Sept. 9, 2013
My sister is six years older than me, and she’s visiting the United States for the first time in more than two years. Since I last saw her, she married a man from Syria, converted to Islam and has been sharing a tiny apartment with her husband’s Syrian family in Turkey.
Her story is hers to tell – I don’t know all the details.
What I do know is I’ve been wrong about the peaceful Islamic people.
I was like most Americans after 9/11 – I was horrified by the terrorist act. With its anniversary this week, we remember our own 12-year-old terrorist horror better than we’ll feel for the innocent people who lost their lives and family members and homes a little more than a week ago.
Unfortunately, the end of August 2013 isn’t the first time Syria has suffered loss. We’ve barely heard anything about Syria in the media until recently.
When I graduated high school in 2011, I knew about Syria because it was on the list of countries following Egypt and Tunisia in revolution.
But even Iran tried a small rebellion, which Iranian President Ahmadinejad quickly crushed, so nobody really knew which countries would still be going to war two years later.
Due to civil war, 100,000 Syrians have already been lost. It’s monstrous and tragic, and my sister and her family have been living elsewhere since her wedding in December.
The only reason we’re hearing about it now is because chemical weapons were used, and chemical weapons are a no-no in world politics.
As a coworker put it, if the U.S. doesn’t get involved, it’s like a parent threatening to punish a child for misbehaving and not following through.
So why should college students care? If you know anything about 9/11, you know the whole country was reeling from a single terrorist attack that killed 3,000 people.
For the Syrians, it’s the same thing happening only on a larger scale. Most of the refugees don’t even have homes to go back to anymore.
While I don’t have a solution, I do know we have to drop our xenophobic categorizing of all Muslims as bad because they’re not. Most of them are peaceful, and they’re dying, and they’re refugees.
My sister’s husband isn’t even visiting the states with her. The reason? He was given a hard time about getting a passport because he’s Syrian.
I’m not asking for political involvement or intervention. Honestly, I don’t think that’s what we need right now. I’m asking for this: smile at someone wearing a hijab today.
People who have Middle Eastern connections through their heritage and religion are going through a lot right now.
You don’t know who’s here because they’re running from a home and a life they may never have again.