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Join hands in time of tragedy

BY REZA GARAJEDAGI

When a madman went on a deadly shooting rampage at Fort Hood two weeks ago, our nation was heartbroken by this horrendous act of hate. Many quickly labeled the incident as a Jihad, understandable because the alleged shooter, Nidal Malik Hasan, reportedly advocated violence against the United States. According to witnesses, he shouted the standard Jihadist rant before pulling the trigger.

When incidents like this happen, there is a justifiable anger toward perpetrators of such heinous acts. Unfortunately, there is also a great deal of ill-will directed at people from the Middle East. Those of Middle Eastern decent or Muslim Americans, who dearly love America, are often greeted with suspicion and downright hostility.

The reality is that many immigrants often came to this country to escape the violence of oppressive, fundamentalist regimes. I know because I was one of them.

When I was 10 years old, my family was forced to flee Iran after my father’s name was put on a list of people to be executed for his association with the Shah of Iran. My father was a city planner, but people with even the slightest connection with the Shah were arrested and faced the firing squad.

My mother and I were on one of the last flights that left Iran in 1979. My father had a more harrowing ordeal. He spent our entire savings paying smugglers to help him escape Iran, hiding in the back of trucks, in caves and in animal stables.

When my father tells the story, he recalls times he was too exhausted to take one more step. Then he looked at my photo and reminded himself that if he did not persevere, his son would never see the Promised Land, America.

If the United States had not granted my family political asylum, we would have faced certain death. Is it any wonder that I have four different versions of the “Star-Spangled Banner” on my iPod? After so many years in this country, I still get emotional every time I see the American flag.

During times of tragedy, a few will take a less noble path and vent their frustration at those of Middle Eastern decent. But the greater part of our country knows that now is the time for us to join hands and mourn together. They know we are all suffering. They know we are all outraged. And they know that we all deeply love America.

Reza Garajedagi is a resident of the University Towne Center area.