Thursday, May 12, 2016
Surrey Syrian Refugee Update - Salam Alaikum
I just wanted to throw out there another real life experience and update on the Syrian Refugee status in Surrey. As I previously mentioned, I was thrilled to discover we had a family of Syrian refugees move in literally next door. So when the Lord asked, who is my neighbour I can truthfully declare, the Syrian refugees are. They have four wonderful young children. Two boys and two girls who are absolutely adorable. Those parents have to be doing something right. Their kids are fun, friendly, polite and respectful. Take my word for it, as a parent in Surrey, you want your kids hanging out with these kids. They are a good influence on our kids.
The kids are always smiling saying hi over and over again and I enthusiastically wave back whenever I see them. I asked my daughter how you say hello in Arabic and she said Salam Alaikum so I tried it out on the oldest boy. I said Salam Alaikum to him and he just looked a little confused. I was worried I didn't say it right so I said Is that right? Salam Alaikum? Then it sinks in and he says yes, Salam Alaikum. I guess he was just shocked I was trying to speak Arabic.
He goes inside, tells his mother and she comes out laughing all excited so I repeat it to her and she eagerly replies Alaikum Salam. She explained when someone says Salam Alaikum to you the customary response is Alaikum Salam. So that's what we say every time we see each other. Literally it means peace be unto you kind of like how in Punjabi you say Sat Sri Akaal which literally means Truth is the ultimate God. I always thought it mean God is good but Wikipedia clarifies it. I met the father a few times and shook his hand telling him he has wonderful kids because he certainly does. Then the other day we get a knock on the door and it's the mother wearing a full Hijab holding her English homework that she's having trouble with.
Through sign language I understand she wants help with her homework. She wanted us to read it out to her. There is a list of phrases: My name is, I am from Syria, In Canada we have four seasons, In Syria we have four seasons and so on. She can't practice it because she can't read the script. She has what the words mean in Arabic written beside each word but that doesn't help her with the English pronunciation. My daughter comes down who teaches English to refugees as a volunteer in her spare time and starts helping her. Then she asked my daughter to come over so she can help her with her homework and I said have at it.
Later my daughter calls me on her cell saying she was having a wonderful time and that they wanted me to come over. I said I'm not going over there unless the husband is home. She says, no the husband is inviting you over. I said sure. Then texted back and said it's getting late and I have to get up at 5 AM so let's make it for tomorrow instead.
So last night they invited us over for dinner and it was amazing. All sitting on the floor around a table full of food sharing a traditional Arabic meal with their wonderful family. It was awesome. It was like visiting the Middle east in my own back yard only better. You don't get those kind of experiences at a hotel or resort. The food was fantastic. They put roasted almonds in the rice. It was delicious. I'm going to start doing that. I worked with a Caribbean chef in London many years ago and he explained they put black eyed peas in the rice hence the name of the rap group. It's awesome. So is roasted almonds in the rice.
One of the things I finally began to understand was the Hijab. When my daughter went over the wife took her hijab off and they just chilled. Turns out the wife is only three years older than my daughter and says they are like sisters. It's wonderful. When I came over for dinner she put the Hijab back on because that is the tradition.
A few years ago my daughter found a funny picture people were sharing on facebook. It was a woman wearing a Hijab at the mall with two different boxes of hair dye in her hand trying to decide which one to buy. Westerners thought it was funny because who cares what colour your hair is when no one can see it. Then a Muslim girl comments and says she is trying to look good for her man not for every dog that looks at her on the street. My daughter laughed out loud and said whoa shots fired! The Muslim girl slammed the infidel. It was funny and made sense.
So next time you see a woman wearing a Hijab remember she doesn't have a bomb. She just loves her husband and doesn't want every dirty old man checking her out. It's that simple.
When you think about it, if you're walking down the street in New York City and see an Orthodox Jew wearing his traditional clothing, who cares? That is his right. When you are in Dublin and see a Catholic Nun wearing her traditional clothing, who cares? That is her right. Just like when you see a Muslim woman wearing a hijab in Surrey. Who cares? That is her right. And when you think about it, is it really that different? The traditional clothing looks very similar to that of a Catholic Nun. Harris J - Salam Alaikum. Peace be unto you.
From a distance we look the same.