We interact with people from different cultural backgrounds. Each culture has its dressing mode, type of food, religion, language, norms, among other elements. The differences in such elements are what constitute different cultures experienced every day. However, despite the differences, people of one particular culture must strive to live in peace with other cultures, which calls for effective intercultural communication. With intercultural communication, people from different cultures can share resources without conflict and engage collaboratively in many activities. The purpose of this paper is to analyze an intercultural documentary concerning Muslims and America. The analysis will include a detailed definition of intercultural communication and show how the interaction is an expression of culture. Also, it will discuss intercultural competency and incorporate one of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions in the analysis.
The documentary’s central theme is Muslims and America, particularly revealing the Americans’ view of the Islamic Faith. Morgan Spurlock created the documentary in his series of 30 days. From the film, there are more than 6.1 billion Muslims worldwide, and six million are Americans (Spurlock, 2010). The film seeks to establish who these 6 million American Muslims are, what they do, and what it feels like to be an American Muslim. To achieve this, David, an American and a Christian who lives in Virginia, was sent to Michigan to learn more about the Islamic Faith, act and follow all the religion’s culture, and explain what it feels to be an American Muslim. Perhaps Spurlock chose this issue because of the belief that many Americans have over the Islamic Faith. When he interviewed several Americans, most of them said they think of terrorism whenever they hear of Muslims. It could be one of the most severe and historical problems within America. Therefore, to clear the misconception that Americans have on Muslims, the documentary was created. Its objective was to show Americans that Islamic is just like Christianity and there is nothing wrong; it is only that they worship God in different ways.
Choosing an American who has been a Christian for over thirty years was a wise move. David had no idea of being a Muslim, so his experience brought the best answer to how it feels to be a Muslim. While at Michigan, David showcased effective intercultural communication. Notably, it is imperative to understand what intercultural communications mean. It is a discipline that concerns how culture influences communication. When people interact, they express their culture, ranging from their values, norms, and beliefs. For instance, when David and his hosts are taking dinner on day one, they talk about their faith. David asks them questions about the Islamic faith, such as the hijab worn by ladies, and David’s peers are kind to provide answers. From the interaction, both express their cultural values, norms, and practices. In this case, David understands that putting on hijabs is a sign of respect and humility from Muslim ladies.
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One requires to demonstrate a high level of intercultural communication to interact with people from various cultures. When David is in Michigan, he exhibits intercultural communication aspects that enable him to interact freely and peacefully with the Muslims despite being a Christian. Firstly, he is aware that being culturally sensitive is vital. David does not show any ethnocentrism signs to show that Christianity is superior to Islamic or the other way round throughout his communication. Notably, such approaches reveal cultural competency. For instance, David respects the religion and even attends most Islamic functions like the hourly prayers. Avoiding ethnocentrism is a sign that David is interculturally competent.
Another cultural competency that David showed is increasing awareness of the Islamic religion as he had to adapt in those thirty days. He was eager to learn about religion to raise awareness. He even approached two teachers of the faith that became his mentors. His eagerness to learn is seen when he approaches the two Muslim leaders, who taught him the basics of Islam and the second who taught him the Arabic language. Learning the language is crucial as it is one of the major factors that restrict interactions among people of different cultures.
He utilized communication accommodation theory that emphasizes learning language to foster intercultural competence (Panocová, 2020). For David, learning the Arabic language was one of the best options of knowing how it feels to be an American Muslim. The primary reason is that the Muslims performed most of their religious functions using Arabic, and David would then understand what they were saying and what it meant. Also, when he decides that he will prepare dinner for his host family, he first visited a slaughterhouse to learn what Muslims eat and what they do not eat so that he could not go against their culture. Increasing knowledge and awareness is a sign that David was intercultural competent.
Based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, David showed Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV) that enabled him to interact with Muslims. Individualism versus Collectivism (IDV) examines the strength of ties that people have with other cultures within a community. For instance, the strength of David’s ties with the hosts and other Muslims he met around Michigan. From the film, it can be concluded that David’s IDV score was low, meaning his interpersonal connection with Muslims was strong. According to Hofstede, the higher the IDV, the weaker the connection, and the lower the IDV, the stronger the connection (Mindtools content team, 2020). He was able to connect with people easily, laughed, and interacted with them peacefully. It means that he valued collectivism more than individualism, and that contributed to his stay in Michigan.
David being a Christian and staying in a Muslim’s house, had different standpoints that perhaps made them view the world differently. According to the standpoint theory from the textbook, people view the world differently based on their race, religion, class, and gender, reflecting their behavior. Perhaps it could have been expected that David could view the world differently and act in a particular way. However, the theory of social identity that the textbook explains asserts that people define their identities based on the groups they are in. In this case, David defined his identity and reconfigured his behavior to fit those of the group he was in of Muslims. For the time he was in Michigan, he identified himself through Muslim norms such as wearing their type of clothing, eating their food, praying with them, and speaking Arabic. Through the social identity theory, he survived and stayed happily with the Muslim group.
To sum up, through being interculturally competent, David stayed in the Muslim land as a Christian and learned what it feels like to be a Muslim. He stayed there and interacted in a peaceful, happy, and respectful way despite being a Christian because he was proficient in intercultural competencies, such as intercultural communication. Besides, he was culturally sensitive and avoiding ethnocentrism. He also increased awareness of the Muslim culture by learning the basics of Islam, the Arabic language, and their culture, such as what they eat and do not eat. The theory of communication accommodation that focuses on language enabled him to learn Arabic. Also, one of Hofstede’s intercultural dimensions, individualism versus collectivism, enabled him to strengthen his interpersonal connection with the Muslims. He terminated his Islamic religion standpoint and used the social identity theory to identify himself with the Islamic group. In the end, he accomplished the documentary’s objective of understanding how it feels like to be an American Muslim.
Mindtools content team. (2020). Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions: – Understanding Different Countries. Mindtools.com. Retrieved 22 March 2021, from https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_66.htm.
Panocová, R. (2020). THEORIES OF INTERCULTURAL COMMUNICATION (1st ed.).
Spurlock, M. (2010). Muslims and America on 30 Days [Video]. Retrieved 22 March 2021, from https://vimeo.com/14150098?ref=em-share.