From 1998 until 2000, I served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Agouliz, a tiny Berber village tucked away in the Anti-Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The first picture below is a picture of me dressed in traditional Moroccan attire with my friend, Fadma. For me, Fadma’s is the face I remember most when thinking about my time in Morocco. She was my neighbor and my first and closest friend in a village where I was the only American, the only Westerner, the only foreigner. From day one, Fadma made me feel welcome. She opened her heart and her home to me, inviting me to share meals with her and her brother, Brahim, and helping me to improve my Berber and learn more about Islam. Mostly, Fadma was my friend, someone I could talk to, laugh with, and be myself.
Perhaps the biggest lesson I learned while living in Morocco is that human beings are pretty much the same wherever you go, and that despite our differences (which make us unique and interesting!), our shared humanity is what connects us. The United States is a country of immigrants and her shores have beckoned immigrants from all over the world, people seeking a better life, freedom from persecution and fear, and the chance of achieving the American dream. Muslim Americans are part of this story and deserve to be treated with same level of kindness, dignity, and respect that I received while living in Morocco.
In solidarity with other returned Peace Corps volunteers who served in Morocco, I am speaking out against the rise in hate crimes committed against Muslims in the United States and elsewhere in the world and sharing my experience of living in a loving, peaceful Muslim community.
In March, I will be sharing my Peace Corps experience in Morocco with Crocker’s 5th graders.