A new cultural exchange program allows for non-muslims from around the world to become "Muslim for a Month." The program takes non-Muslims into Turkish mosques and homes for those interested in learning about Islam and Muslim life.
Ben Bowler who runs the program, "Muslim for a Month," said to CNN that most there has been a good response from Muslims with many of them in support because the tours help to discredit negative sterotypes and leave participants with a rich cultural and spiritual perspective about Islam: "People are very visibly moved," Bowler said to CNN. "There's lots of tears. It's a rich, multi-layered experience and people are coming out with changed ideas and changed perceptions -- they are more aware of the positive side of the religion than before."
The program is run by the NGO World Weavers which hosts cultural immersion tours.
The website states about that its "Muslim for a Month" programs "have been designed to offer visitors a balanced combination of insights into Sufi spirituality, knowledge of Islamic theology, immersion into Turkish culture and pure enjoyment of seeing the wonderful sights of Istanbul. One day you'll be studying deep spirituality in the lodge, the next you'll be making new friends with a host family followed by pleasurable pursuits such as visiting the famous bazaar or taking a cruise on the magnificent Bosphorus."
Itineraries include lessons on Sufism and Islam's basic practices, visits to mosques around Istanbul, Joining an Islamic wedding celebration, a visit to Rumi's city of Konya, a day of fasting and hearing the Quaran recited.
Tina Reisman-Boukes, 56, a Dutch social worker and convert to Judaism took the tour. She said to CNN that the course gave her a deeper understanding of Islam as "as a systematic way to get closer to God," and the rituals of Islam, helped her "inner conflict between individuality and community."
The tours run from 10 or 21 days, which doesn't exactly fit its catchy namesake. In a series of "Praycations," World Weavers also offers a "Monk for a Month" program in India or Thailand.