An Attitude like yours

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Reaching out a hand of friendship and getting slapped

By Antonio Graceffo

“We are all Children of Adam. If you had many children, would create one group of children to kill another group of your children?” Islamic Guru, Mazlan Man. “Of course not! God made us all different so we could love each other and learn from one another.”

When I first came to Asia in October of 2001, I had anger in my heart. I wanted revenge, on who or on what, I don’t know. But I think it is fair to say, I didn’t have warm feelings about the religion of Islam.

Roughly 18 months later, I was pedaling my bicycle across the Taklamakan Desert I met the Uyghur people, a Muslim ethnic minority who were being ill-treated by the Chinese government. A group of Uyghur workers, living in a labor camp, took me in, fed me, and gave me a place to sleep. I wrote about them in my book, “The Desert of Death on Three Wheels.”

That incident was one of the first significant face-to-face contacts I had had with Muslim people. It was also the first step in my healing and in my learning about Muslim people. Every step of this long journey has been published because I wanted other people to also learn about the peoples and cultures I encountered along the way.

Later, in Cambodia, I wrote about the Cham Muslim minority, who were almost like the lost sons of Islam. Muslim magazines and organizations from the Arab world to America to Malaysia were writing me for more information. Many sent researchers, others sent charity or aid organizations.

Brooklyn Monk in Asia: Cham Muslims in Cambodia (Part 1)

Because of those Cham stories, I was offered the chance to write for Illume and Islamica magazine, both of which are large Muslim publications. And I went on to do stories on the Badjao and other small tribes in Asia who followed Islam.

In 2009 I went to Malaysia for the first time and trained with Muslim martial arts masters. Among them was Guru Mazlan Man who teaches Silat Kalam, a religious form of martial art. I interviewed him for a video.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Because of God (Part 1)

He was co-interviewing me as well, to ascertain if my intentions were genuine.

When he was satisfied that I had good intentions, he invited me back to Malaysia to study with him. In 2010, I became the first non-Muslim to be permitted to study Silat Kalam. He also taught me the religion of Islam, as well as the Muslim prayers which I had to practice each day.

Eventually, the local news media in Malaysia, The Star, did a print news paper story about us and compiled a video documentary on my studies with Guru Mazlan and my long journey from 9/11.

Antonio Graceffo on the Malaysian Star Online

I posted a video on youtube about Silat Kalam which was the result of my three months in Malaysia, studying Islamic religion and martial art.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Silat Kalam

A week or later, I also published a video entitled “Exploring Religion.” In this video, I explored the concept of the universiality of religion and I quote my Muslim Guru, Mazlan Man, who said, “There is only one God but we call him by many names.”

Brooklyn Monk in Asia: Exploring Religion (Part 1)

Recently, checking my youtube channel, I found an insulting comment from a youtube user named Wael77.

“I enjoyed this. But I read your book some time ago, and I’m not sure but didn’t you have some pretty rotten things to say about Muslims and Arabs? Have you had a change of heart, or are you just being hypocritical for the sake of learning the art?”

Antonio Comment

Actually I don’t know which book of mine you read, but a prevalent them in my ten years in Asia has been about learning to understand and appreciate Islam. My second book and my forth book talk about Muslim ethnic minorities who are victimized in Asia. I also write for Ilume which is a huge Muslim magazine. And I have a video on here called Exploring Religion which talks about Islam. I never delete comments, but I would appreciate it if you could rethink calling me a hypocrite.

Why did you call me a hypocrite?

Was that warranted?

Wael counter comment

I’ll see if I can get my hands on a copy of the book (The Monk from Brooklyn), so I can see exactly what you said before I comment further.

Wael to Antonio

Yes, the book I read was The Monk from Brooklyn, where you studied with the Shaolin in China. It was a fascinating account. It kept me interested from beginning to end. But I’m pretty sure you did make some racist comments about Arabs or Muslims, and that was a real turnoff. I remember because I threw the book away when I was done, because of those comments.

I remember that you made a good friend, another foreigner who was slightly dark skinned (from Spain maybe? sorry it’s been a while). At first you thought he was Arab so you were very cold and you wanted to kick his ass. Something like that. That was one example.

I am Egyptian-American. Born and raised mostly in California. I moved to Panama from about 2004 to 2008 because I got tired of getting racist comments from people with attitudes like yours. Down there, nobody really cared about my ethnicity. I visited Costa Rica and Colombia and it was the same, I never once was insulted or demeaned because of my race.


Antonio response

When you say attitudes like mine, do you mean people who studied Islam for three months in Malaysia, people who write for Illume Magazine and Islamica magazine and who have written extensively about various Muslim groups in Asia?

Is that what you meant by, people with attitudes like mine? If you only associate with people who do more than that, or better than that, then you must have a very small circle of friends.

I never said I wanted to kick Rafael’s ass. I said I didn’t want to be friends with him because I thought he was a Muslim, THEN I went to say how STUPID that was, and this was an example of what I had to get over. And that was the point of the whole incident. S,o are you saying you were turn off by someone’s change of heart?

You realize that Costa Rica and Columbia have had zero interaction with the Arab world so it is not possible for the people there to have preconceived notions. Having said that, I know a lot of Muslim people, and none of them felt they had to move to Costa Rica.

I lived in Costa Rica and attended university there.

As for looking for a copy of the Monk from Brooklyn why don’t you watch any of my Muslim videos on youtube which are free and which you can do right now.

Or google my name plus the world Islam or Muslim and find countless articles I have done.

Instead, you want to go back, find the Monk from Brooklyn and intentionally misinterpret one sentence written a year after the 911 incident.

I don’t think it’s my attitude that is creating a climate of hate. It seems to be you who doesn’t want to bend.


Here is my direct email

My phone number 66 ———- in Thailand

And I live in —— soi –,

I am not someone who hides. I would love to finish this conversation openly, face to face, or via skype and I will record it and make another video about racial intolerance.

I have attached one of my recent videos about the Cham Muslims. Can you really not see that the point of this entire 10 year exercise of living in Asia was to get over 9/11 let go of the hate and learn to understand and appreciate other races and religions? You are some kind of villain and an instigator.

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “The Monk from Brooklyn” and “Warrior Odyssey. He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

See all of Antonio’s videos on his youtube channel, brooklynmonk1, send him a friend request or subscribe.

Antonio is also on twitter, with the name, Brooklyn Monk. Follow his adventures and tweets.

His books are available on

Contact him:

His website is sign up for his mailing list on the site.



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