Being a Muslim in Arkansas makes for a life that is very difficult to describe. My life is a surprising mix of exposure to many different cultures.
First, I live in the Bible Belt. The Bible Belt is large swath of the United States located in the South that is home to many many Christians chiefly of the Protestant variety and Baptist persuasion.
|Here courtesy of Wikipedia, you see the Bible Belt with my home-state just about right smack-dab in the middle of it.|
Being a member of the Bible Belt means that Arkansas tends to have a generally socially and religiously conservative population. For instance, I grew up in a dry county. This means that my county had voted to make the sale of alcohol illegal. The consumption of alcohol was not illegal, but you couldn't sell the stuff within our county. Another example; one of my ancestors was famous for getting kicked out of a Methodist congregation for dancing in the church.
Being in the Bible Belt also means raising your boys to be southern gentlemen. Sadly this principle is not quite as important as it once was, but is probably still more prevalent than in other parts of the country. For instance, when I converted to Islam and started wearing hijab, many men look at their shoes as I walked by in the store, held the door for me, and called me "ma'am." That is because it was easy to recognize me as a "lady" and that is how good southern boys learned to treat ladies.
Now, I am quite obviously Muslim on sight, and this has been known to cause some uncertain feelings for the good ol' boys, but alhamdulillah it hasn't caused me any serious trouble.
Second, I live in a Muslim community. This is like a second layer. Its a little bit like being in a no-so-secret club. We have our own greet and handshake and everything :-P
Living in a Muslim community means that I am introduced to many different cultures and languages and ideas and histories... It is one of the things I love most about Islam. Many people would be very very surprised to find so much diversity in Arkansas of all places. (I should be clear that Arkansas has a reputation for being a bit rural and backwards, although it really isn't that bad. Mississippi is much worse :-P)
Ok so that is kind of a brief introduction inshaAllah... I want to write some more about the culture I grew up in and the culture that I currently live in because I think it is fascinating. An anthropologists dream...