Culturally Speaking:

Promoting Cross-Cultural Awareness in a Post-9/11 World

Recent Events and Photos

Wisconsin Sikh Tragedy Highlights Ignorance and Hatred

Ignorance, fear and hatred have again reeled their ugly heads. This time it was in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, a Milwaukee suburb, with the calculating murder of six Sikh individuals. It is never easy to hear or read about these senseless acts of violence regardless of whom they are directed toward.

News accounts now emerging have reported that the Sikh attack was "almost certainly an example of someone mistaking Sikhs for Muslims". Anyone who has any knowledge of Arab Muslims knows that Muslim men do not wear turbans, and it is baffling as to how someone would "mistake" Sikhs for Muslims.

Regardless, this all points back to a root cause: Ignorance. Ignorance about other religions, ignorance about other cultures, damaging stereotypes and almost always untrue and/or misleading generalizations. For a country once proud to be a melting pot of immigrant cultures and the wealth of skills and talents they brought - and bring - to our country, we as a society have certainly taken giant steps backward.

How many more incidences of violence and hatred must occur in our country and elsewhere before we address these issues? Think of what our children are learning from these acts. Why can't we listen and learn, open our minds and hearts, dispel the ignorance and do our part to make our global society a better place in which to live?

Once the ignorance of stereotypes and generalizations are dispelled about minority cultures and religions, only then can we begin to promote understanding, awareness and dialogue. That's how we tackle fear and ignorance. A little understanding and knowledge rather than quick judgment of other cultures and religions goes a long way.

University of Minnesota - Duluth Multicultural Diversity Summit - February 17, 2011

Photo at top: A cross-section of some of the American teachers in attendance. Photo above: L-R: Maryam al Sheroogi, Dr. Cynthia Gessling and Mary Coons

On November 4, 2010, Mary Coons spoke to American educators of Modern Knowledge School at Ric’s Kountry Kitchen in Juffair, Kingdom of Bahrain. Her multimedia presentation, entitled “Demystifying Arab Muslim Culture”, focused on the Top 11 Generalizations Americans have about Arab Muslims, based on her award-winning book Culturally Speaking: Promoting Cross-Cultural Awareness in a Post-9/11 World. Accompanying Ms. Coons was Bahraini Maryam al Sheroogi who answered questions and talked about specific cultural aspects unique to Bahrain’s culture. The event was organized by Dr. Cynthia Gessling, Modern Knowledge School’s Curriculum Director.

The audience of American teachers was a mix of new teachers in Bahrain and those who have taught in Bahraini schools for a number of years.


Mary addressed the Maple Grove Critical Thinking Group on Saturday, April 10, 2010 in Maple Grove, Minnesota and discussed demystifying Arab culture.


Alayam Newspaper, an Arabic daily in Bahrain, ran a feature article in its March 13th edition about Mary's book Culturally Speaking. To read the Arabic article, click on Alayam article.


Bahrain Radio interviewed Mary on March 5, 2010 about her book. The taped interview will be broadcast at a later date. Go to and search for "Radio Bahrain Interview" to see and listen to the raw footage.

On Sunday, November 22, 2009, Mary and Maryam al Sheroogi, in Minnesota on a  business visa from the Kingdom of Bahrain, spoke to adults at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Hanover, Minnesota about Arab culture and how the culture affects the religion. Those who attended had many questions about Islam and the culture, and acknowledged they had learned more than they ever imagined; helping to dispel stereotypes and ignorance.

Maryam al Sheroogi accompanied Mary on a number of college presentation tours. On Tuesday, Nov. 17 they presented to two classes at Anoka Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb. The more than 200 students between the two classes were fascinated with what they heard and eagerly asked Maryam questions about her country, religion and culture.

Above, the audience participates in an interactive exercise breaking into groups. Below, Maryam answers questions posed to her. To read a testimonial, click here.

Thursday, November 18 found Mary and Maryam in Duluth, Minnesota at the University of Minnesota. As part of International Education Awareness Week, the Psychology department hosted an interactive workshop that focused on demystifying and exploring Arab Muslim culture as practiced in the Kingdom of Bahrain. Ms. Coons and Ms. Al Sheroogi then presented to another three classes over two days speaking to more than 600 students/faculty/community during their two-day speaking tour.

Brenda Butterfield, Psychology instructor, above left and Ms. Coons and Ms. Al Sheroogi addressing students. at one of the lectures. Below, students at two of the sessions.


Mary and Maryam pose at one of the display tables. Below, Maryam speaks and is welcomed to Minnesota. She and Coons have appeared via Skype four times this semester in Ms. Butterfield's Developmental Psychology class as well as Marriage and Families Worldwide with two of those sessions originating from Bahrain.


 Below: L-R, Brenda Butterfield, and Mary Coons and Maryam al Sheroogi at podium.

On October 21, 2009, Mary addressed American Studies Center students at the University of Bahrain speaking about common misconceptions that many Arabs have of Americans, based upon her book.

Below: The Navy Exchange staff who hosted Mary's book signing on October 15-17, 2009 at the Naval Support Activity base.

OCTOBER 15-17, 2009
The Fifth Fleet, Central Command base facility in the Kingdom of Bahrain was the venue for a 3-day book signing, base radio station interview, and cultural orientation program. Mary presented to an audience of more than 100 military personnel and new dependents on Oct. 15. Her Power Point program "Demystifying Arab Muslim Culture" featuring her book's Top 11 American Generalizations about Arab Muslims helped explain the interplay between Islam and Arab culture. Bahraini Maryam al Sheroogi answered the many questions the audience had for her. The program was hosted by DeWitt Little, Bonnie Linscott, and staff for the New Relocation Welcome Orientation.


"This was good. The speaker gave more cultural information than we get in Indoc."

"The Arab woman answered questions I was too shy to ask."

"Her presentation was a good non-biased view of our cultural interaction."

"I found the presentation to be a more personal, people to people perspective rather than a political view, which pleased me."

"She did great... obviously very knowledgeable and well spoken."

AUGUST 27, 2009
Mary presented her Power Point presentation of the Top 11 American Generalizations of Arabs to the  combined Sociology classes of Rasmussen College in Eagan, MN. Maryam al Sheroogi participated via Skype from Bahrain by answering students' questions and elaborating on topics.

JUNE 16, 2009
Mary presented via Skype from Bahrain a session to the University of Minnesota-Duluth's Marriage & Families Worldwide summer school class on Tuesday, June 16 where she talked about Arab culture and marriage selection patterns. Joining her was Bahraini Maryam al Sheroogi who answered students' questions. Mary was in Bahrain for the launch of the Kingdom's new monthly business magazine The Bahrain Telegraph. She is the international editor for the publication.

On MAY 13, 2009, Culturally Speaking was named one of two silver runner-up finalists in the 2008 19th Annual Midwest Book Awards for literary excellence, sponsored by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association in the U.S.

University of Minnesota - Duluth Book Tour
Mary conducted a book speaking tour March 29-31, 2009 at the University of Minnesota -Duluth (UMD) campus as part of  the college's campus-wide diversity workshop program. Mary discussed "demystifying Arab culture" in two lectures and talked about Arab marriage practices in another two lectures based upon her book. Bahraini Maryam al Sheroogi also participated (from Bahrain) during the lectures to offer her insights to the American college students and to answer questions the students had for her. It was a huge success and a powerful way to educate Americans firsthand about the complex Arab culture and its interplay with Islam. As you can see by the attendance and audience "captivity", there is a great deal of interest in learning more about the Arab culture and religion. This is what Culturally Speaking: Promoting Cross Cultural Awareness in a Post-9/11 World's message and intent is all about.

Below, approximately 150 students and community members attended the evening lecture sponsored by and as part of the Alworth Institute International 2009 Lecture Series. The free lecture was co-sponsored by the UMD Psychology Department.

Click here to read the Royal D. Alworth, Jr. Institute for International Studies (University of Minnesota-Duluth) testimonial.


Maryam Sheroogi via Skype answering questions from the audience.




Book Awards