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Stephanie Sieminski 1

Cultural Immersion

Stephanie Sieminski

Wilmington University

Culture Immersion Paper


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Cultural Immersion
Populations served by my agency include individuals of all cultures with intellectual

disabilities.

A population group that I have no (or limited) contact and/or experience with is the

Islamic Culture. I picked this population because, although my organization serves all

individuals with intellectual disabilities, the organization is based in the Lutheran faith. I chose to

study the Islamic Culture because I have an interest in getting to know about the vast population

of Muslims aside from what is portrayed in the media. Although I have always been raised to

have an open mind about all individuals, it is difficult to not have preconceived ideas of this

culture because of the negative portrayal. I am also very unfamiliar with the culture as a whole

and would like to deepen my understanding and become more knowledgeable. The first step in

becoming more knowledgeable was understanding the definition of Islam and Muslim.

Islam is the faith and Muslims follow the faith.

History about the Islam Culture

Islam was developed in the Middle East in the 7th century C.E, (Library, 2017). Islam,

which literally means surrender or submission was founded on the teaching of the Prophet

Muhammad as an expression of surrender to the will of Allah, the creator and sustainer of the

world, (Library, 2017). The Quran is a sacred text of Islam. The Quran contains the teaching

Allah revealed to the Prophet. The belief is that Allah is the one and only true God. Within the

Islamic religion there are multiple branches. Despite there being different branches, there are

unifying characteristics. One of these characteristics is the Five Pillars. These Five Pillars are

the fundamental practice of Islam which include a ritual profession of faith, ritual prayer, the

zakat (charity), fasting, and the hajj (a pilgrimage to Mecca) (Library, 2017). Many Muslims are

committed to praying to Allah five times a day.


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Islam, like Christianity, Judaism and other world religions, varies in its interpretations,

rituals, and practices, (Muslim Histories & Cultures, 2009). Over time and as the religion

spread, the religion itself diversified. The diversity was the result of the core set of religious

beliefs interacting in complex ways with the many different contexts in which Muslims lived,

(Muslim Histories & Cultures, 2009).

Recognizing this reality, Abdol Karim Soroush, a contemporary Iranian intellectual, states,

There is no such thing as a pure Islam or an a-historical Islam that is outside the
process of historical development. The actual lived experience of Islam has always been
culturally and historically specific, and bound by the immediate circumstances of its
location in time and space. If we were to take a snapshot of Islam as it is lived today, it
would reveal a diversity of lived experiences which are all different, yet existing
simultaneously. (As quoted in Farish Noor, New Voices of Islam, 2002, 15-16).
Keeping this historical reality in mind, it is evident that the story of Islam involves peoples of

many different races, ethnicities and cultures, many literatures and languages, with many

histories, and a myriad of interpretations some of which may in conflict with each other (Muslim

Histories & Cultures, 2009).

Islam in America
The first clearly documented Muslim in America was in the 17th century with the arrival

of slaves from Africa (American Muslims in the United States, 2017). It is estimated that

anywhere from a quarter to a third of the enslaved Africans were Muslims (American Muslims in

the United States, 2017). The next time a large number of Muslims immigrated was around the

1920s. During this time, Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb, who was an early American

convert to Islam, established a mosque and mission in New York City in 1893 (American

Muslims in the United States, 2017). The first actual mosque was built in Ross, North Dakota in

1929.

There was a re-emergence of African-American Muslims stemming from World War I

and II and today they account for almost a third of the American Muslim population. After this,
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in 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act was passed and a large number of Muslims began

migrating to America that had diverse backgrounds (American Muslims in the United States,

2017).

In todays society, American has one of the most diverse Muslim populations.

Approximately one third is African American, one third is South Asian, one quarter is of Arab

descent, and the rest are from all over the world (American Muslims in the United States, 2017).

America is home to between 3-6 million Muslims. One half of this population was born in the

United States (American Muslims in the United States, 2017).

Immersion Experiences

Indirect Experience(s)

For my indirect experience with the Islamic Culture, I chose to watch two different films.

Both films were documentaries: one focused on a radical of the culture while the other unfolds

the results of a survey conducted on the Muslim population.

-Film Viewed: (T) E R R O R

-Director, Company, Year: Lyric R. Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe; Stories Seldom Seen,

Charlotte Street Films; 2015

-Major Themes: This film shows the radical view of Muslims within the US. It gives

insight on a counterterrorism informant who is given the job of befriending a suspected jihadist

(About, 2017). The informant gets in contact with filmmakers to document this assignment

without the FBI knowing. This video explores just how far we are going to prevent terror and

exactly what liberties we are sacrificing to get there, (About, 2017).

-Film Viewed: Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think

-Director, Company, Year: Robert H. Gardner; Unity Productions Foundation; 2009


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-Major Themes/Summary: Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think gives

a summary of the worlds first major opinion poll put together by the Gallup organization (Plot

summary, 2009). Muslims are wide spread and vary based on their location. This survey asked

Muslims from all over, including the US, to give their thoughts on issues like Gender Equality,

Terrorism, and Democracy (Plot summary, 2009). This film provided valuable insight of the

opinions of about 90% of the global Muslim population. The idea was that with this poll the

results could be analyzed and presented to allow people all over to understand the politics and

culture more in-depth from primary sources rather than acting on what the news and people

share. The results shared were somewhat eye-opening. One of the questions on the poll was

Do you believe the Western World respects the Muslim World? Majority of the Muslims in

America agreed that the Western World does not respect the Muslim World (54%). This was

explained due to the fact that Muslims are viewed through the lens of Bin Laden. The media in

the US focuses on a tiny fringe minority of Muslims which gives the image of Muslims being

violent people

Another question was How much do Americans know about Muslims. The shocking

results of this poll concluded that 54% and they didnt know much or nothing. However, 5 years

later, this percent went to 57% saying they didnt know much or nothing.

Overall, this film presented a summary of Muslims opinion on a variety of topics and

provided an explanation for why the results were the way they were.

Direct Experience: Interview


For my direct immersion experience, I chose to do a personal interview. This interview

was with a mother of a previous student of mine who is a Middle Eastern Muslim. When I asked

Reem (mother) if she would be willing to conduct this interview with me, she jumped at the

chance to share information about her culture. When I had Reems daughter in kindergarten, I
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learned a little bit through her about her culture but nothing in depth. The Islamic Culture is

interesting to me and I felt that getting a first-hand experience from an interview will allow me to

see the culture in practice.

-Date of Interview: March 15, 2017

-Name of Interviewee: Reem

-Major Themes: This interview was conducted with a mother of a previous student. She

answered about 25 questions relating to the Islamic Culture, specifically about being a Middle

Eastern Muslim and how it is specifically adapted to her family. The questions ranged from

broad (what does culture mean to you) to specifics of religion and gender roles. Conducting this

interview provided me with a chance to gain valuable insight on understanding the Islamic

Culture.

Reem defined culture as specific traditions of a person from a certain

community/city/country that does not contradict with religion. She made a point to say that

culture can be changed by people and should be differentiated from our religion because Islam is

a way of life (deals with all aspects of life) and is universal no matter the time and place. This

relates to the research found in the history of Islam.

Family is defined as the cornerstone of life and if the family bond is strong, the

community is strong and in turn the nation is strong. Within the family, Reem stated that the

mother holds the highest status and deserves the utmost respect in a Muslim household. Reem

stated that there is an emphasis on respecting and being kind to both parents but the mother is

held in higher regards because of the hardships endured during pregnancy, birth, raising children

and holding the family together. She included the quote below:
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A man came to the Prophet and said, O Messenger of God! Who among the people is

the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said,

Then who?' The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, Then who?' The

Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, Then who?' The Prophet said: Then your

father.

Success was the next topic which Reem stated that Success is when you attain the

pleasure of your Creator because then your heart is full and at ease. Success is measured when

passing the exam of this Life and entering the Paradis in the Afterlife. When looking at family,

Reem said she feels that her parents are very successful. She stated that her parents gave up

everything in the US and took her 4 sisters and 1 brother back to their country of Palestine where

they taught them all religion and important cultural values.

The next question focused on important rituals. Reem stated that the most important meal is

dinner during the week because it finishes out the day but on the weekend it is breakfast because

they are able to enjoy time together and not be rushed. She stated that majority of their meals are

Palestinian meals. The recipes are passed down to keep traditions and cultures alive. Maklooba

and hummus are two main dishes made. Within their religion they are forbidden to eat any food

with pork and drink alcoholic beverages. When eating they say bisminlah which means in the

name of Allah (God) before we begin eating. We eat and drink sitting, use our right hand to eat,

try not to over eat, and end our meal by saying alhamdulilah which means praise be to Allah

for providing us with this mean. There are different supplications we can end with but this is the

shortest.

Reem relayed that religion is extremely important within her family and that it is more

than just devoting time to prayers. She stated that it is a way of life and each individuals
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relationship with God directly reflects their relationship with people. Islam teaches how to deal

with daily struggles such as debt, rights to spouses, parents, neighbors, children, animals, etc. It

forbids cheating in every manner possible, fornicating, drinking alcohol, being unjust, taking

drugs and more. Religion is a guide for every personal, social, financial and spiritual issue that

presents itself. She teaches her children the importance of religion is an age appropriate way and

intends to grow it as they age. She stated that instilling the love of God in them and teaching

them to remember that he is watching them at all times will weigh on their decision-making.

Reem mentioned that there are roles of men and women in her family but that they are

not religiously dictated. Her husband works outside of the home to provide for the family and

encourages her to work on her degree once their youngest goes to school. Her husband also

helps with the children when he is home. She did mention that their cultural background does

place more of the meal prepping and children rearing responsibility on the woman and that the

male is responsible for the finances. If the female earns money, she earns it solely for herself.

There are only two holidays within the culture: Eid Al Fitr is the holiday to celebrate the

break of fast after the month of Ramadan and Eid Al Adha is the holiday celebrated during Hajj

(Pilgrimage in Mekkah, Saudi Arabia) which has to do with the Prophet Ibrahim.

Arabic is the native tongue of Reems parents but her second language. She is teaching

her children Arabic so that they can understand the Quran in its original text since the translation

does take from the depth of the meaning and for them to be able to communicate with people

back home.

Reem listed a few commonly held misconceptions about her culture. The most common

misconception is all Arabs and Muslims are terrorist. There are extremists in every religion and it

is unfortunate the media allowed a small group of people to misrepresent 1.6 billion Muslims
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worldwide. These terrorist have no place in Islam and are using their rage and anger in the name

of our religion. They misinterpret verses in the Quran that are referring to official times of war.

No text in our religion condones killing of innocent non-Muslims. Our Prophet preached peace

and blessing be upon him never to harm any of his Jewish or Christian neighbors. Another

common misconception is that women are mistreated and oppressed in Islam, that they are being

forced to wear the hijab and have no rights or say in society. Reem stated that this is entirely

false and that Islam gave the woman rights she never had before and raised her status in society.

Along with these misconceptions, Reem said she has experienced racism, especially in

airports and that she has been racial profiled because she wears the hijab. Reem feels that racism

will always be present to some extent but with fair media coverage, education and people being

more open-minded, it can improve. She also stated that many families from overseas are

integrating in the western culture and arent holding onto many traditions. She doesnt feel that

shes been excluded or excluding others.

Lastly, Reem stated that she loves the freedom in the US and not having checkpoints or

random curfews but dislikes having family members lived scattered throughout the US and for

the work day being long, leaving little time to spend with family. This is because in Palestine,

everyone eats dinner together and is done work at 4pm while her husband has scattered hours

and sometimes works until 9pm.

Summary and Synthesis


The Islamic Culture, I have learned, varies just like any other culture. While they may

celebrate different holidays, have different guidelines and practices, the morals and values

toward other individuals is very similar to other cultures. I feel that I am a very open-minded

individual, but I know I have previously had somewhat of a bias against the Islamic Culture. I

strongly believe that this is from the way in which the Islamic Community is projected through
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mainstream media, like discussed in the film Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really

Think. In this film, it mentions that Muslims are viewed through the lens of Bin Laden which is

an example of an extremist. The Muslims that are depicted in the mainstream media account for

such a small percentage of Muslims worldwide. It is unfortunate that the media only sheds light

on the extremist. The survey conducted in Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really

Think, was extremely eye opening for me. I feel strongly that the view of Muslims has been

skewed because of that small percentage that gets the recognition it is seeking and the majority

of Muslims are left to defend themselves for no reason. In Inside Islam: What a Billion

Muslims Really Think, they mention that stereotyping ALL Muslims because of the extremist

population is like saying all Christians are members of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). However,

society is able to separate the KKK members from all other Christians.

Another fact that I learned was the appropriate way to address this cultural group. Islam,

as defined by Kumar Manisha (2014), is the meaning comes from the Arabic verbal noun s-l-m.

The etymology of s-l-m is to submit, accept, or surrender. From this come Islams conventional

definition of surrender to God. Manisha (2014), defines Muslim as having roots in the s-l-m

verb and refers to a person who engages in the act of submission, acceptance or surrender;

therefore, a Muslim is a person who submits to the will of God, or a follower of Islam. Islam is

used when talking about the religion or community beliefs as a whole, while Muslim is used in

conversation to distinguish a person (difference between). I was previously referring to this

population as the Muslim Culture. Through the films and more specifically my interview, I

learned the difference.

I was also very unaware of what a Muslim was, how many Muslims are in the world and

where they were located. I didnt realize that Muslims can be anyone from any race, just like
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any other culture. Previously when I thought of a Muslim I thought of a Middle-Eastern

individual that looks like an extremist. However, just like Christians, Muslims can come in any

shape and form. I also learned that even though the Islamic Culture differs depending on where

youre from, the foundations of the Islamic Culture are the same.

Another area that shocked me was to learn that women are NOT mistreated and

oppressed in Islam and that they are NOT being forced to wear the hijab and have no rights or

say in society. This was cleared up by my interview and the documentary about Muslims. I was

surprised to learn that women are the most important and valued person within the family. In the

U.S. it is a choice for women to wear the hijab. At first, I didnt understand why, but the

religious importance is why. Women, just like in the U.S. do have a say within the Islamic

Community. While this may not be true for small groups of Muslims, for majority of them it is.

Studying this population definitely allowed me to shed some light on the larger picture of

the Islamic Community and provide me with more knowledge and understanding. This project

allowed me to see that I did previously have somewhat of a bias toward this population but now

have a more complete understanding. I think the American culture as a whole could do a better

job making themselves culturally aware and knowledgeable. This can be done by shifting the

negative attention and providing more positive images of the culture.

Application of Cultural Knowledge


Assessing the Field Work Agency

-Name of Field Placement Agency: Mosaic in Delaware

-Address of Agency: 261 Chapman Rd. Ste. 201 Newark, DE 19702

-Agencys Community (Map)

-The map provided shows the primary location of Mosaics office. The office is situated

in Newark, DE. Within Mosaic, there are 17 different group homes. These group homes are
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situated all throughout the New Castle County, typically within neighborhoods. This provides a

close-knit community for the individuals that Mosaic serves. All homes are within a short

distance of general stores/banks/grocery store etc. The main hospital, Christiana Hospital is

centrally located in reference to majority of the homes.

Access
Majority of the clients that Mosaic serves live within the group home which is staff by

Mosaic employees. In order to get to events, individuals use the transportation provided by

Mosaic which primarily consists of vans to transport all individuals. If a member of Islamic

Community were to be employed within Mosaic, they would be required to find their own

transportation, just as the rest of the employees. If an individual of the Islamic Community was

a client of Mosaic, they would have the same services as other which includes having provided

transportation.

Receptivity
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When I first began at Mosaic, I did exactly what was described under the receptivity

section of the work book. I sat down, surveyed the room, looked at the pamphlets and was

listening to gather the vibes of the organization. Immediately, I noticed that the lobby area is

inviting. There are comfortable chairs with pamphlets available. There is also a prayer request

box since the organization is based in the Lutheran faith. There is a receptionist but if the

receptionist is not present, there is a bell to ring for service. I had to ring the bell and service

arrived immediately asking what they could help me with. Two times when I went, the

individual that helped me was previously told of my arrival and I was greeted with them asking

my name followed by who I was there to see. This made a large impression on me.

Throughout my time at Mosaic, I have noticed that when individuals come through the

door, any Mosaic workers that are present usually greet them by name and a friendly

conversation. I know this makes the clients of Mosaic feel welcomed and important.

If I were a member of the Islamic Community, I would feel welcomed and comfortable.

Although I wouldnt see myself reflected in the pictures of the brochures, I know that the

services being provided would be appropriate to my (or my childs needs). This organization

was built on the Lutheran faith, however, Mosaic serves any individual with intellectual

disabilities. The clients and staff are welcoming to all clients/workers and focus on providing the

appropriate services based on the individuals needs, not culture.

Administration and Staff Training


From my personal experience with my agency, I am unaware of any specific trainings in

cultural sensitivity for my specific population. Mosaic does require all new hires to attend a

Discover the Possibilities event which is a culture sensitivity training focused on the population

of individuals with intellectual disabilities. This event allows individuals to understand who

individuals with intellectual disabilities are, how they manage their lives and what Mosaic does
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for them. This is an extremely beneficial training because it sheds some light on the main

population of Mosaic.

My agency does employ members of its population as staff. One client is the community

relations assistant. If there is an appropriate fit, Mosaic provides the clients with the enriching

opportunity to hold a job. Mosaic does help advocate for clients to get jobs elsewhere also.

Mosaic does not discriminate so if a Muslim wanted to job and had the qualifications, they have

the ability to be hired.

Funding
I am unaware if my agencys funding supports training and hiring practices that enhance

culturally sensitive services to my population. I do know that they provide training to all

individuals hired and provide training on being culturally sensitive to the clients who are

individual with intellectual disabilities, such as people first language. I do believe allocating

funds to train individuals on being culturally sensitive is crucial to leading a successful

organization. Receiving training to develop cultural competence is a life skill that is needing to

be continuously refined.

Staff Sensitivity
I firmly believe that the staff at Mosaic is sensitive and aware of special client needs, is

nonjudgmental, and respectful to ALL populations. The individuals in this field of service are

here for one specific reason: to serve others. They serve others no matter the color, shape, size,

etc. All clients receive adequate and equal care. Although I am unaware if there are currently

any Muslim clients within my organization, I have no doubts that they would receive the utmost

care while in the hands of Mosaic. I know this from observations of the clients and employees at

the meetings Ive been at. The employees ensure that the clients are taken care of before
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themselves. I feel that the staff and professions are sensitive in all levels of formality/informality

when they address clients. All staff address the current clients in a culturally appropriate way.

Agency Programs and Services

Effort
I do not believe there has been a specific effort made to reach out to my populations

community to secure input into program design, utilization, and administration. There very well

could be Muslim members working within my agency that help formulate and design programs;

however, it is not explicitly shown. I believe that all the members of Mosaics community put

the client first and design the programs around them. By designing programs around the general

needs of the client, everyone is able to be served. It is most important that the clients receive

appropriate services and although it might not be a member of the same religion, the staff works

hard to ensure everyone is taken care of.

Quality
The clients of Mosaic provide feedback after meetings to let us know what they liked and

what they didnt like. Different programs are evaluated over time to see that they are impacting

the client population as a whole and they are always culturally appropriate. Like mentioned

above, it is not directly obvious as to whether or not members of the Islamic population are

involved with assessing the quality of service; however, the services being provided are directly

impacting individuals with intellectual disabilities which is the mission of Mosaic. Meeting the

needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities is the primary focus of Mosaic. After meeting

the primary needs of the group as a whole, then individuals work on their goals. Whether or not

an individual meets their goal will signal whether or not the program is of quality. If the goal is

not met, there is a disconnect between the goal and what is needed to ensure its quality.

Effectiveness
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I am unsure of the numbers of clients from my population that are service by my agency.

However, I am sure that, as a whole, all of the Mosaic clients I have encountered feel that the

quality and quantity of the programs and services are adequately to their needs. Mosaic is really

individualized. Therefore, what might work for one might not work for another. Mosaic designs

individualized goals for their clients. These goals help ensure that there arent any unmet needs.

If there is a services that is needed, Mosaic will do its best to ensure that the client has what they

need in order to lead a meaningful life.

Efficiency
I do not believe that my agencys programs coordinate with other services that address

the needs of my population nor reached out to community resources. My agency runs within

itself and has connections with the Lutheran Church. Majority of the clients at Mosaic live

within one of their group homes. I believe that if an individual in my population is receiving

services, Mosaic would reach out to a program specifically for my client if that was one of their

desires. The one amazing aspect of Mosaic is that the clients share what they want to do in order

to have a meaningful life. If their Islamic religion was one of the aspects of leading a

meaningful life, Mosaic would be able to make those connections in order for the client to fulfill

that goal.

NASW Standards for Cultural Competence

Standard Selected for Review:


Statement 17 Human service professionals provide services without discrimination or

preference based on age, ethnicity, culture, race, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation or

socioeconomic status.

Agency:
Although my agency is founded on the Lutheran Faith, they would not deny services to

any individual needing assistance, despite the different religious beliefs. Mosaic, complies with
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applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national

origin, age, disability, or sex (Language Assistance Services, n.d). Mosaic, does not exclude

people or treat them differently because of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex

(Language Assistance Services, n.d).

Program and Services:


There are not specific programs and services for the Islamic population. There are

programs focused on the Lutheran faith, such as Mosaic Sunday and Rejoicing Spirits. Aside

from these two programs, majority of the programs are focused on the clients Mosaic serves

which are any and all individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. All programs should not

discriminate against any individual. Although these two programs are founded within a

Lutheran-based program, all individuals are welcome to participate and engage in their own

way/faith.

Personal Cultural Competencies:


Despite not having the same religious beliefs, this does not make any individual any

different. From this project, I was able to see that I have some connections to the Islamic

Culture, as far as sharing common values. By leaving my personal thoughts out, I will be able to

better serve all clients no matter their background. All individuals should familiarize themselves

with their clients in order to have a better understanding. It is critical that there is no

discrimination toward any individual. It is important to know how to communicate with all

individuals so they are able to understand and provide input.

Final Thoughts
This project gave me the opportunity to gain direct and indirect experience about a

population I was very unfamiliar with. The process allowed me to deepen my understanding of a

population and realize the impact that mainstream media has on my thoughts about a culture.

This process has helped open my eye to realize the need of being culturally sensitive and that all
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organizations should serve all walks of life. While serving all walks of life might not be easy, it

will make organizations more culturally aware and make acceptance equal for all.
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References

About. (2017). Retrieved from http://terrordocumentary.org/about

American Muslims in the United States. (2017). Retrieved from


http://www.tolerance.org/publication/american-muslims-united-states

Language Assistance Services. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.mosaicinfo.org/language-


assistance-services

Library. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/Library/Islam

Muslim Histories & Cultures. (2009). Retrieved from http://sites.la.utexas.edu/mhc/tag/islam/

Plot Summary. (2009). Retrieved from


http://www.imbd.com/title/tt1705112/potsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl