The statue of liberty, the American eagle, the stripes and the stars are the signs of American freedom. They signify “The Land of the Free.” A land where every living being is treated equal, from the president to an ordinary citizen. It is a land where every race is respected and given equal rights. My father’s words echoed in my mind from many years back when he passionately talked about America and the seven precious years of his life that he spent there.
I stood on the Michigan Avenue, in downtown Chicago, looking at the hordes of people busily walking by me. I tried to look up at the soaring Sears Tower, yet another symbol of American freedom, squinting my eyes from the bright sun. I then looked around to take notice of the individuals nearby. There were all kinds of faces that I saw. Some were white, perhaps a few brown, number of black and some yellow. “This land welcomes everyone,” I thought. It truly is a Land of Immigrants.
A few moments later my eyes caught sight of a young Muslim girl wearing a Hijab, making her way through the throng. As she approached closer I saw uneasiness on her face. Her eyes darted across the street. Perhaps, she was apprehensive of what people would think of her? Could she be hiding a gun under her skirt? Was she a suicide bomber? Would she turn around and open fire? Why was she being judged on her apparel? Why was she being punished for the crime that she never committed? She was just a young girl, like any Christian or Jewish girl among the crowd.
I saw the flames of hatred rising in many eyes. Some turned their faces and moved away from her. It was a familiar sight; I had been seeing it for past three years, ever since that terrible tragedy in New York. This was not America that I had come to, five years back. Back then; it was a land where religion was never an issue. Where nothing could stop anyone from succeeding in life. I had a dream when I arrived on this land. “The American dream.” My goal was the realization of this dream. Even today, I am confident that despite the present predicaments I will be able to make my dream come true one day.
Having said that it’s a well-known fact that Americans are very open minded and friendly people. They welcome an outsider with warmth and love. Fortunately, I have never had a bad experience with anyone, but I feel that seeds of revulsion have been planted in many hearts. A terrible mistake made by a handful of ignorant people has created problems for the whole Muslim community. Many Americans misconstrue us, which saddens my heart. Islam and Christianity are two very close religions, we have a lot in common and a lot to learn from each other. It is never an intent of a Muslim to kill and destroy. On the contrary we disperse love and harmony.
Today when I talk to my four-year-old son about America, I tell him about the land he was born in. I tell him that he is an American, this is his land, and these are his people. They all love him and protect him. He must learn to love the stripes and stars and safeguard the independence of his birthplace. “Mommy, I am an American, and I love America,” he tells me in return. I smile at him in return but inside my heart I dread the day, perhaps twenty years from now, when someone might tell him that this is not his land only because he was born a Muslim.
I am optimistic that one day everything will be the same as before or even better. Americans will keep their tradition of accepting other races and no American would ever be thought of as Asian, African, Hispanic, Muslim or Jewish. The greatest pride for any American is in just being an American and nothing else.