Bilal, a Muslim, was raised in Lebanon during the civil war, then completed his education in London, where he lives, enjoying a sabbatical from his investment banking career. He has spent his life straddling cultural, religious and economic fault lines. Despite privilege and opportunity, Bilal is continually obliged to explain his identity and interpret his position as a resident of two worlds.
In Central London, Bilal hosted a dinner party this Spring with a diverse, international guest list. The conversation, in a mix of English and Arabic, focused on why the Western and Islamic worlds misunderstand each other so insistently. Among his guests, there was no concern for Bilal’s safety, since his guests were intimately acquainted with the places he planned to visit, and considered alarm unwarranted.
Both Marco and Bilal reject political and economic practices that exploit division and sow resentment. In each of their homelands, cultural, religious and ethnic misunderstanding is already endemic, with leaders peddling fear and ignorance to win elections and influence society. Their own experience of places and people tells them a different truth, a less “dramatic” and simplistic one, a truth they are determined to explore and document as part of this research adventure.