US' first Muslim country singer falls in love with Malaysia

US' first Muslim country singer falls in love with Malaysia
First visit: Salama (left) performing during his show at the City Hall auditorium.

KUALA LUMPUR - The United States' first Muslim country music singer Kareem Salama has fallen in love with Malaysia on his first visit here.

He expressed his admiration for the peace and harmony in Malaysia that was clear to him during his time here.

Salama, 37, was born and raised in a town in Oklahama where there was only one other Muslim family in the area.

"We had lots of friends. There may have been Islamophobia elsewhere but I've never experienced it (growing up).

"Look at Malaysia, people of different religions and races get along and they intermarry. America is very much like that," he said after his performance at the City Hall auditorium yesterday.

The American-Egyptian said his guitarist, Michael Whitebread, planned to stay in Kuala Lumpur for a year. "I'm not kidding. He has spoken to his wife and she is interested. That is how much we like Malaysia," he said.

He has released three albums namely Generous Peace (2006) This Life of Mine (2007) and City of Lights (2011).

Salama and his two accompanying band members had a stop in Kuala Lumpur in a programme called "Peacemaking - Journeying Between Cultures", an initiative by the US Embassy here.

He dispelled the notion that Americans were generally hostile towards Muslims after the 9/11 attacks.

"There are many great examples that people treat Muslims well. There is a lot of cooperation and love. We live day to day with each other and work with each other.

"Just because one or two people did something (extreme), that does not define my experience," he added.

Salama, who holds degrees in chemical engineering and law, also said he just had to try satay while in Malaysia.

"My college roommate was Indonesian and he introduced me to satay. I know Malaysia has satay too so I must try that too."

"He also taught me simple Malay words like 'apa khabar' (How are you?)" Salama said.

A warning sign at the hotel he stayed in, however, made him wary of the durian.

"I saw the sign and I thought, 'oh maybe we can't eat this'. But now that you say it's smelly, I might want to stay away from it because I like to smell good," he said, laughing.

Salama will be in Kota Baru for another round of talk and performance today.

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