Ignorance is a powerful thing - it can lead otherwise rational people to believe falsehoods like 'all Muslims are terrorists' or 'Islam promotes holy war against the white devil'. "Culturally Speaking: Promoting Cross-Cultural Awareness in a Post-9/11 World" is a guide to better promoting understanding throughout the world, emphasizing that greater understanding between nations is necessary for a true resolution to the War on Terror. So many Americans don't understand the Arab world and will accept anything they hear out of ignorance, which author Mary Coons labels as the true enemy. "Culturally Speaking" is a must read for those who want to combat ignorance with rationality and informed critical thinking."
Reviewer: Helen Dumont
The Midwest Book Review
"I met this author on a plane as she was heading to Bahrain to begin a book tour. I was able to flip through the book and then bought it when I got back home.
This book is the beginning of the quest to understand the differences between cultures. Neither culture is wrong in how they live, work or act - just different. America is full of, and respects, differences in opinions and ways of life in America. This acceptance should be conveyed to other cultures, other countries, and other ways of living.
Mary has created a unique dialogue in her book. She does not provide her own opinions on how the American and Muslim cultures see each other. She interviewed individuals from both countries and found very interesting viewpoints. As you read this book, you begin to understand the power of propaganda and how points of views are created through what the media wants you to know.
A book of this nature is a must-read for individuals in both countries, and the information revealed would be beneficial for people in every country. Before you form an opinion about a different culture, or way of life, make sure that your opinion is based on facts and not on what other entities want you to know."
Posted on Goodreads.com
Bahrain is a flat, arid archipelago of thirty-three islands in the Arabian Gulf east of Saudi Arabia and west of Iran. The entire country is roughly three and a half times the size of Washington, D.C., and is one of the more moderate countries in the Middle East. One may argue that as Bahrain is not a typical Arab or Muslim country, the value of comparing American and Bahraini attitudes is diminished from the perspective of comparing Arab or Muslim attitudes with American ones. While this observation may be true, there is still merit in comparing different attitudes across cultures no matter how these cultures fit within the wider framework.
Coons explores eleven myths Americans have of Bahrainis (or Arabs in general) and eleven myths that Bahrainis have of Americans. Interspersed among these myths are explanations that either report on activities that promote cross-cultural awareness or provide background on Arabs in general (e.g., On Islam, Arab attitudes toward marriage and women, etc.) The chapters are based on interviews with ordinary people in both Bahrain and the United States.
While not all the myths are busted, the text does delve deeper and provides a more complete explanation of the issues discussed. The background sections (those not addressing a specific myth) seem to have been written for the benefit of American readers. One may argue that some of the notions explored vary from scholarly perspectives, but readers need to realize that these notions are not based on scholarship, but on the perceptions of ordinary citizens.
Issues covered cover the gambit from religion (only Islam is covered). Gender relationships, clothing and Arab-American relations are covered from both perspectives. (As expected, 9/11 does have a significant contribution.) American foreign policy in the Middle East and the perception that Arabs are terrorists are also covered. One could argue that this list does not provide "both sides" of an issue or that this list is not extensive. However, for a book like this one, the author has a choice of either covering only the "top" issues (leaving out some perspectives) or narrowing the book's scope to cover all relevant perspectives. Coons has chosen to do the former.
Rating: A five-star look at differences
Anonymous Customer Review from Canada
Rating: ***** 5 stars
I highly recommend this book. There are millions of misconceptions that Americans have of the Muslim world. This book brings light to the fact that most of the misconceptions spring from the few radicals within the Muslim world. As this book says, "overcoming ignorance is the key".