Friday, July 25, 2008

The American Dream

(Photo Credit: Paul Fraughton/The Salt Lake Tribune)

To me, what makes one an American is not where you were born or who you were born to (that's citizenship) but rather, whether you strive to make your family's lot in life better. The American Dream isn't limited to 2.34 kids with a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence. It trying to make the Haratio Alger myth a reality.
Abdulkarim Abed Hasan and his family endured war and hardship in their Baghdad home for three years before moving to Syria. After two years there, the family was admitted to the United States as refugees and into an Avenues apartment in Salt Lake City in June.
If the parallel [to the story of the Mormon Pioneers] seems a bit strained, 49-year-old Abdulkarim would be the first to admit it.
"When I came here I saw that Mormons are very good. No drinking. No drugs. Better here than Las Vegas," he said. "But the past [of Utah], I don't know much about."
No matter. The Hasan family embraced its first Pioneer Day.
Adul-Karim is right, but I will add two more things Islam has in common with the LDS faith (one which he implied): believing that gambling is a sin, and that women should dress modestly. The forbidding of eating pork, charging interest, and eating with the left hand, of course do not apply (along with the other obvious ones). So who's to say that they won't feel at home in Utah, which is also a desert?
The Hasan family embraced its first Pioneer Day. Abdulkarim took his wife and five children to the Steiner Aquatic Center for a swim the day before, a luxury they have long missed since Baghdad's recreational centers were left destroyed or neglected. They gathered on the lawn to watch the evening's fireworks, then ventured downtown the morning after for celebrations. The parade was nice, but the fireworks impressed.
"When I see fire in my country, people die," Abdulkarim said. "This was different."
The family members count themselves among the lucky few who have left the violence and chaos of their home country to make it into the United States. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC) estimates the war and its aftermath created more than 4 million Iraqi refugees. Half remain uprooted inside Iraq; the remainder live in Syria or Jordan where they are denied work.
A sobering fact. Let's hope their country (and the region) can be stabilized and that the next president will allow more refugees come to share in the promise that is America.
The family is loath to name a sectarian allegiance. "We are Muslims," said 10-year-old son Abdulrahman. "There is no Sunni or Shia."
Not content to sit at home, Abdulkarim said he is searching for work as a translator for construction companies rebuilding Iraq.
"Next year I'd like to see all Iraqis living here go to the [Pioneer Day] celebration together," he said. "Because we live in Utah, and benefit from life here, we must say thank you and celebrate with the community."
I am sure I speak for Utahns when I say, "You are welcome and welcome here."

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