my years living in Europe that I began to really notice things. To pay attention to a broader array of areas, such as world events and how they affect each other. Or how math and science cannot be entirely separated from, say, music or philosophy, or even theology. In fact, this growing sense that all things are somehow connected has become a driving force in (re)shaping my world view. And my fascination with how other cultures live and think plays right into this.

In this season of my life, I consider it not only an important aspect of my life, but a calling, to somehow create sparks that trigger curiosity in others -- especially curiosity about people from cultures or experiences unlike ours.

Regardless of your political persuasion or the outcome of the 2016 US elections, we all must admit that, now, more than ever, we are in great need of regaining and fostering cultural curiosity. Just as I allowed my mind to become dulled by who knows what -- teenage preoccupations, then too many college friends (yes, I think that's possible), we can as adults allow ourselves to be lulled to sleep by the familiar. Falling asleep in our own echo chamber.

Is it possible to make someone curious? Perhaps, perhaps not. But just as a parent provides toys, activities and games that appeal to the innate curiosity of a child, we can most certainly make things available to whet the imagination of those who are asleep...while continually feeding the imagination of those who are curious.

Season 2 of the World to the Wise podcast aims to do just that. Stay tuned! If you're already a subscriber, we would appreciate your taking a minute to write a brief review.

What adventures has your curiosity led you to?

No Place Like Santa Fe

WTTW 22.png

In our series on subcultures in the United States, we pay a visit this week to the unique city of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The oldest state capital in the US, this jewel at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains was established 400 years ago by the Spanish -- its full name being La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de Francisco de Asís -- the Royal Town of the Holy Faith of Francis of Assisi.

My guests are Karen Lafferty, veteran singer/songwriter (if you grew up in the church, chances are you used to sing her song "Seek Ye First") and JD Vasquez, both residents of Santa Fe, share their favorite things about this special blend of Anglo, Hispanic, and Native American culture.

Karen and JD's love for their home town makes me want to go back for another visit. Maybe I'll see you there!

Karen Lafferty
Karen Lafferty

Let's Talk Turkey

World to the Wise Podcast

While much of the public attention in the US -- and other parts of the world, was focused this week on the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, we chose to shine a light on a completely different part of the world -- a land that from where I sit is too unknown by most of us, including yours truly.

One week ago today, there was a failed attempt to overthrow the government of President Erdogan, who was democratically elected in 2014 after serving 11 years a Prime Minister of Turkey. The aftermath has not been pretty. These events only illustrate more acutely the fact that Turkey is, in many ways, a divided country.

Göreme National Park
Hagia Sofia

But there's much more to Turkey than politics and religion, just like any country, and this week we'll explore some of the other fascinating aspects of this ancient land. Technical difficulties and a sensitive political climate in Turkey prevented us from airing the two interviews we did for this show, so I'm flying solo and attempting to adequately portray a country that has just moved up a few notches on my bucket list.

ephesus

One of those interviewees, Duke Dillard, has a travel business in the heart of Turkey, Cappadocia, and you can find his website here.

For some fascinating and little known facts about Turkey, click here.

And I highly recommend this book, mentioned in this week's podcast: