Macomb Group Begins Cultural Exchange

February 16, 2007

Author: Khalil Al-Hajal

Source: The Arab American

A group of Macomb County residents curious about Muslims and Islam met in a Mt. Clemens church on Monday for the first of a series of cultural learning sessions organized by the Interfaith Center for Racial Justice (ICRJ).

The group, about 50 people made up of mostly senior citizens, was separated into two groups representing distinct cultures in an exercise designed to prepare them with open minds for interactions with Muslim leaders in upcoming sessions.

Sociologist Fred Barbret first talked to the group about acculturation and ethnocentrism and the anxiety that can arise when simple cultural norms are broken, like a person facing opposite everyone in an elevator full of people.

Ed Bruley and Julie Matuzak, board members of ICRJ then coordinated the cross-cultural simulation game, dividing the group into "Alphas" and "Betas," sending them to different rooms, and ascribing them "cultural traits" and even a new language for the Betas.

After learning and practicing amongst each other their new cultural qualities and rituals, members from each group visited the other to observe and attempt to interact in the "foreign society," taking all observations back to share with their own clan.

"You learn more about yourself when you travel than you do about the other culture," said Bruley.