About Steve Slocum

Steve Slocum took the adventure of a lifetime when he traveled with his family of five to Kazakhstan to become missionaries. Slocum and his family were among the first Americans to learn the Kazakh language and experience the culture of the indigenous Kazakhs. They were often on the receiving end of the iconic Muslim hospitality. It left a lasting impression.

Back in the states, Slocum resumed his engineering career but grew uneasy with the growing levels of animosity towards Muslims. In 2018 he founded a nonprofit organization called Salaam whose mission is creating mutual understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims.

Slocum is an ambassador for the Parliament of World Religions and is a presenter at the 2018 Parliament in Toronto. He is a frequent speaker at churches, mosques, and civic groups.

 

Why I wrote Why Do They Hate Us?

Twenty-seven years ago I took my family of five to Kazakhstan with the goal of converting Muslims to my version of Christianity. Today I have a different mission – creating friendship between Muslims and non-Muslims. I wrote Why Do They Hate Us? mostly for redemption.

Redemption for the tragedy that I brought upon my family because of my misguided motivation that took us to Kazakhstan in the first place. At the age of twenty-one, my firstborn, Andrew, took his own life after sinking into a deep depression largely because of being abused by members of the missionary community in Kazakhstan.

And redemption for falling so deeply for an exclusive belief system that assigns all those who don’t believe as I do to eternal damnation. I can’t bring my son back, but I can change myself and do my part to serve the world community by sharing my experiences and what I have learned from them.

In preparation for becoming a missionary to Muslims, I did the perfunctory study of Islam from the point of view of an evangelical. Two things stuck in my mind. I was taught that (1) Mohammed was a fierce warrior and propagated his religion with the edge of the sword, and (2) Islam consisted of adherence to empty rituals such as mandatory prayers five times a day.

And then I met the Kazakh people.

The Kazakhs describe themselves as a “momyn khalyk,” a humble people. The first characteristic I observed was hospitality. I didn’t know it at first, but in the post-Soviet chaos of 1992, all but those who had government connections and corrupt intentions were in a state of poverty. And yet I found myself the guest of almost every new family I met, being served heaping platefuls of fatty mutton and endless servings of chai – the Kazakh word for tea. They invited us to weddings, parties, and holiday celebrations. My children had dozens of delightful Kazakh friends and were treated, always, with dignity and respect in the schools. Even though we were missionaries, the people were incredibly kind to us. We fell in love. Five years later I left Kazakhstan with a deep love for this humble, generous, hospitable people. My soul was deeply enriched by them.

A few years after arriving back in the states and reintegrating, 9/11 happened. Like everyone, I was traumatized – and fearful. But my experiences in Kazakhstan kept me from giving in to a blanket fear of all Muslims. At the same time, I was just as clueless as everyone else about why Islamic radicals would fly packed airliners into the World Trade Center towers.

It was during the Obama administration that I decided to speak out about my experiences with Muslims. US troops had been in Afghanistan since 2001 and Iraq since 2003. Lethal drone strikes were taking place in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and in other places. For fifteen years I had been hearing about the war on terror, seen an endless stream of movies and television series portraying Muslim men as terrorists and Muslim women as oppressed, and watched clueless news anchors interview “expert commentators” on the religion of Islam.

The first step was research. Even though I had spent a lot of time with Muslims, the only information I had about Islam was from my pre-missionary training. I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand the origins of Islam, its history – especially the part about becoming an empire, the present day teachings of Islam and practice of everyday Muslims, and I wanted to understand the connection with modern day extremism and terror. In my literature search, I found books that focused on the politics; I found books about the positive teachings of Islam, mostly written by Muslims; and the negative teachings, written by Christians; and I found books about Islam’s storied history. But I didn’t find a single book that connected all the dots and answered my questions, from the perspective of a non-Muslim. Why Do They Hate Us? is that book.

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