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This short fiction story/film is based on the real incidents happening to people who immigrated to this country from Pakistan. Well let's just say that, being an immigrant is not a big deal to most Americans. Most of the Americans, one way or the other, have some immigration background. In other words America is a country of immigrants. Just like in my short story, I will be telling you a story about a 14-year-old girl, name Sara Ali Khan who is originally from Pakistan and is currently living in Queens, New York since 2001.
To be honest, living as an immigrant in New York City isn't as easy as people in the mother country think. Sara's father, Salim Khan has been living in New York for the last 20 years. Since he was not highly educated, it was very hard to find a proper job to run his small household in a decent manner. He kept doing odd jobs. He has one daughter and a son. Sara comes from a traditional family who believes in their culture and tradition. In their culture girls are not to be raised with high education and they are supposed to get married at the age of 19 or 20. Since it is mandatory for every parents in USA to send their children to school, her father had no other choice but to send his children to high school. After she graduated from high school, Sara got accepted to New York University. Sara knew her father wasn't at all in favor for higher education, and it was up to her to try and convince him to at least give her a chance to become someone in life.
After a long conversation regarding her education, Sara finally manages to convince her parents to let her get educated. Sara believed that New York City is the land of opportunities and she wanted to take advantage of those opportunities. But what she didn’t know was that high school was not as exciting as she thought it would be. As she walked into her first class, which was English, she realized that everyone was staring at her because she was the only girl with a hijab (scarf) draped around her head.
Sara just kept walking without making an eye contact with other students and sat quietly, when a girl next to her started to make conversation with her. Her name was Matilda. She was a very bright student in her class.
"So, are you new to this country ?" She asked curiously.
"Yes, I am. Just got here a few months ago." Sara replied.
"Do you mind if I ask you something." She said.
"No." Sara replied politely.
"Why do you wear this scarf. Are you obliged to wear this 'THING' because of your religion?"
"No. It may be religious. But we used to wear this scarf as a part of our culture in my country." She replied with a smile.
While walking down the hallway, Sara bumped into a group of guys, who followed her all the way to the cafeteria, teasing and passing bad remarks. Sara tried to ignore them when one of the guys crossed his limit by grabbing her arm and the other guy tried to pull her scarf off.
"What are you hiding under that THING? Come on we want to see what you are hiding underneath." They said laughingly.
After realizing how tough the outside world was, Sara came back home scared and decided not to go back to school again. When her father caught her crying in her room.
"Hey sweetie, is everything alright?"
"Yes dad, I’m alright, just a little tired. I will be fine after taking some rest." Sara replied.
"Okay, but just so you know, I'm always here for you. Don’t ever hesitate to come to me whenever you are having a problem or any kind of trouble at school. Okay?"
Sara was shocked for a second, not believing that her father was actually trying to be her friend. She could actually see the tensed look on his face and started questioning herself. "Is he the same father? The one I was fighting with for my education rights?" His eyes filled with concern for her daughter was astonishing to Sara.
"Dad, you have never been this concerned about me before, why now." She asked.
"Well dear, no woman in our family has ever stepped up for their rights before either and I'm so proud of you, that’s why I'm worried."
"Well, dad please don’t get upset but I was being harassed by a group of guys at school today and I'm really scared to go back to school tomorrow."
"That’s it? So you are just going to give up? Because of some crazy people out there? Really? Listen sweetie. Don’t stop. Now that you have began your battle to become someone in your life, just do it.
"I really am not sure anymore. Maybe this was just a mistake. Maybe you were right."
"No, you were right. Education is the key to success not anger or giving up. Make your belief and your passion, your strength. I'll give you two quotes to think about and then make your decision." Said the father confidently.
"A strong person is not the person who overpowers his adversaries to the ground, but, a strong person is the one who contains himself when he is angry—by prophet Muhammad (PBUH)."
"Knock, and he'll open the door, vanish, and he'll make you shine like the sun, fall, and he'll raise you to the heavens. Become nothing and he'll turn you into everything—By Jalaluddin Rumi."
The Cultural Law:
In most Asian countries, especially people who belong to the villages or really religious families in Pakistan believes that, girls are not suppose to be highly educated. Instead, by the age of 15, they should be able to cook, sew, learn how to take care of the household (chores and groceries) from their mothers and only guys are to be known as"THE MAN OF THE HOUSE."
It's considered wrong and dangerous for girls to go out and work. Every time a woman would try to speak up for herself, the society would stop her by raising questions such as, "What if you get raped? We won't be able to show our faces to anyone and no guy would want to marry you." "How will you make time for your husband, your family and kids?"
"These are your only responsibilities, not work or education. Are you seriously going to compete with your husband. Well, you are crazy then."
Or let's say if a woman does work, then the society would make fun of the husband. "You should wear bangles and stay at home, since your wife is working. Don’t have any control over your wife and yet you call yourself a man? Shame on you."
Looking back to the year 2001 and the high school incident, Sara was still shocked that she has finally achieved her goals and graduated from NYU with an honors degree in computer engineering. If it wasn’t for her dad she might have had given up right away, but she knew that if she had given up that day then no 14 or 15-year-old Muslim American girl from her country would have ever been able to stand up for their rights. She proved to her people that girls can also be successful—and to the high school bullies, no matter what country, race, culture or religion you belong to, if you are willing to accomplish the goals in your life, then nothing can stop you. "EDUCATION IS THE KEY toward SUCCESS." From that day since she felt proud of being called a Muslim American.