So This Is Christmas?

This is a tale, a fiction, but one I could imagine happening.

Ibrahim, who has lived in the United States for 6 years wrote a letter to his friend in Iraq. Ibrahim emigrated to the US with help from the US Army after working with US soldiers as an interpreter in southern Iraq for five years. As a Sunni Muslim his service may not have been appreciated by the post Saddam government and some of the locals. As such he and his immediate family were relocated to a small city in the mid-west.

Dear Ahmed,

My family and I are living in America. After 6 years here I still feel less than accepted. My children actually do better than Noora and I do. In school both do well and have some good friends. Our neighbors are nice except for one a few doors away. He, mostly, never speaks and goes out of his way to treat us like unacceptable refugees. Another neighbor who is my fiend says no one really likes him. He also said that he acts very patriotic but never served in the military. He claims to be very religious or maybe righteous but I never see him go out to church on Sunday, the main Christian day for religious observance.

This is the Christmas season in this country. Not all people here are Christians and some are not even religious but all treat this time of year like a holiday and generally are in good spirits. As you know Christmas is not part of our religion. Actually I became familiar with Christmas while still home in Iraq with the US Army. The soldiers were very good to me and even got gifts for me although they knew I was not Christian. Some explained to me what Christmas meant to them, not being home and all. I always got a happy holiday or seasons greeting from them, although Christmas is not our holiday it is near a happy time in our religion. I always tried to remember to say Merry Christmas in return because for many, not all, it was their holiday. I felt like it was mutual respect for each other and our beliefs. It is not the same here as it was with the soldiers in Iraq even though it is the same holiday.

I never thought when we were younger that I would leave Iraq. It was our home and the world we knew. Now I am glad I worked for the US Army and am thankful for the soldiers I knew. They were so close, so human. We all cried when a friend was killed, myself included. Yet I always felt safe, protected. Here in America as a Muslim we have certain problems. Many people don’t know who we are or what we believe. Consequently some fear us and with fear, hate is a small step. Still there is much for me to be thankful and I truly love this country I have adopted or perhaps it adopted me. I read that some people, I assume Christians, dislike someone saying happy holidays and not Merry Christmas. I can’t tell who is a Christian or not. I usually say happy holidays because I don’t know. I don’t want to offend anyone but I think primarily I want to be more inclusive since there are many people here in this country who don’t believe as Christians. There are several different groups that have holidays this time of year, us included. I do not take offense if someone says Merry Christmas to me, I accept that it is a reference to the time of year, and they are not belittling me. At first I would correct and explain that I am Muslim, but some got upset. I didn’t want to appear to reject their Jesus. What I have learned about him tells me he was a great and wonderful person. Someone whose life we all would be honored to follow. We have our beliefs and prophets. I respect their’s, I only hope they will also respect mine.

This great person, Jesus, he was a teacher who taught people to help each other. He told people to take care of those with less, to share, to forgive, love and accept other people. Many people claim to want to live a life-like his. Honestly some do but many say they believe and want to emulate his life but don’t come close to doing that. The soldiers I was with in Iraq were also of different religions, races and nationalities but to me each lived a life-like the Christian Jesus. That is very hard in a war but so many did just that by their behavior. I read how some people here think that Muslims want to have governments follow Sharia law. People say how awful that is but many Christians want the government here to pass laws that are really Christian beliefs. I don’t understand the difference and think both are not wrong. Now there is going to be a new President. If what I read is correct he does not like us and will not allow any more Muslim people to come to this great country. It is difficult to understand. I wish I was with my soldier friends again, perhaps they could help me to understand.

This is America and it has been good to us. I wish Christmas here made me feel as it did in Iraq with them. We all had our own religious beliefs but we all believed in each other. That to me is how I understand Christmas. We are all here together, willing to help each other and willing to sacrifice for each other. This is Christmas. Let me say happy holiday to you with all the meaning that is Christmas.

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