Mustafa Khattab speaks excellent English for someone who grew up on a farm in Egypt and was the first in his family to attend college. That skill enabled him to teach Islamic studies in English at one of the world’s oldest universities, Al-Azhar, in Cairo.
But the source for much of his self-taught vocabulary, Hollywood movies, fostered a negative impression of American life.
“I had so many misconceptions about American society,” says Mr. Khattab, who adds that he thought all men in the United States were violent, reckless, or immoral and all women were promiscuous.
He had a chance to challenge those perceptions by spending the last few months at Hartford Seminary, in Connecticut, as one of eight international scholars supported by a new Fulbright program dedicated to fostering interfaith dialogue. The academics were expected to both further their scholarly understanding of religion and spend time in their local religious communities.