Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: Iraq

Iraqi Americans (Not) Acclimating

Photo by: Suman Bhattachary

             Photo by: Suman Bhattachary

Today I attended a school meeting with the educators and parents where we discussed, once again, how to encourage Iraqi American parents to get involved in their students’ work and in the school itself. My community has the largest growing Iraqi immigrants. It has even been nicknamed “Little Baghdad” because on each corner there is an Iraqi produce market, butchery, bakery, restaurants, etc. This is great on one hand. The culture resonates very strongly here. However, when the newcomers stay within these boundaries, adding Satellite TVs in order to watch Arab channels all day long, they don’t give themselves the chance to acclimate.

One of the teachers said that she really embraces this ethnic community, especially given that she resides amongst them. “However,” she added, “it feels like this community is like a volleyball game. This team is on this side, and that team is on that side, and often they split apart. They don’t really come together.”

I remembered something my elderly neighbor once said as we chatted over our back fence. Her parents were first generation immigrants from Italy. She said that all immigrants had difficulty acclimating but that she noticed this was more prominent with Iraqis. They really resisted change.

I thought about that and wondered whether this was due to them having immigrated from a country of a different religion. They also had endured much oppression and persecution and for over 30 years war. Their wounds are so deep, it’s not easy to tap into them. They will take decades, maybe even generations, to heal. But isolation is not the answer. And it’s their children who will suffer for it.

As the principal said, “If people don’t know the truth, don’t worry. They will make it up.”

His point was to spread the good news about the school. My point is let’s spread the good news about our culture, our history, our pains and joys. Let’s share ourselves. Because if people don’t know the truth about us, they will make it up.

The Tradition of New Year Resolutions

Goose

Ancient Babylonians started the tradition of making New Year Resolutions some 4,000 years ago. They made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days.

According to www.adoptionworld.com, late March is actually a logical choice for the beginning of a new year. It is the time of year that spring begins and new crops are planted. January 1st, on the other hand, has no astronomical nor agricultural significance. It is purely arbitrary. The Romans continued to observe the new year on March 25, but their calendar was continually tampered with by various emperors so that the calendar soon became out of synchronization with the sun.

The celebration of the new year is the oldest of all holidays. If there’s one thing to learn from it is that we should stop tampering with nature and ancient wisdom. Perhaps then more people than the current 8 percent will achieve their New Year’s Resolutions.

Wise Words from a Republican

George Brikho

“We created ISIS, and we need to destroy ISIS,” said George Brikho. “ISIS is funded by Turkey and Saudi Arabia, our supposed allies.”

These words by a Republican running for Congress in 2014 caught my interest in an event I recently covered. Unlike most Republicans, what Brikho said was honest, bold and heartfelt, not staged. He is obviously not afraid to look at the root of ISIS’ formation, which he blames on our foreign policy as well as the current and past administrations.

“Today’s Republicans are not behaving like Republicans,” he said. “Today it’s all about the money changers. Wars are being made for profit. Corporations are directing politicians. It’s no longer about liberation for the people.”

His solution is simple – stop getting involved with other countries and going to war, because the more war we get into, the more debt we have.

“Saddam and Kaddafi wanted to sell their oil their way through OPEC,” he said. “It’s like you have a store or any another business. You have the right to set the prices and do business the way you want.”

Saudi Arabia is the leader of OPEC. It is also the only member of the OPEC cartel that does not have an allotted production quota. Oil can be bought from OPEC only if you have dollars. In November 2000, Iraq began selling its oil in euros. When OPEC oil could be sold in other currencies, like the euro, that’s not too good for the U.S. economic dominance.

“Leaders of other countries were not happy about what Saddam and Kaddafi were doing and wanted things to be done the way they wanted them to be done,” said Brikho. “So they went in and polarized that nation into submission. Then the federal banking comes in, and the new leaders are given money to rebuild, and in order to be able to give this money back, those countries, who never taxed their citizens before, start taxing their people the way we do.”

I wondered why this Republican was not talking like most Republicans. What was so different about him?

“I’m a statesman, not a politician,” he said. “I’m a concerned American, and I work for the people. I am willing to expose anyone whose allegiance is to money and not the people.”

On his website, it says:

The Constitution of the United States of America is the most intelligently crafted governing document in the history of mankind. The US Constitution protects personal liberty by limiting the power of our government. Unfortunately, our government violates its boundaries on a daily basis. Our federal government must be restrained.

One wonders why the people have given their powers away.

“We have become too comfortable, to where unconsciously we’re allowing for things that don’t benefit us to happen,” he said. “For instance, a third of our paycheck goes to our government. This is modern day enslavement. You don’t need a cage to be a slave.”

I researched the difference between a statesman and a politician and found an interesting quote by James Freeman Clarke, who said, “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”

I also found an interesting article by Mike North who wrote that the founders of this nation were not politicians, but were statesmen, adding, “We are suffering from a drought of statesmen and a flood of politicians. It’s like a diet full of calories with almost no nutrition. Statesmen are like vegetables. Many people don’t like them, but they’re good for you. Politicians are like too much ice cream. Yummy, I’ll worry about the stomach ache later.”

I feel we should be grateful that George Brikho is helping our country fill this drought, and do, what I think is so crucial for our nation to do, which is to become politically fit.

You can read Mike North’s full article here: http://mike_north.tripod.com/id20.htm

Falling in Love with Political Matters

IMG_8869

During Saddam’s era, if you were interested in politics you had to either join the Baath Party, be neutral or, if you wanted to start a new party or movement, risk imprisonment or death. Today, the situation is ten times worse. You risk losing your life (in a most brutal manner) no matter what you do or believe in.

In America, it’s quite the opposite. You get city officials who actually have an interest in establishing a relationship with your diverse community – something the City of Sterling Heights has been known to do over the years. You can even get rewarded for your efforts. That was the case with my colleague Nick Najjar last week when he received an award as Commissioner of the Year for the City of Sterling Heights. Over the years Nick has fostered civic virtue and political awareness, promoted active participation in political changes, and helped citizens identify policies that would benefit them. He is an example of someone who truly understands and honors the privileges this country has to offer.

Americans frequently expect the government to do something about their problems. But, how does the government know what these problems are unless members of the community address them? Some think that getting politically involved would not make a difference. Others, like Nick, have the attitude that it’s easier to act and create than it is to complain and be pessimistic.

It’s easy to complain. It’s rewarding to act – with love. We fall in love with tourist destinations, religious institutions, restaurants or foods, fashion trends, television shows, celebrities, or a new hobby.  But we rarely fall in love with politics and government matters, even though they impact our everyday life and will affect our future.

If we expect the government to do something about our problems, we have to look at how we can help them do just that, even if it simply means becoming better informed and passing that knowledge on to our neighbors. Even if it simply means treating our community with love and appreciation.

 

To Our Countries

“To Our Countries” is a project produced by a group of youths who live in Sweden and are originally from Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine.

The song expresses different parts of the Middle East. Here’s an excerpt about Baghdad:

 In Iraq there has been a liberation for more than 10 years.  A liberation from injustice, oppression and tyranny that came with a greater tyranny, injustice and oppression, where the people of the country were all expelled.

A liberation that divided what was already divided and what broke what’s already broken. A liberation where civilizations cease to exist. A liberation which all Iraqi citizens were marginalized regardless of their ethnic or religious background.

A liberation that enslaved people and demolished homes. One that killed the human and the motherland.”

I have the right to peace of mind

I have a right to peace of mind

The Tomb of Prophet Jonah and Prophet Daniel Blown to Pieces

Prophet Jonah

The Radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) destroyed Shrines belonging to two biblical prophets – high revered by both Christians and Muslims – Prophet Jonah, dating back to the 8th Century B.C. and Prophet  Daniel.They’ve also destroyed 11 churches.

ISIS has, in one month, destroyed or damaged 30 shrines, ordered female genital mutilations in Iraq and told Iraqi shops to veil mannequins.

This proves that I was right when in 2008, I wrote the article “Operation Iraqi Freedom Enslaved Iraqi Women” where First Lady Laura Bush raves about how this war is going to liberate Iraqi women. I should write another article entitled “Operation Iraqi Freedom Enslaved the Iraqi People.” But by now, hopefully everyone knows this, I would think, so there’s no need.

You can read Operation Iraqi Freedom Enslaved Iraqi Women: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/the_iraqi/conversations/topics/4358

Terrorists Won – Now We’re Really Safe!

Terrorists Won

Over the weekend, the second largest city in Iraq, Mosul, fell and yesterday Saddam Hussein’s home city of Tikrit has fallen. Is Baghdad next in line in what CNN calls “rapid takeovers”? So far, more than 500,000 civilians have fled the fighting that was brought about Islamic Militants.

My opinion? Joshua Blain described it best in his post to a CNN article:

“The reality is that this is all our fault. While Saddam Hussein was indeed a dictator and corrupt, he did not tolerate Islamic extremist groups in his country because they were a threat to his secular regime. Though a dictator, he maintained stability in the country and overall the people lived in peace and had a great education system. We then went in and destabilized the country by removing Saddam and leaving a massive power void, allowing extremist groups to flood the country. In essence we created the very environment we said we were going to eliminate. The great irony is that to the people of Iraq, we are the weapons of mass destruction.”

International Women’s Day

IMG_0648

Last Saturday the Iraqi Human Rights Society held an event at Double Tree Hotel in Dearborn in honor of international Women’s Day. The main speaker was a dear colleague, Judge Eman Jajonie-Daman, who was born in Iraq and came to the United States in 1979, when she was 14 years old.

Mrs. Jajonie-Daman gave a wonderful speech about the history of women in the United States, the things they had to do in order to get to where they are today. It was not easy for them. They fought and worked hard and despite all their accomplishments, we women have a lot more work ahead of us.

“That’s my daughter,” the woman sitting beside me said.

“You’re Eman’s mother?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, and after I told her who I was, and she told me her name, Hayat Jajonie, it turned out that our families knew each other.

“Tell me, what’s the secret to raising such wonderful children?” I asked, after she told me how all her children (three daughters and one son) had prestigious occupations. “What advice would you give mothers?”

“To educate themselves!” she said. “And spend less time shopping.”

Oh, I was so grateful that I was on the right path.

A Magic Trick for Dolma Lovers

dolma

Dolma is in the air this week – literally. Three days ago, I stuffed two pots – actually three (the third pot is only red peppers), and I cooked one for dinner yesterday, as did my sister. One of the pots I’m keeping in the freezer for the near future. With dolma, it’s always good to have a backup.

At night, my husband read me an Iraqi joke someone posted on Facebook: “Americans teach that the normal time it takes to chew a bite is 30 seconds. For Iraqis, in the time it takes to close and open their eyes, you wonder where the pot of dolma has gone.” So here’s a magic trick, if you want to learn one. Just blink your eyes and poof! The pot of dolma will disappear.

That is probably why when my friend saw the picture of my pot of dolma on Facebook, she commented, “That’s the smallest pot of dolma I’ve seen!”

Here’s a little history about one of Iraq’s favorite cuisine, dolma, which by the way, its name is Turkish.
“The Arab world was under Ottoman rule for five hundred years, and the Turkish influence is seen in many preparations, such as stuffed grape leaves. But the stuffing of vegetables has its roots in the Arab cookery of the early Islamic empire of the Abbasids in Baghdad, possibly learned from the Persians. Ottoman chefs perfected the stuffing of vegetables, and today nearly everything that can be stuffed is stuffed.” —A Mediterranean Feast, Clifford A. Wright [William Morrow:New York] 1999 (p. 322)

Coming to this Country 33 Years Ago

Coming to America

Today marks 33 years that I’ve been living in the United States. I remember on our drive home from Metro Airport February 2, 1981, I was in awe at the sight of all the snow that covered the streets. Having come from a land of sand and rivers, I was not accustomed to so much whiteness.

For years, I’ve wondered why I ended up in this country. It was not I who chose to flee Iraq and come to America. My parents made that decision, of course, since I was a child. I’ve oven thought, did they foresee the terrible condition that Iraq and the rest of the Middle East was going to be in in the upcoming decades?

“You are a creative person, and that’s why you came to this country,” one of my mentors once said to me. “You came here to be able to do your writing and to be able to help women of that region which you came from.”

Thank God, my parents were able to foresee the future and bring us to a place where creativity, and not oppression, is what’s encouraged.