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During my twenty-six-year stay in America I had the privilege and honor to interact with many American Muslims on a personal and family basis. It was very inspiring for me and it strengthened my faith immensely. I confess, like many other immigrants in the U.S.A., I became a better practicing Muslim in America than I was in my native country. Much credit for this goes to these new Muslims. Most of them are superior in knowledge and practice than I. May Allah let me catch up with them!
Most of the Muslims described here are ordinary members of the Muslim society in North America. I feel that they have made a great impact on their own lives and the lives of those around them. Such local heroes should be recognized. It is this positive change at the grassroots level of American society which amazes, and somewhat alarms the followers of other religions there. For example, some of the most violent prisoners became the most well-behaved citizens and peaceful residents after accepting Islam. These new American Muslims are a guiding light for both Muslims and non-Muslims. They very quietly adorn American society with their remarkable character.
I was teaching Mathematics in a public high school in Maryland. Teaching is a very demanding job. Most of the teachers get very exhausted. It was customary for the members of the Mathematics Department to have a special luncheon for all faculty members at the end of each semester. We called this social event the ‘unwinding process’. We used to cook a dish called sloppy Joe. It is ground beef cooked with tomato sauce and mild chilies. It was done in our department using a slow cooker. My colleagues loved this sloppy Joe. I once announced loudly that I would bring the ground beef the next time. Everybody eagerly agreed. During this next luncheon I had a very meaningful conversation with a colleague. Her name was Cindy and she happened to be Jewish. During our conversation I said to her, “Aren’t you lucky that I brought ground beef which both of us are allowed to eat?” She said, “Mr. Ahmad I am a bad Jew. I even eat pork.” I did not pursue this matter to avoid sensitivity.
We had a common interest in real estate since both of us were licensed real estate salespersons. She was working in the real estate brokerage office owned by her husband. She told me that the market was pretty good then. She added that since her husband was a military colonel working in the Pentagon(military headquarters), she had to take care of most of the brokerage work. During our conversation I said to her, “Cindy, how come I do not see you on duty at the basketball games or other sporting events in the evenings?” She boldly said, “The school authorities cannot force me to do this duty since I have to take my children and the children of my neighborhood thrice a week to a Hebrew School during the weekdays. This is in addition to the regular religious services. I have been doing this voluntarily for the last few years.” This amazed me. I said to myself quietly that this young lady is a full-time teacher and drives forty-five minutes one way each weekday to school. She is a part-time real estate agent also. Besides this she has her usual family and social life. Still she has time and the commitment to serve as a volunteer for a Hebrew School, and even then she calls herself a bad Jew.
I started wondering about my personal commitment, if any, and commitments of many others around me who consider themselves as good Muslims. May Allah strengthen our faith and actions.
Imtiaz Ahmad, Madina Munawara, June, 2002