Do you know how to treat a Muslim to Pizza?

Last week, my new American adviser ordered Pizza for his students during our meeting with a new faculty candidate. He told me that he ordered vegetarian and turkey pizza in addition to the common pepperoni pizza that Americans love. Although he knows me for couple of months only and without asking me he figured out that I don’t eat pork.

On another occasion, while with some graduate students at a restaurant an Asian student who I have worked with for six years acted surprised that I don’t drink alcohol, mind you we have been out many times and we discussed this matter many, many times.

I don’t assume people to know that because I am a Muslim I don’t eat pork and don’t drink alcohol. I actually like it when people ask me about my religion or culture. It tells me that they want to know something about my culture, religion or my background. But I find it strange that some people don’t put effort to learn about other people’s common culture habits no matter how many times they were exposed to that particular culture.

Some people, especially those who have travelled a lot, have a high Cultural Intelligence. From the above two examples you can easily figure out who has a high cultural intelligence and who doesn’t. Cultural intelligence is a learning process and hence we are not assumed to have a high cultural intelligence. But ignoring to advance our cultural intelligence rate is called Cultural ignorance or Cultural Intolerance depending on the reason for not caring to learn about other cultures.

Cultural differences between different nationalities or races are so extreme it can range from minor unharmful custom like smiling to strangers as Americans do or heterosexual men walking hand in hand like Arabs do to braking the law or even putting oneself in danger like I did.

In my first year in the U.S., I once was shopping at Walmart (mega shopping center) very late at night when I noticed a group of teenagers, three boys and one girl, whispering and trying to approach me as if they want to talk to me. I stopped just to confirm my hunch. Three of them stepped away a little bit and one [brave] boy came closer to me with a $20 bill in his hand. He said “Sir, can you please buy us beer?” I of course replied “Sorry, I can’t.” I then heard the girl shouting at him “You can’t just ask a stranger.” Although, there is only one reason that made me say “no”, which is because it is against my religion to drink, buy or sell alcohol, I felt it is wrong because those kids were really young, not even 16 or 17. Also, thanks to my addiction to American sitcoms I know a lot about American culture even before I came to the U.S. I know that serving or buying alcohol to minors is illegal (21 is the legal drinking age in the U.S.).

Next, I am going to share a story that was the stupidest thing I have done because I acted out of kindness. My cultural intelligence at that time was definitely ZERO.

to be continued…


7 thoughts on “Do you know how to treat a Muslim to Pizza?

  1. Salam

    Perhaps if you may excuse me, could the asian have seen a muslim colleague drinking beer before, I don’t know. So they were confused? E.g: when I, asian person, saw Flo Rida’s video clip “The Wild One” with all that champagne, promoting Dubai. I mean, (◠-◠) ?. So I’m sorry if an asian get a wrong expectation or anything. Of course, yes muslims don’t drink or eat pork. I hope you’ll meet an asian who understands that very well, one day. Peace out. v(◠-◠) v

    BTW your American friend seems cool. I also love that in Americans. Their movies seem to portray asians as the smart, kung fu fighting person. Plus Mark Zuckerberg is dating an asian doctor. Awesome! Yeah, coz the asian maid servant stereotype isn’t going well with me.

    Anyway, have a nice day.

    1. Salam Rayyah… Thanks for your comment and thoughts.
      My blog is about culture so I always mention the religion, nationality or race of people I talk about. And I mean no disrespect for anyone when I do that. It is a way for the reader to learn more about different cultures.
      Now, you are very right when you mentioned that my Asian friend could have seen other Muslims who drink. But as I mentioned I worked with this person for six years and we have been out many times and every time he knows that I don’t order alcohol. He means no disrespect to me but he is just someone who is not very much into learning about other cultures.
      I lived in Penang, Malaysia for three years and I had many Malay, Indian and Chinese friends. I still in contact with few of them via Facebook although I left 12 years ago.
      If there is any thing about Asians when it comes to Americans they always consider them very smart.

  2. Actually, in many formal and informal gatherings in the USA more than one kind of pizza is always ordered because there are so many vegetarians nowadays that to order pepperoni only would be a major faux pas and has nothing to do with religious beliefs. I hope it was Shakespeare’s pizza.

    1. Yes, you are right vegetarian pizza is always ordered as well. But my research group is a small one and they all non-vegetarian. I am the new member to the group.
      Yes, it was Shakespeare’s pizza of course 🙂

  3. That *is* odd that your friend acted surprised that you don’t drink alcohol especially since you’ve discussed this in the past. Bad memory?? Most of my friends don’t drink alcohol so that’s not been too much of an issue for me, and even if it were, I don’t care. I mostly drink water and feel no need to justify my preference for not drinking alcohol. (Did you know some nonMuslim Americans don’t drink? 🙂 And not just Mormons either.) I remember when we were in Syria, some people expressed surprised that we did not drink because every other Westerner they’d met did apparently.

    I enjoyed this post. I find different cultures fascinating, but I am probably quite ignorant of many things I should or should not do around people. Of course if I got a chance to ask, I’d do so! Before we went to Syria, I asked Samer what we should do or not do so we wouldn’t offend people we met. He gave us only one rule: don’t offer to shake hands with people of the opposite sex. While some men did offer to shake my hands (fine with me), no ladies offered to shake Andrew’s hand. But he did get kissed once – by a man, of course! 🙂

    I’m eager to read the continued part of this post!

    1. I think it depends on the people you deal with. Some people who are not religious or are not exposed to Judaism, Christianity or Islam have difficulty understanding the concept of refrain from doing something out of fear of God. For this reason, I have been offered to drink alcohol many times, by the same people, or even asked couple of times to drink one sip or just make a toast.
      Yes, I know that some non-Muslim Americans don’t drink. It is good that you have responsible friends.
      We all are Culture ignorant when it comes to other cultures. There is noting wrong with that. We are not supposed to know everything about other cultures but I think what is wrong is not CARING to learn about other cultures when we are live among them or going to interact with them.
      It was very wise asking someone about Syrian’s culture before traveling there.
      Yesterday, I meet someone in a restaurant who came recently from Jordan. I just hug and don’t like kissing but the other man kissed me on both cheeks and we got looks. It was embarrassing 🙂

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