Stereotypes exist because of differences in race, religion, beliefs and age. These stereotypes are what make many people associate Muslims with terrorism.
However, Aliya Sultanova from Kyrgyzstan who is here at UVU studying finance, feels that these stereotypes are incorrect and most people don’t see the good side of Muslims.
“Not all Muslims are terrorists, our religion is very peaceful, Every religion has extremists, so I don’t think it is fair to judge us that way,” Sultanova said.
She believes that most people have been missing out on the good side of Kyrgyzstan because they have been blinded by stereotypes. The country is located in central Asia with a population that is 75 percent Muslim.
Muslims uphold and cherish their values and their religion is a great source of strength. The people of Kyrgyzstan and other Muslim countries are known to show a great amount of respect for the elderly where other cultures may not.
Coming directly from Kyrgyzstan to a small town in Texas called Vidor, Sultanova was surprised by how people have such limited exposure to other cultures. Yet after living in America for three years, she has noted that while some people are more open to some aspects of her culture, they limit their acceptance of others.
“In my country we eat horses, and when I shared that aspect of my culture in one of my classes, some people said to me, ‘How dare you,’” she remembers. “How can you eat a horse? It’s like eating a dog.”
In Kyrgyzstan, sheep is the most common type meat eaten, while horse is the most expensive and is generally saved for eating during weddings, funerals or in a wealthy home. The sensory parts of the animal such as the eyes, nose, tongue, ears and brain are very important and symbolic. The head of the animal is always given to the most respected, elderly person in the household and the bottom part of the animal will go to the most respected elderly woman in the household, because it symbolizes authority.
Sultanova encourages everyone to try Samba, her favorite food, which is made with dough and a mixture of meat and onion.
“It is like an appetizer, it is usually served before the meal. I like it because it is light and easy to make,” Sultanova said.
In Kyrgyzstan, most clothing is made from sheep hair. It is also known for gold jewelry. In fact, a gold earring is used most of the time by men to propose marriage instead of a ring.
Though dancing is not common in Kyrgyzstan, they have many beautiful songs, one of which is called “Mekemin” by Mirbek Atabekov, and which Sultanova feels really shows the beauty of the country.
She has been able to keep her culture alive by mingling with people from neighboring -stan countries, and also by painstakingly cooking authentic food from her country for herself and her friends.