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Sara Al Mheiri: I just don’t understand
August 22, 2014
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“Hi, what are you up to right now?” I held the phone up to my ear confused, not responding. Why is my best friend from Dubai internationally calling me? “Um… I’m at home eating breakfast?” Next thing I hear is a loud knock on my apartment door. I warily open it and there standing were my two best friends and their mother. I squeal with excitement as I jump on them with open arms. They had never been to America before and decided to take a trip to visit their brother who is studying in LA. New York was a last-minute impromptu decision to see the sights and me, of course. I grab my shoes and we head out for an improvised tour.

The ambience is great, we are all giddy with excitement as I show them around my new habitat. All of a sudden, I feel a sharp tug on my sleeve. My friend pulls me and whispers, “Is that an Israeli?” I can see the look on her face so clearly transition from general happiness to absolute hatred and disgust. “How can he walk around here so casually…?” She continued to go on a rant whilst staring at him. She then locked eyes with me once she realised I was not agreeing with her. I wasn’t even responding. I was in such shock.

I consider myself to be very liberal and I choose my friends wisely. People who think twice; who don’t live in ignorance but seek the truth. Yet, here she was judging some poor man who was being judged for his religion. He wasn’t an Israeli; he was an average American man who was merely practising his religion. Now, don’t think I am pro-Israel. I am nowhere near that. But judging that man is the equivalent of him judging me for the Taliban. I have witnessed with my own eyes, Muslims and Jews engaging in an intellectually stimulating conversation about life and actually enjoying each other’s presence. I can vouch for the hundreds of people: Jews, Sikhs, and Christians who stood amongst the Muslims who protest for the rights of Gaza. Why judge a man with such hatred for the Yamaka on his head when we fight for the rights for a woman and her veil? If he happens to be pro-Israel, then so be it. But what if he isn’t? How could you feel such hatred for someone who hasn’t actually done anything to you?

Now I realise that you might be reading this with an open mouth that has probably caught at least a dozen flies by now. But I have been that man. I have been the person judged for the mere reason that I am Arab. Or Muslim. I was once taunted by a group of guys who would call everything I owned a ‘terrorist-contraption.’ Who was the only person who stood up for me? The gay college student who just got kicked out of his house for coming out of the closet. If you yourself understand the pain of others, then how can you harbour such hatred?

People often remark that the reason they are friends with me is because they know they can be themselves and I will not judge them in the slightest bit. Unless they cause harm to others, of course. The reason I am this way is because, God has given us the ultimate gift of life. Why spend all that time fighting someone for the way they live it? Life is too short and sweet to wallow in anger against others. How would you like it if someone stopped you from living your own life because they didn’t have the mental capacity to broaden their minds and try to understand? You could be a transsexual human who loves to wear only tutu skirts with American football shirts and I will still gladly be your friend if you are a kind, funny person.  My life mantra does come with a clause of course. If you cause any type of harm to others, that’s when I have a problem. But if you want to wear a turban, then rock that turban. If you are a girl and you want to give yourself a new look, perhaps a pixie cut, then chop those locks off!

People, it’s 2014. Get on with the programme.

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Sara Al Mheiri is a young Emirati woman who is currently living
in Boston, USA, where she is specialising in media studies with a
focus on women's studies. Sara is the ultimate nomad who flits
between countries observing new societies and their culture.

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