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Pilgrims, Settlers and Trailblazers

October 25, 2006
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 first-gen·er·a·tion [ fûrstjn-rshn ] adj.

  1. Of or relating to a person who has left one country and settled in another.
  2. Of or relating to a person or persons whose parents are immigrants.
  3. Of, relating to, or being the first form or version available to users: first-generation computer software; first-generation camcorders.

My mother came to America when she was 18 years old and my father when he was about 25.  By definition, they are first generation Americans as they became naturalized citizens.  By the same token, I am also a first generation American as I was the first generation to be born here, but our difference and challenges couldn’t be more different.

Being an immigrant or the child of immigrant parents is tough enough, but now add to that that you are a Muslim.  You are now not just a minority, but a minority minority. 

The pilgrims came to this country and set up camp, called your parents over and your parents became settlers, setting up roots in the community.  The pilgrims and settlers set up the foundations of Mosques.  Though, not in your time, they built full-time schools and you swore you would send your children to these schools.

They struggled with the language barrier, took odd jobs, worked overtime and worked hard.  They poured their money into these mosques and schools, devoted their time.  They worked hard so that we wouldn’t have to, they said.

They sent us to Sunday school.  They shipped us off to the old country to be with grandmother so that we would know our culture, our traditions, our language.  Your best friend was Jeanne 9 months out of the year and for the summer 3 it may have been Jenny to you, but everyone else called her Jenana.  While your parents knew what Jenana was majoring in, they couldn’t tell you what color Jeanne’s hair was.

Your parents raised you exactly as their parents raised them.  They have spent so much time here that they have no idea what naturally progressed as normal in their own country, which was just slightly more modest than here.  There was no reasoning with them as “well, you aren’t everyone else” applied, you knew it, they knew it.  Respect and obedience became hard pills to swallow when all you wanted was to go to that concert.

Eventually it all passed.  We grew up.  We left home.  We swore we’d do it better.  We would be trailblazers!   

 We took over the mosques and the schools, but the mosques became too small.  and the schools overcrowded.   We want reform, instead we have to rebuild.  We want progressive Islamic curriculum instead we have to focus on the core to achieve quality instead of quantity.

Our children go to Islamic schools, but their best friends are Bob and Jane and they are not known by any other name.  You know that this is how it should be.  Your parents want to know why it isn’t Beshir and Janah at the dinner table instead.

Great-grandmother wasn’t able to take the little ones for the summer, heck some of the great-grandmothers ended up here full time.    You have no bonus as your parents once did.  You have a 401k and a 529 that you can’t touch.   You have to wait until you can scrape together the tens of thousands of dollars that it takes to get the whole family over there.  Your child has no 3 month best friend.

You need to get out of the settler’s shoes and start trailblazing, but it just isn’t working.  You get so frustrated when people ask why as Muslims we don’t stand up and make a difference and you know it is true.  You know you need to, you try to, you just have a million different things that need you too.

I may still be walking in a settler’s shoes, but there really are some trailblazers out there.  I know there are a few in my blogroll and I am still new to this, but I know that there are many more out there.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2006 9:44 pm

    Wow, a great post🙂 I am also the son of immigrants and was naturalized. They came here in 1948, when I was three, and so began the seven day work weeks that were typical for that generation. Their hands were bigger, rough and calloused, and they had old world values and old world superstitions. No matter where you were from, the first generation of kids had it easier.

    So here’s to the trailblazers, who clear the path the rest of us follow.

    Ya Haqq!

  2. October 26, 2006 3:04 am

    This post touched me so much. It brought another tear to my eyes! I am a first generation migrant to Australia, and yes, even though my son is 11 months old, I have already found myself thinking along the lines of: “You aren’t everyone else”. I’m not sure if I like myself doing this. I want him to have the values of my British/Irish culture, my husband’s Filipino culture… and I want him to be a born and bred Aussie… but I don’t want him to grow up confused! Am I asking too much?!

    As Catholics, we are *almost* mainstream in Australia – but to think I was complaining that we had to pay to send our son to a Catholic school! (In UK Catholic schools are funded by the government). Your post put that into perspective for me.

  3. October 26, 2006 7:15 am

    Thank you again for a great post, samaha. As a genealogist (amateur) I know of all my ancestors who arrived here in Australia and have been awed by the way they had to adapt. How their children began to change the family values and the grandchildren became “Real” Aussies. I have seen the same thing happen with Poms (the English), Italian, Greek and Vietnamese immigrants. The first generation begin as cleaners or labourers or housekeepers. Their children go to school with their parents hard work as an example and they move up in society due to their success in school and University. Then thier grandchildren begin to complain about “those immigrants” who are just arriving in Australia and stealing jobs. And so the cycle goes on. As you say, we should be trying to make a difference, all of us, yet life keeps getting in the way. Perhaps this is how we “little” people can make a difference. By talking to our neighbours and friends. By showing that we are just people as well.

    Wow. That is the sign of a good post. It makes other people think and respond. Thank you again for making me think.

  4. October 26, 2006 3:06 pm

    thank you Samaha. Makes me think. When I read “Pilgrim” I think about my ancestors who arrived on the Mayflower (yes they really did) and some of them killed Indians and one of them married one. We fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War, we fought on both sides of the Civil War. I have ancestors who were freed slaves passing for white in Alabama.

    All pilgrims, all trying to survive with a million things to do to survive. Some of them just happened to fall into the conflicts, others were at home trying to get a crop in and the cows milked.

    Nowadays, we are all doing the same thing only instead we are trying to pay our bills and fund our retirement and raise children that have good moral values: to tell the truth, to be kind and respectful to other people, to be financially responsible, to love God.

    Thank you for your wonderful thoughtful blog.

  5. October 26, 2006 6:29 pm

    ~Lifting glass of sparkling grape juice~ To the trailblazers! Cheers Irving!

    Helen, OMG – I really don’t want to make you cry! Actually it has been a wonderful experience. I feel that my life is full of color. I wouldn’t say that it has been confusing, I think it actually made me learn to appreciate/understand different thought processes. Don’t fret, your son will have wonderful memories of all of his different cultural experiences. He’ll be an aussie, allright.

    Archiearchive, yes, us “little” people can make a difference this way. I’ve just been wanting to do more, I think I will have to let the others make the improvements on what is there and maybe go ahead and tackle some of the projects that I have been thinking about.

    healingmagichands, welcome! I love that you know that your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, that you know your family history like that. It makes it all worthwhile, knowing that what you do today will affect those generations and generations down the road.

    Our Bosnian community just published a book that highlights our founding members of the Bosnian community, our pilgrims and pioneers and how our Mosque and cultural association came about.

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