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From a Muslim, Shana Tovah to Israel

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At a recent conference in Houston, Tex., hosted by the Islamic Society of North America, Linda Sarsour said that American Muslims should not humanize Israelis, and warned against normalization or friendly relations with Israelis. “If you’re on the side of the oppressor, or you’re defending the oppressor, or you’re actually trying to humanize the oppressor,” she said, “then that’s a problem sisters and brothers, and we got to be able to say: that is not the position of the Muslim American community.”

I was born in Pakistan and grew up there. During my upbringing, my mother taught us that the only four-letter word we could not use was “hate.” My father was a colonel in the Pakistani army and although he fought a war, he always said “I don’t fight because of hate – but on principal for my country.”

In March 2017, my mother was visiting my brother in London, U.K., where she fell critically ill. Her kidneys stopped working and she was rushed to intensive care where she remained for three weeks and was given the best care by doctors and nurses. However, since she was not covered by health insurance in Britain, the costs were phenomenal, borne between my brother and me.

The dilemma that faced the family was to either bring my mother to Canada (she’s a Canadian citizen) or take her to Pakistan where my sister lives because there she could have the necessary and affordable nursing and home care. I would not wish anyone to experience the near-death situation of a beloved family member, a mother whose love and support makes me what I am today.

At this emotionally charged juncture in my life when my family and friends were aware of the challenges I faced, I received two important messages from Israel. The first was from an Israeli friend who sent me money electronically, saying, “I know you are retired and on a shoe-string budget, so whatever decision you make I don’t want you to worry about finances. So here is an amount to take care of at least the air tickets.” The second was a telephone call from a human rights organization in Israel offering that I bring my mother to Israel where they have excellent hospitals who deal in the kind of treatment she needed. All arrangements would be made for my mother if I decided to take this organization up on its kind offer.

These gracious, thoughtful expressions of support did not come entirely as a surprise to me. In my many visits to Israel, I found the people there to be kind and compassionate. When Israelis reached out to me in my time of need, it re-confirmed what I know about Israel. Although it’s regrettably not highlighted in mainstream media, Israel has provided medical aid to thousands in need around the world, including Palestinians and Syrians.

As for Sarsour, I don’t hate her, but I do feel sorry for her. It seems to me she has a lot to learn about humanity. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.”