My grandfather Agha immigrated to America in 1979. My Grandfather was an Afghani diplomat who had to flee Iran. He was an Afghan diplomat living in Iran when the Iranian Revolution occurred. All diplomats under Iran’s previous regime had to return to their countries. The problem for my grandfather was that his country was currently at war with Russia. Russian communists were trying to take over Afghanistan. America kindly offered asylum to my grandfather and his family. They had to leave all of their belongings behind and arrived in America with nothing. He and my grandmother found jobs and built a new life in a new culture.
I was born in America and I remember my family always being thankful to America for protecting them. My grandfather, who as a diplomat visited at least 40 different countries, would tell me that of all the people he has met, the American people are the best in terms of their character and goodness. I remember my mother crying when she became an American citizen at the age of 40. She would often say “God bless America.”
Perhaps ironically, my grandfather was an active Republican and donated generously to the Republican party. Afghans love President Reagan, who aided them in defeating the Russians.
A surprising thing that I personally appreciate about being an American is that I am more educated about my religion, Islam, than many Muslims who grow up in Muslim countries! Because America promotes critical thinking and freedom of thought, I was able to understand my religion with my heart and mind rather than from cultural practices of people. Many Muslims from so-called Muslim countries have never learned about their religion with understanding. They are taught to just memorize sayings. Because of the open minded American education system, I am writing Islamic books and articles that open the minds of thousands of Muslims from all over the world. Many Muslims have been surprised that I read the Holy Quran in English, because they never were taught to read the Quran in their own languages to understand it.
Of course I am deeply saddened by terrorists who murder in the name of my faith. The Quran teaches that killing a civilian is like killing all of mankind. One innocent life is so precious.
Many Muslims view the American Muslim community as a beacon of hope for the Muslim world. American Muslims are not as constrained by the tyrannical, oppressive cultures that Muslims of other nationalities have grown up in. Surprisingly, many “Muslim” countries suppress the right of Muslims to actually practice Islam! I will always love America for giving me the freedom to learn and practice my beliefs. I believe that America’s success comes from the goodness it has shown to people all over the world.
Sheima Sumer is an online counselor and writer. Her website is howtobeahappymuslim.com