As Thanksgiving Day approaches, I am reminded of the many reasons why I am thankful. The concept of gratitude in the US began for us five and a half years back when we left Pakistan and came to America. The very first time I stepped on US soil, it felt like my mother took me in her arms. America became our new adopted homeland because life in Pakistan for us became too dangerous.
The horrific day came upon us on May 28th 2010. I didn’t know if that was the worst time for our community or the start of a new relationship within our community. Around 200 people were shot by gunmen attacking two different mosques of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in Lahore. After these attacks in Pakistan it became a completely strange place for me. Our neighbors who shared the wall with us just turned their backs on us simply because we belonged to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. But at the same time we were thankful that we were Ahmadi Muslims united under one spiritual leader, the Khalifa of Islam. Although the entire Ahmadiyya Muslim Community was with us, we were gripped in fear. I remember I was going out for some errand and my mother-in-law, whose husband was martyred on May 28th asked me to change my style of the head covering because it was mostly observed by the Ahmadi Muslim women. We would be easily recognized because of our garb and might be an easy target for violence.
When violence makes the atmosphere uncertain and insecure then one starts to constantly live in a state of fear. But I am thankful to God that today in the USA I can go to the mosque with full liberty. How can I not be thankful for that? My children can go to the mosque and have a strong relationship with our community, which was not even possible when we were in Pakistan where Ahmadi Muslims have been constitutionally declared to be non-Muslims and subject to the blasphemy laws. Pakistan is the country of my birth and I still love that place, but because of the unfair laws created by the country’s constitution we cannot stay there and practice our religion freely.
When I left Pakistan and reached America, I had an overwhelming sense of being safe. And that feeling got stronger as we reached Redmond, Washington. Now when I go out in my Islamic attire I am not scared. I feel more secure than before. Here in Redmond people are supportive of each other irrespective of race, religion, or ethnicity. However, now after five and a half years, I sometimes feel the same fear as I used to feel in Pakistan. Whenever I see any police, I start preparing myself for thousands of answers to questions in my defense. If I see a car in front of me with Trump stickers, I will change my way and be very careful driving. But still I am happy and hopeful. Nobody shouts at me because of my hijab. My neighbors still express the same warmth toward me which I felt five years ago.
We don’t need big things to show our gratitude to God. We may wish for a downpour in hot weather, but we should be grateful for just a glass of cold running water from the faucet. People are kind and everyone smiles at you with a good gesture. If you give way to a car ahead of you, they will be thankful for that kindness. America is my new homeland and I love it. I am thankful to my neighbors and community who welcomed me and made it easier for me to be part of this country. They make it easy for me to overcome the awkward feeling which comes after looking at a police car or a car with a Trump sticker. I am thankful to God who always showed me light when it’s pitch dark or allows a door to open when one closes. So, this Thanksgiving when we are feasting on turkey and mashed potatoes I will be praising Almighty God for all He has given me.