University of Colorado at Boulder
Perhaps this represents most Americans' knowledge of the Middle East:
"I didn't know anything about the region at all. As far as I knew, the Crusades happened and there was lots of sand in the Middle East, and that was it."
Why are we doing this? Who are these people we're fighting? What is Islam?
His curiosity ultimately led him to major in religious studies at the University of Colorado. And for the last year he's been answering those questions in an up-close-and-personal way. He ventured to Jordan, in the thick of the Middle East, where he studied Arabic and the Shariah (Muslim law), among other subjects.
Moreover, he met real Arabs. And if you're thinking they all treated the 21-year-old American with malice and suspicion, think again.
"The Arabs are by far the most welcoming people ever," he says during a coffee shop interview days after his return from the Mideast. On a visit to Syria, groups of 30 would come up just to shake his hand. Others offered tea.
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