The Visual Advocate Blog

If they could only meet Alaa

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For the last seven Fridays I have been posting interviews of Humanitarian Photographers. Though I have more I want to post, I am taking a break this Friday. Instead, I want to talk briefly about four different conversations I have had in the last two days. The first was with an Iraqi man named Alaa on Wednesday. I had met him before, but today he had a hat on that caught my attention and he just happened to have some time to talk at work. His hat had the words “God is Great” in Arabic on it along with the Iraqi flag. I approached Alaa and asked what his flag said, and he told me. We went on to talk about his family and what he is doing in America. As we shared wonderful Iraqi tea I asked him if I could do a photo story on a day in his life, which will be coming soon. It was simply another wonderful conversation with wonderful person who happens to be Muslim.

Alaa with his "God is Great" hat on with the Iraqi flag.

Alaa making some Iraqui tea for us to share. It was excellent!

The other three conversations I had were with Americans. Though each of these couples were from very different walks of life, all of our conversations were centered around how we must strive to move beyond what the major media tells us about Muslims in the world, and for that matter other peoples. I told stories of my time with Muslims in India, experiencing some of the most incredible hospitality and friendship. There were questions that came up like “Aren’t you afraid” and I could honestly tell them know because I have always felt very safe when I have been with my Muslim friends in their countries.

I could go on and on but here is the point. We as visual peacemakers, or peacemakers of other kinds, have our work cut out for us. There are crazy stereotypes about whole blocs of peoples that make up so many different geographical regions, languages and cultures that are being perpetuated. We must keep creating stories and telling stories that bit by bit move people away from fear and prejudice.

Remember it is always too early to give up!


Author: The Visual Advocate

Joe Murray, The Visual Advocate, is a Humanitarian and Cultural photographer based in Decatur, Georgia. Joe began his photographic career as an adventure and landscape photographer, but a month-long trip to India in 2009 deeply impacted him and proved to be a turning point in his life and photographic vision. Today, Joe is dedicated to using his craft to create and share compelling images and stories of the lives of the peoples and cultures of the world. While Joe loves and appreciates all the peoples and cultures of the world, he has a particular vision, passion and love for India and South Asia. As both an experienced photographer, public speaker, recruiter and advocate, Joe's goal as a visual artist is not simply to create awareness, but to move people to use their lives and resources to be a blessing to the world's most poor, abused, displaced, stereotyped and overlooked peoples.

One thought on “If they could only meet Alaa

  1. Great post. I think a large part of the solution is doing what you did: having a conversation. It’s too bad we can’t figure out how to spawn thousands of conversations.

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