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.


  1. That is exactly why Muslim women cover their heads and dress modestly - not just to stop others from leering but also out of modesty to their god.

    (Yes, they are monotheistic, but it is arguably not the same "god" as in Christianity because logically if there is only one God who has not and cannot contradict Himself, then their version is not the real God because their beliefs contradict Holy Scripture. This concept can become very difficult for those to try to understand today who believe in a subjective pluralism where nothing is "correct". History also verifies this argument. Yet, there are elements of the Truth mixed in to make it even more confusing.)

    This is another reason for the "clash of cultures" occurring today and the animosity there-from; many (most?) in the post-Christian West cannot understand this modesty and devotion and it is alien to them and "offends" their false-sense of freedom (freedom is the ability to choose between goods (what is good, not a material good) - the modernist concept of freedom is anything but and is, in fact, license (from which we have licentiousness)).

    In the past even deadly enemies (such as Saladin and the Crusader, King Richard the Lion Heart) could respect each other and even communicate and sit together and play games (chess). They did not agree and would fight to the death to defend what they believe is right (only one was - otherwise it would be a contradiction). Today, one retains this belief and the West, by contrast, has rejected the objective and embraced the subjective. That is why the "West" can never succeed in ventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

    Yes, a longer comment, yet, woefully inadequate for such a very intensive and non-simplistic subject.

    Anyway, good post - maybe it will make some people (both men and women!) stop and think about the expected objectification of women (just look at how any man and woman is dressed for any movie poster), the demasculanization of men and the agenda of sex.

    1. Indeed. When you think about it, compare their modesty and fidelity to the Desperate Housewives of Vancouver. Trailer trash bragging about adultery and promiscuity. That represents the moral decline of society.

      The way I see it is that there is no such thing as a Holy War simply because war is not holy, freedom is. The idea of any religion fighting another religion trying to win converts by the sword is to me impossible to comprehend. Both sides want to preserve their right to religious freedom. Fighting for that is sanctioned by God not religious persecution.

      The movie Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom was an excellent portrayal of the respect you describe between the two opposing sides in the battle for Jerusalem:

  2. Great Post! enjoy life with the new neighbours!

  3. I live in the West End of Vancouver by English Bay,when the Syrian refugees were first arriving they where very noticeable in the Gay village on Davie st, I Loved it, they certainly looked out of place, yet fit right in.
    Smiling, happy children and polite friendly adults. On the Seawall one day I saw a herd of these happy little kids running and playing, a couple Ladies keeping a watchful eye and an older gentleman pushing a baby in a stroller, i am an old Harley rider, 45 plus years of riding, me and the old Syrian guy have a moment, eye contact, at first he seem wary, I said Hello,Peace,big smile came to his face, Hello Peace was his response,I Loved it, and away we went to our different worlds.
    later i thought of the uncertainties and scary shit this Family had to have endured to get here to the Seawall, happy smiling kids, thoughtful considerate Adults, Great additions to Our Canadian Family.
    I'm glad the craziness seems to have settled down around your Daughter and You over this blog.

    1. Thing have settled down thanks. Just two trolls that have gone off their meds but anyone with a brain can see through their obscene defamation.

      You make an excellent point about realizing what the refuges have been through. Imagine being forced out of your home for generations with bombs going off and people dying all around you to leave that all behind and come to a place where no one cares what religion you are and go to a park where kids can play and be kids. That's the way it's supposed to be.

      Good on ya for reaching out. The kids here were a bit leery at first when I'd ride up on my motorcycle but I would always smile and wave which helped break the ice. Now when I come home from work and park on the sidewalk they all gather around my bike to say hi. They are already an important part of our community.


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