We have more in Common than You Think!

Learn the truth about Islam
Sam Mak

My very first memory is of me looking at the beautiful Rocky Mountains with their blue gray tinge against a perfect sunny sky. At the age of four I had made my first transatlantic flight and landed in Fort Collins, Colorado. My family had arrived in Colorado from Pakistan because my father was here to complete his Master’s Degree from Colorado State University. My father, a Civil Engineer, who used to work for a private company in Pakistan, was an expert in designing dams and irrigation systems. It was the early seventies and there was a shortage of professionals in the United States especially individuals with strong technical skills especially doctors and engineers, and so the United States government recruited people from around the world. The U.S. government offered visas to workers to come and apply their skills for the development of a better America.

Many Pakistanis were offered visas to immigrate to the United States, not just to study or to visit but to live in the United and States and contribute to the American economy. Initially my father refused the visas, however the U.S. officials remained persistent and offered him several opportunities for an immigrant visa. In the United States, the Eisenhower initiatives of constructing highways, bridges, and dams were in full swing; America needed more engineers. While the common belief in America is that all immigrants come to the United States from dire circumstances looking for freedom or a chance at a better life, in the 1970s several immigrants were invited to America to help develop America. Professionals, like doctors, engineers, and other technically proficient individuals were actively recruited from developing nations like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran, Afghanistan and others. The British Royal Society named this recruitment of individuals the “Brain Drain”.
The United States wanted rapid development so it imported human capital from other countries to make America better. After declining the invitation several times, eventually my father relented, and that is how I found myself standing in front of the magnificent Rocky Mountains, the first clear memory of my life. I loved my life in Pakistan with my parents and my sister. We had a good life of eating at restaurants, traveling around the country to see family, and having fun with our cousins. In Pakistan, like many families, we lived in a multi-generational household in Lahore. We lived with my paternal grandmother, and the aunts from my dad’s side. As a child living with the extended family was a great experience. Cousins and family were always around. There was no shortage of playmates and best of all we lived in huge house with lots of bedrooms but my favorite place was the backyard.

I remember that in the backyard there were lots of honeysuckle bushes, and the birds would come and dance in the plants along the wall. But my first true memories started with the Rockies, and though we moved to several places in the years to come Colorado was and still is the place I call home.Five short days after we landed in Fort Collins, I started kindergarten. I had no idea what I was getting into. School sounded like a fun adventure but it never occurred to me that I was now entering a place, where I could not communicate. At home everyone understood me, but on the first day of school, I realized that I couldn’t talk to anyone! No one spoke Urdu and I spoke no English. Needless to say, I was in culture shock. My parents had planned to stay in the States for only a couple of years and according to them going to school in America was going to be a great educational experience.They kept telling me what a wonderful adventure it was going to be and to think about all the new friends I would make. Without the language though, how was I going to make any friends and have the wonderful adventure? Making friends wasn’t the only ordeal. Since I couldn’t read or speak English ordinary things became an exercise in survival. The elementary school was about a mile from Colorado State University student housing and I was supposed to walk to school every day; yet I couldn’t read a road sign. Communication with the teachers, kids, administrators, everyone…it was all very hard. I can still remember the frustration I felt at not being able to speak English.

My next memories however, include me being able to speak English fluently. I was making friends. I loved learning. I enjoyed exploring my new home and surroundings. Fort Collins was at the foot of the Rockies so we would go to the mountains on weekends.By Christmas time, the language was no longer an issue but living in a new country still had other challenges. Being a little different is a great way to get into trouble in school. For starters, the social rules that are intrinsic to those who live in the U.S. were alien to me. Also, once when I showed up to school with henna tattoos, I was called into the office where administrators questioned me if my parents had burned me. Later on that day, a social worker showed up in class and kept poking my hands asking me “this hurts right?” The coming of the holidays continued to highlight the stark differences between the kids at school and me.At school the lunches often included pork or pork products, even the bread was made with lard or fat from pork. I couldn’t always eat what the other kids were eating and so the questions began. The kids began to ask me why I didn’t eat peperoni, or have a Christmas tree, and why Santa didn’t come to my home and give me presents. I also remember my friends singing Christmas carols in school and I would wonder how they knew the words to the songs. I remember wanting to know the words too, so I could sing as well as the other kids. I remember telling my friends that Santa wasn’t real.

I remember them hating me for ruining Santa. There were other questions too. What was fasting? What was Eid? The questions were always coming, and the questions always highlighted our differences, but in retrospect, I know that they just wanted to know why I didn’t do things like them at that time. They wanted to know where I came from, what I believed, and what made me different. Just like I wanted to fit in, they too were trying to understand why I didn’t. We were too young to understand that these were differences between two cultures and two religions. At the age of five, I did understand that people were cautiously curious about me, and I wanted to give all these loving curious beings in my life the answers they were looking for.

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Muslim Mythbusting – What one fourth of the world really believes.

Sam (short for Samarina) was born in Pakistan and her family emigrated to the United States just before she started kindergarten. This America was a strange, beautiful new world to Sam, and her new classmates were just as curious about her. From learning English and navigating customs like McDonald’s and Christmas at her new school, to traveling with her family throughout North America, to earning a scholarship to study engineering and later working for “Voice of America,” Sam embraced her new country while staying closely connected to her Pakistani family and friends.

As Sam became a wife and then a mother, she traded her engineering career for entrepreneurship, and she launched her business while keeping up with four busy kids. Through the years, Sam’s friends and acquaintances were asking questions and seeking to know and understand her, her religion and her culture. After 9/11, Sam was invited to her children’s school to teach about Islam, diversity and inclusion, and this has developed into her passion and her career as a Diversity and Inclusion consultant.

Muslim Mythbusting is the story of Sam’s life, the faith that shapes her worldview, and a guide for non-Muslims who want to know what Islam is really about. Sam’s storytelling and humor shine throughout, reminding us that we have far more in common than we think.

What people are saying about the book:

Insightful book about the Muslim religion

Reviewed in the United States on July 3, 2020


Verified Purchase

When some Americans hear the word Muslim, they think of ISIS terrorists. How sad because as Sam Mak adroitly and gracefully explains, the Muslim religion is just the opposite, based on faith, generosity, character, education, family and community. Muslims pray daily, not just for themselves, the followers of Mohammed, but also daily for Jews and Christians as well. How many of us can say that we do the same? Some of the most generous and joyful people I know are Muslim. Thankfully, Sam Mak makes it easy to learn about the Muslim religion through her fun and entertaining stories. Trained originally as an electrical engineer and coming from a family that values education and travel, Sam Mak also shares what it was like to grow up in two cultures. I highly recommend this book to everyone.


I really enjoyed this book.

Reviewed in the United States on June 29, 2020


Verified Purchase

I really enjoyed reading this book. It is a very interesting and enjoyable real life story, well written and informative. Weaving together the authors personal story and teaching about Islam is a brilliant idea. I learned a lot and read a great story too.

One person found this helpful


Wonderful memoir

Reviewed in the United States on July 2, 2020


Verified Purchase

This is a wonderful way to learn more about Islam. It is a delightful story that follows a young girl through adulthood and her experiences and personal growth as a muslim in America.

Kindle Customer Ed

Awesome Book!

Reviewed in the United States on June 24, 2020


This is an awesome and riveting book by an obviously very smart and well-spoken author. It is fascinating, but also highly informative and educational in that I learned a great deal about Islam (pbuh. 0:) – a race and religion that I did not know enough about

Highly recommended. I could only wish that millions of Americans would read this and cease the absurd categorization, labeling, and name-calling of and to those who happen to appear different from them on the exterior; when, in fact, we are all so much alike on the interior or inside.

Well done, Ms. Mak. Next book?

3 people found this helpful

Caren Myers

Get the Facts about the Muslim Religion

Reviewed in the United States on July 4, 2020


The author wrote a fascinating story about being a Muslim living in the U.S. as well as Pakistan. There was so much I didn’t know or understand and this book cleared up all my misunderstandings. For example, I was so wrong in thinking that Muslim women were subjugated to men when that misinformation is so not true! Women are treated with respect and equal to men. Learn what it’s like to go to Mecca. Learn why praying five times a day is so important to Muslims. There are many experiences in this book that I found interesting. It’s an easy read with so much information packed in the pages. I enjoyed this book very much.

One person found this helpful


A charming read.

Reviewed in the United States on June 23, 2020


A charming memoir that illustrates our commonalities as people. Must read.

4 people found this helpful


Let's Celebrate our differences

Reviewed in the United States on June 24, 2020


Sam Mak helps you see diversity from a different, more positive perspective.

One person found this helpful

Nina B

Great Memoir

Reviewed in the United States on June 23, 2020


Wonderful read.. the Author does a beautiful job of storytelling and explaining her childhood experiences. So important in todays world to understand our Friends and Neighbors.