I went to a “Chai Chat” (I know, so liberal elitist.) attended by UNC Muslims to discuss how we can improve the image of Islam. Everyone was so idealistic, so sure that by being nice, helpful and positive, people would deem us more than just terrorists. It saddened me because I think no matter what us underlings do, the next second a crazy Muslim will blow something up, and that will be that.
According to my dad, after every attack, we should flood the streets and declare our horror loudly.
I pointed out, “We’d be out there ALL the time!”
“Fine!” my dad said. “We stay out until this stops.”
He later declared that to undermine the antics of terrorists, I must excel as a student.
“Let people know your good work, that you’re the best.”
This seemed like a tall order, and given my duty to man the streets all the time, how’m I also supposed to be the best student?
“Not you!” he hastily amended. “If there’s 5,000 Muslims living in Charlotte, and just 100 come out for each outrage, that’s enough. But you, you just be the best student.”
“That’s a lot of pressure,” I countered. “I’m probably not the best at anything.”
But my dad gave me an out. “Not the best, just the best you can be.”
“That’s not very good,” I warned. “I’ll probably fail my next exam. Just FYI.”
“That doesn’t matter. There’s only 24 hours in a day, you do what you can,” he said.
My parents left the Middle East and tried to raise a family in Sweden and the U.S. with pride in our heritage and faith. I wonder what they think, if this is how they thought we would turn out.
When I insist that Sudan’s Arab Muslim president needs shuttling to The Hague to attend his war crimes trial for the genocide in Darfur, my dad doesn’t glare as though I’m an Arab traitor, he just says: “You’re right, and may the luck be blasted of anyone saying otherwise.”
When I can’t stop talking about how much Sweden means to me, he’s not all insulted that his Arab spawn would place anything above Arab nations in the tiers of affection.
He drives hours to Chapel Hill and gets us a proper meal to thwart the famine of the student budget. He cancels everything when three Muslims are slain in the same apartment complex where we once lived, so he can light candles with us in the Pit vigil that night.
When I recite nonstop the pink T-Mobile lady’s “One-Two-Kalamazoo!” jingle and everyone is yelling at me to shut up, he starts reciting with me. He never shames us that we are “not Arab enough”; he just says: “Everyone grows up in a different place and adopts that identity. It makes no difference, we’re all human and that’s it, Arab or not.”
At a time when the world quivers with kids rushing pell-mell from the gangrene of rotting Muslim nations, I hope they have parents like that to see them through.