It seems like only the recent past when I migrated to the United States at age 19. The exhilaration of becoming independent and the excitement of discovery in a new land were tainted by the trepidation of leaving family and friends and by fear of the unknown. Leaving my life and Muslim culture culminated in a climax on the tarmac of the Tehran airport on a mild summer day in September 1973.
My family was sending me off to a far-away land named America. Some were happy that I was charting my life, others were concerned. As departure time approached, with every tick on the airport clock, more panic set in. My mind was racing. The pros and cons: my decision to leave my past life and brave an uncertain future were flashing in front of my eyes.
My father whispered in my ear, “Son, you are grown now and will be on your own. Do not write to ask what to do. I have full confidence that you will do well and make the right decisions.” But I was tearing up inside, looking for the slightest excuse to turn back. I vividly remember walking on the tarmac, looking back to see my family for that last time, all waving from behind the windows as if they, too, were cherishing my every last step on the soil of my birth.
Finally, I climbed up the plane’s stairs and stood by the door and waved my arms as hard as I could for one last goodbye. Most people fly away knowing that they will come back in a few days, but my journey felt like flying into an abyss.
Migrating to a different country is a tremendous endeavor. It takes courage, hard work and perseverance to excel. I chose to come to the United States for its noted political freedom and liberty. However, life was difficult the first year: learning the language and the new culture consumed me. Finally, in my fifth year, I was able to earn a degree in engineering and later an MBA, launching a career working for high-tech companies. I have assimilated well in the American dream; married for 31 years with three children, all with higher educations.
Being Muslim in the land of immigrants offers its challenges these days. The U.S. is our beloved home where we live and raise a family like others. My friends and family, like the majority of other American Muslims, love our homeland and do not condone the acts of a few deranged individuals who commit atrocities in the name of a religion.
I am an advocate of cross-cultural and interfaith dialogues, and I am involved with the Interfaith Council of Sonoma County and its Of One Soul programs. On June 10, in honor of Ramadan 2018, Of One Soul will host “Insist on Kindness,” a Sonoma County-wide day to serve the needy and perform acts of kindness in the community.
For details, search for “Insist on Kindness” on Facebook, or go to #sonomakind on Facebook.
I believe good works are the best remedies against prejudice, bigotry and fear of others. The melting pot society offers resources to enrich our lives and to build bridges and harmony with other people for the advancement of global peace and coexistence. So, if you know an immigrant, reach out, since their story may be more adventurous than mine.