“Thanks God she hasn’t gone to any Arab country”, commented a Facebook friend when I posted a story about Afghan refugee-turn Canadian minister – Mariam Monsef – on my timeline.
The comment reminded me of Muhammad Naqeeb, a Palestinian American, whose eatery, the Milano Pizza & Greek Deli in Manteca, California, was my favorite place to dine in.
Before narrating Naqeeb’s story, it would be equally interesting to know about the woman whose success story made me recalled the tall bearded Pizza boy, Muhammad Naqeeb.
According to news reports, Maryam Monsef, the new Canadian MP, was elevated by the newly sworn-in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to his 31-member cabinet on 4th of November.
But who is Ms. Monsef?
She was born in the war-torn Afghanistan and raised in the western city of Herat, near the Iranian border. “I lost my father when I was a toddler and both my sisters were under the age of two. My mother was in her 20s. No one knows for certain what happened to my father”, Monsef told The Huffington Post, adding the most they knew was he was caught in crossfire between the border of Iran and Afghanistan.
According to reports years before she was born her uncle had been abducted from his dorm room at Kabul University. “A third-year pharmaceutical student, he was politically vocal and had been heard making anti-communist remarks on a bus”, she told the newspaper.
Monsef, whose childhood was spent moving between Afghanistan and Iran, said that even after the Soviet invasion ended the family was still in nightmare due to the Afghan Mujahedeen, forcing her mother to go to Iran. In Iran her family wasn’t welcome either and Monsef and her two sisters would be teased by local kids. “As illegal refugees we were also living under the constant threat of deportation” she said.
“In 1996, my mother chose to leave her support system and her culture behind to come to Canada”, Monsef told the newspaper, informing the family claimed refugee status when they arrived in Canada, ending up in Peterborough, where Monsef’s uncle lived. She was 11 then. Today, she is one of the 33 ministers of the Canada.
Though hasn’t become an American congressmen, Naqeeb has certainly got in the US what he couldn’t achieve in the country of his birth – not even nationality.
Naqeeb, who was born in Saudi Arabia on September 18, 1983 and lived there for over fourteen years before his family opted to move to United States in 1998 for better fortune. Before tying the knot, his father and mother – though Palestinians – were living in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, respectively.
However, the fourteen years stay, his birth and Arab descent couldn’t earn Naqeeb Saudi nationality especially when he was displaced of his homeland due to the sprawling illegal Israeli settlements.
“Almost within four years we moved to the US, we got the American nationality” Naqeeb told me as his mother Mona Muhammad was cooking delicious meal for the clients. The restaurant is being run by Muhammad Nizar, his son Naqeeb and wife Mona. Two elder siblings of Muhammad Nizar, namely Hasan and Rania are married.
Though Mrs. Moona is still emotionally attached with the holly lands of Saudi Arabia, her kids are happy having moved to America, which has provided them better life as compared to that which they had lived in Saudi Arabia.
“We may encounter with both positive and negative attitudes in every society and so in the US but generally it’s more welcoming than others” Naqeeb said. “We didn’t have to struggle too much here”.
“But you must be legal to have the good of the American society” the Palestinian American youth opines. For a short while after the 9/11 we had to face harassment but that period lasted shortly when the local realized that the deeds of a certain people can’t be attributed to the entire Muslim community”, “We have to follow the rules of society we are living in. You just can’t force the society to follow you, the things which is often done by the immigrants, earning them negative reaction”, optimistic Naqeeb says.
After doing job in a corporate company as project manager Naqeeb setup his own restaurant and since then his business is flourishing day by day. “It happens when you work hard in a highly receptive society, no matter if you’re born there or having come as immigrant”, Naqeeb said.
The U.S. presidential candidate Donald trump should know that it’s not only Naqeeb and Monsef who have good feelings for the American continent but there are hundreds of thousands like his own grandfather Frederick Trump, who after coming to the US and Canada from different parts of the globe, mingled in the society and are contributing to their new countries.
The writer is a freelance journalist and ICFJ fellow 2015.