I have an Iranian student in my ESL class this semester. As far as I can remember he is the only one I've ever had. He's charming - tall, good looking, bearded, cheerful, friendly, earnest, easy to like, almost nineteen years old. I am embarrassed to admit that I cannot ignore the fact that he is from Iran, a country that officially hates America and is ruled by a religious tyrant. I've learned to see the student and not the nationality, but this time my training is failing me. Today he asked my religion. Because I stammered and looked surprised, he wondered if maybe it was rude to ask. I said I couldn't give him a simple or short answer. What I really wanted to know was why he was asking.
Should I have told him that I am a non-observant ethnic Jew baptized as an Episcopalian? Would that have been more or less shocking than saying I was an atheist? Didn't his mother tell him it is not polite to discuss money, politics, or religion?
He probably would not approve of me.