Now the Pacific Beach resident is sharing his epiphany with San Diegans, fostering a positive dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Kazakhstan borders Russia and China and is the world’s largest landlocked country. It is Central Asia’s dominant nation economically, generating 60 percent of the region’s GDP, mostly through oil and gas.
Slocum’s outreach comes at a watershed time following an anti-Muslim attack on a New Zealand mosque that felled 50 innocent people, and escalating anti-Muslim hate crimes worldwide.
Slocum has created a nonprofit, non-religious and non-partisan organization, Salaam, meaning “peace.” Salaam is hosting a weekly series of rotating workshops featuring powerful personal stories from local Muslims and interfaith activists, along with shared meals and discussions.
Slocum’s view of Islam changed when he lived in Kazakhstan.
“I was a hardcore, hyperkinetic evangelical Christian back in the early ‘90s when I took my wife and three kids to be missionaries in Kazakhstan,” Slocum said. “It turned out to be a life-changing experience. A lot of my attitudes changed.”
Added Slocum, “Even though we were Christians, they (Muslims) respected us and helped us in every way. Their warmth, friendliness and hospitality just left a warmth in my belly for their culture and toward Muslim people.”
Now back in the States, Slocum wanted to return the favor.
Noting there is “a lot of misinformation” out there, while pointing out 75 percent of Americans “don’t know a Muslim,” Slocum has set out to dispel rumors, myths and post-911 xenophobia, which is what Salaam is all about.
“I needed to speak about my own experiences, what I found,” he said. “I decided to write a soon-to-be published book about it, ‘Why do they Hate Us?’
“In it, I tell stories of the voice of the mainstream Muslim, about their faith, what they believe in.”
Salaam’s process involves:
• Educating communities with free workshops that debunk misconceptions about Islam.
• Building cross-cultural friendships by inviting Muslims and non-Muslims to enjoy meals together.
• Organizing mosque visits to help locals connect with Islamic culture in their own communities.
• Leading international trips to help residents expand their world view of Muslims.
Salaam employee a six-step process to change people’s minds about Muslims.
“The first step is awareness,” Slocum said. “Step two is a mosque visit. Step three are friendship dinners. It goes on from there, with the final step being traveling together to a Muslim country to get a first-hand experience on their turf.”
For more information visit salaamusa.org. “Why Do They Hate Us” is scheduled for publication in July.