It was the twang that threw me. I’m talking serious cowboy voice. The kind that can only come from out on the range. The kind that still startles my New England ears.

“Miss Fleeeeynn?” he said. “This is Kareem Salama. I understand you’re trying to reach me.”

OK, hold it. I happened to have this man’s Web site up for a story I was researching. And I knew that Salama was a Muslim, a law student, and a country and western singer. And, of course, I had read his biography on his site, where he detailed his multicultural upbringing. His parents, who now live in Richmond, southwest of Houston, took him to Native American powwows and the county fairs and rodeos and made trips to Branson, Mo., and Opryland in Nashville, Tenn.

As I listened to him, I couldn’t reconcile the twang with the chiseled Egyptian face on the Web site. Most of the Muslims I know have foreign accents. But why should I be so jolted by a thoroughly American Muslim?

Or should I say: A Muslim who, at least on the surface, seems to fit another American stereotype? More on that later.

Salama graciously answered all my questions and pulled back the curtain on an unexpectedly American portrait. It’s probably safe to say your average Oklahoma boy isn’t memorizing classical Arabic poetry and composing a melody for John Donne’s “A Valediction Forbidding Mourning.” And I’m guessing you don’t see too many Muslims in 10-gallon hats at the Grand Ole Opry.

Salama acknowledged that “the vast majority of us (Muslims) don’t fit the image of people have in their head.”

“Although, I understand why people have that image in their head,” he added.


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