Cadets Sample Cultural Diversity

April 5, 2008

Author: Alexa James

Source: Times Herald-Record

The male cadets join the Muslim men in the mosque's main foyer. Shoulder to shoulder, they bow to the east, as the Imam recites the Friday prayer.

The female cadets listen from a balcony two floors up, where the Muslim women pray. Their heads wrapped in white, they crowd close around an Egyptian native named Suzanne Loutfy, whispering questions about Islam.

Why do some men grow long beards? To imitate the prophet Muhammad, she tells them.

How often does she pray? Five times daily.

The women from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point have been grilling Loutfy all day. "They have so many misconceptions about Muslim women," she says. "It's freaking me out."

Why can men wear cologne, but women can't wear perfume? Why must women cover up so as not to tempt men? Why do they have to sit in the balcony where they can't see?

The cadets are here, in Jersey City, for a three-day immersion exercise with the community's religious and political leaders.