Meet Dani & Emad

The internet is pretty cool. It connects and informs people. The news is constantly updated with the latest happenings in the world. People from around the world constantly update Twitter with all the latest. Instagram and Snapchat update you with personal pictures. You can search for topics with hashtags and read, write and like posts.

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What’s really incredible and unique though, is being able to really interact with someone in another part of the world, in a one on one conversation and be able to get an intimate account of their views. To talk to someone about their religion or their country or their view on a current event without filters or public broadcasting is a truly unique experience that you can only really get if you travel the world.

Chatous is kind of like traveling the world through your phone, at least that’s how I think of it.

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Today I was interested in seeing what people around the world had to say about the tragic terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. After scanning Twitter, I took to Chatous and joined the tag #JeSuisCharlie. What I found was pretty interesting and led me to meet some amazing people with interesting views on terrorism, Islam, and life in general.

When an act of terror occurs and the perpetrators are Islamic extremists, I think all Muslims tend to feel the brunt of the accusation and an entire group of people feel inadvertently blamed for the actions of a few. So I want to talk about my friends, Emad and Dani, whom I met on Chatous.

Dani and I got matched in #JeSuisCharlie. From his bio I learned that he is 25 years old and a Muslim living in Yemen. I asked him how he felt about the Charlie Hebdo terrorists being Muslim. He said “These terrorists are not true Muslims they are just defaming Islam. Islam does not teach this. Its a religion of peace. They are just using the name of Islam. They are not Muslims, I’m sure of it. How can they be? They must be brainwashed. And we Muslims are the ones who are mostly affected by them.”

Yemen is riddled with violence and terrorism so I asked Dani, how he deals with that and if he is scared all the time. He said “We’re just used to it, and if my time ends, I’ll die on my bed. Everything is in Gods hands.” Not fearing death is an important principle of Islam. Then I asked him how he distracts himself from the violence, he said he focuses on his school work, he is studying to be a medical equipment engineer. He said when he’s not studying his second priority is his friends and girlfriend. Sounds pretty normal right? It’s truly remarkable how Dani maintains the livelihood of a “normal” 25 year old man when he is constantly surrounded by imminent terror.

Emad and I have been buds for a little while now. I met him on Chatous when I was looking for someone cool to talk to in New Zealand because I’m traveling there soon. He’s 18, Palestinian and was raised in Kuwait. He attends a Muslim university in Christchurch, New Zealand now. The subject of his religion and beliefs hadn’t been brought up until today. Usually we talk about New Zealand, school, friends and stuff… he even sent me this lovely picture of the landscape which he took himself.
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 (It was expiring, so I snuck a screenshot)
 Today, I asked him how he felt about Islamic radicals and terrorists and if he identifies with them at all. This is what he said: “Idk what to say about these people…I just hate them! Islam is about peace and it was never about killing. The word Islam in Arabic means peace. I think these extreme people were tricked into thinking that way…they make us break from the inside, maybe opponents of Islam have brainwashed them to destroy Islam, because that is what they are doing.” Then I asked him how he feels about people judging him for being Muslim based on the actions of Islamic terrorists. He quoted an Arabic saying “The good behavior belongs to you and the bad behavior belongs to everyone.” I asked him what he meant by this and he said that it’s not fair that he is “blamed for the few.”
The friendships that I cultivated with Emad and Dani were incredibly eye opening. I was able to connect and interact with two people so far away who lead such different lives. Dani and Emad opened my mind and encouraged me to see things differently. They also reminded me that we’re not so different. My life is enriched from having met them.
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