Cast Blog: #SHAHS

Mike Shouldn't be "Scared" of Other Religions

Asa doesn't understand why Mike felt like such a fish out of water.

Watching this Turkey episode is giving me chills and making my heart smile sooo big it's going to burst.

First night in Istanbul. Dinner with my crew. Thrilled that Merc and Golnesa finally squashed their differences (for now). Everybody makes mistakes, but being able to see and admit you made a mistake and genuinely apologize is a beautiful thing. Even though we did have to twist Merc's arm to do it, LOL!

I'm loving watching all of us walking through these ancient streets and our emotional reactions. I'm disappointed that Mike keeps saying that he feels like a fish out of water as a Jew in Turkey. I felt that he was separating himself from us and the experience the entire trip. While I respect his emotions, everybody is entitled to feel how they feel, I have to say that we are all human and I will never feel like "a fish out of water" because of my religion. Particularly in a place like Istanbul, where Muslims, Christians, and Jews have lived side by side for thousands of years. In fact, there is an ancient Jewish quarter in Istanbul.

When I go to Mike's house for Shabbat or we went to Reza's family's house in Great Neck for Rosh Hashana, we were all right there and I wanted to know all about the Jewish customs and rituals on this holy holiday. I loved it. I didn't feel like "a fish out of water" because I am Muslim.

Likewise, the call to prayer. I don't feel assaulted or as Mike said "scared" when I'm at Mike's house and everyone is saying a prayer in Hebrew for Shabbat. Other religions do not "scare" me. If there is something I'm unfamiliar with, I feel fortunate to be included in someone else's sacred space. Being spiritual is a beautiful thing. And if you are truly spiritual and of God, you will love and respect others and their way of connecting to God. Because there is only ONE.

Also, all of our families escaped from Iran at the revolution and lost everything, regardless of our religion. It's important, particularly in this dangerous political climate in the world where people are killing each other over religion, to be more focused on the things that connect us and unite us and not be obsessed with what separates and divide us as people. I hope that in the future we can be much more tolerant and compassionate towards each other and not judge other religions based on our fears rather than reality. I very strongly believe in being rooted in your heritage, but at the same time respecting and embracing other people's ways. If friends cannot connect and find understanding about these issues, then how can entire nations and politicians?In the Blue Mosque. Of course I conceptually know that men and women pray in separate sections, but being stopped physically made it very real. And I know that in other religions, for example Judaism, women and men also are supposed to pray separately. And Islam and Judaism have the same reasoning: it’s out of respect for the woman and for the men to not be distracted by the beauty of women while they pray. That's sweet. I have the utmost respect for ancient ritual but also believe that some things need be brought into a modern light and discourse. One such thing is the area in which women pray. I actually wouldn't mind separation of men and women during prayer, but not for the women's section to be waaay in the back corner. We are all the same, divine beings, regardless of our religion, sex, or skin color. #One Love

Being in the bazaar with my Mom and seeing all the delicious things we grew up eating was truly special. What a blessing to be able to share this time with my beautiful mother.That night waiting in the apartment for my family to arrive form the airport was nerve wrecking in the best way. We had such butterflies in our stomachs. So much excitement and anticipation. When they walked in, we just lost it. So much JOY came over all of us. I cannot even describe it.

I love my family and am so blessed that I got to see them. It made me so happy to see my Mom with her sisters. It was really special watching it on TV because I was completely euphoric and in the moment when it was actually. So it was amazing being able to relive it again.

Thank you for being on the incredible journey with me.

Read my next blog for the border of Iran experience!

MJ: "I Finally Opened My Heart to Love"

MJ dishes on her new man.

Last year in Turkey, I was blind-sided in the best way; I had a revelation, a new found desire to become a mother someday. I am very traditional when it comes to marriage and children in one household and under one roof. That is my dream and deepest hope. I have accomplished success in my career and happiness in every other area in my life. I finally opened my heart to love. I became vulnerable to find love. I met Charlie via Facebook/Tinder. I didn't "swipe right" on him, but he screen grabbed my profile, and messaged me on Facebook one night while I was at my place with Reza and Adam. They drilled Charlie with a series of questions about "what would make you a good candidate for MJ." Suffice it to say, he passed the test, took me to a beautiful, romantic restaurant on our first date where the conversation flowed, and so did the chemistry.

I'm so glad to have met Asifa last year, and even happier she has joined our group. My first impression of Asifa was that she was very polite, prim, pretty, and cordial. As time went on, I began to discover that there are many layers to Asifa. We are a complicated group of people and I look forward to getting to know her on a deeper level, the way I know the rest of my friends.

At Asa's house for the fire jumping ceremony, we all noticed Mike engrossed by Jessica eating a piece of shrimp, and I called him out. To me it was sexy to see a couple turned on by one another. But when I said what everyone else was thinking, Mike and Jessica looked shocked at what I had said, which was surprising to me. I think that once you are in a serious relationship, cheeky conversation topics are not at all off limits, and for us, the best thing about our friendship is sharing good spirited laughs with each other.

Woah, Nelly! Bobby was in the room for less than five minutes when Mike immediately picked a fight with him? As I watched this unfold, I saw how high Mike's nerves were running... It was very awkward. I attribute it to all the fresh, new, successful, alpha-male energy in the room. The tension in the room was undeniable, and unfortunately it got the best of him. Mike and Bobby have some history, and within seconds of Bobby getting there it all came to a head. This is a bad start for both of them, and it spilled over into a divide between us all.

Here's to a fruitful 2015!

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