My name is Birgitta Danielson, and I will soon be 72 years old. Between 1973 and 2013, I lived and worked for ten years in different countries in the Middle East and North Africa. I spent a long time in Morocco, Yemen and Egypt and shorter periods of time in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
My experience in these Muslim majority countries makes that I cannot understand those who hate Muslims. I have, in these countries, always been treated with respect and kindness, always been shown hospitality and generosity.
I’ve laughed a lot, cried sometimes, eaten lots of good food, received lots of gifts, always got help when I needed it. I have walked through the streets of Rabat, Amman, Beirut, Damascus, Cairo and Alexandria often alone and at all hours of the day. During all these years I have never been robbed, beaten, raped or sexually harassed.
One time I fell on the sidewalk in Cairo and got a bleeding wound. People passing by stopped and helped me clean the wound, gave me water to drink and put me in a taxi. Another time in Amman Jordan, I forgot my purse in a taxi at 2am. It had cards, dollars, passports and more. Three hours later I got it back, with nothing missing from it.
My 86-year-old mother got lost in Cairo, three school girls helped her find her way back to the house, busily practicing their English with her. I had a flat tire in the middle of the night outside of Sanaa Yemen, two men changed my tire and only asked that I drive them a few kilometers closer to the city. I have many more stories of kindness and helpfulness.
I have met many wonderful women and also men who worked hard and committed to improving women’s rights in the Arab world. Muslims are not a monolithic group, they have differences. Among them there are seculars, moderate believers, those who use religion as tradition and of course there are fanatics. But the fanatics are not that many. Muslims are about 1.6 billion, or approximately 23 percent of the world population. Of these, a very small portion are fanatics.
But the more we hate the Muslims in general, the greater the gap between us. All of you who hate, if you can not travel to a Muslim country to learn about its people, can you at least go visit the nearest mosque or Islamic association? They are all over the place and they will be happy to receive you.
Talk, ask, listen, drink coffee. Open your minds if you cannot open your hearts. You do not have to love Islam but you’ll feel a lot better if you stop the hate.
Source: Translated from http://www.aftonbladet.se/a/lo09y