Unification News For April 1996


Our Multicultural Society

by Abdel Mesbah

Two years ago, the desire and the necessity came to me, through deep inspiration, to start an ethnic association for people originating from the Middle East Region who are residing in the New York area.

Geographically, the limitation of the Middle East Region seems to be hard to achieve. However, many similarities of the Middle Eastern cultures can be found in most of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea, in the North, Northeast and Northwest of Africa, and in the Gulf and Arabian Sea regions.

Webster's dictionary defines culture as "the sum total of ways of living built up by a group of human beings and transmitted from one generation to another." This definition shows us how broad is the meaning and the content of the word "culture." By "ways of living" we can easily think about almost everything that is part of our daily life--the way we think, feel and express our feelings; the way we grow, prepare and eat our food; the way we design, build, decorate, furnish and live in our homes; the way we sew and wear our clothes; the way we believe and practice our religion; the way we get married, bring our offspring into this world and educate them; the way we deal with our relatives and our neighbors; the way we practice our moral, religious and political authority; and even the way we greet each other. All of the above things are part of our culture.

I still remember the culture shock I first had when I went to Europe to visit my friend. When he met me at the airport, naturally I wanted to hug and embrace him, for that was and still is the way men greet each other in my beloved native country. But I felt that my friend was uncomfortable and embarrassed by the fact that I acted that way. Later on, he explained to me that in his country it is untimely that a man embrace another man in public. So, what was good and acceptable from the viewpoint of my culture, was bad and inappropriate from my friend's.

This example shows us that sometimes the difference of appreciation of even small things from the cultural viewpoint can create a misunderstanding and even poison relationships among people. Unfortunately, in our world today, one cannot find a culture which can be described as a universal, absolute and harmonious one. The criteria we use in appreciating the same behavior may drastically vary from one sphere of culture to another. Hence, we need to understand, respect and tolerate the culture of others in order to live with them in harmony and peace.

We here in New York City are fortunate to live in such a multicultural society representing the encapsulation of the whole world. Even though sometimes it is not easy to live in harmony with others, we still can enjoy the richness and diversity of the various cultures found throughout the city. For example, we can think about the variety of foods, music, literature, and so forth, that one can easily find throughout our beloved city. What we need is to understand, respect and tolerate the culture of other ethnic groups and find out ways in which we can harmonize their culture and ours.

For this reason, Reverend Joong Hyun Pak has asked us to start A.R.M.E.C. (Association for the Research of Middle Eastern Cultures), to be a bridge between Middle Eastern and American cultures. Our motto is "We appreciate the importance of mutual respect, understanding and tolerance as the foundation for a healthy and harmonious multicultural society."

If you share our conviction as set forth above, then please join us, that we may work together in building such an ideal society.

We invite you to celebrate with us the Islamic New Year 1417, on May 31, 1996, at the A.R.M.E.C., 4 West 43rd Street, New York, New York, from 6:00 to 9:00pm. This will be an elegant, cultural evening of dining on Moroccan cuisine, listening to live Moroccan music, fellowship and sharing of Islamic culture.

For ticket information, or other information, please call Abdel at 212-997-0050 ext. 288 or Hakan at 914-941-9039 (evenings).

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