Friday, October 16, 2009

My IVLP trip: A journey from illusions to realities

America is a Christian state, which has a set behavior towards Muslims; they treat Muslims with more scrutinized procedures and security barriers; If you are beared and have a Muslim demography and more over if you have a Green Passport, you will be kept in separate lines, gone through intensive security and harsh questioning at the ports of entries in the United States.

These all were the common illusions from my colleagues and friends, accompanied me upon my departure to the United States, perhaps it was my first ever international trip, so I did not have any real idea about these all insecurities I mentioned above.

From our own Pakistani Customs & FIA counters to the Dulles Airport, Washington DC; throughout my trip & transits at Dubai & Heathrow Airport in United Kingdom, I did not found any discrimination on the basis of my demography & identity and it occurred to me that all the above mentioned reservations were only the words of mouth and misunderstandings people use to create on the basis of their own personal experiences, which most of the times caused due to their own incompatibilities and short comings towards the procedures.

I found also find it out, that it may be due to their own impatience because most of us cannot tolerate queues, we considered to be disgraced or feel ourselves discriminated if we have to wait in a queue.

Another illusion of our countryman is this, American does not like Muslims or any Alien on their land; well it was also an obligation people made by their own and seem to be a poor analysis of a friendly society. Some people try to promote a negative image of western world in general, which most of the time remains ready to cater diversity especially in case of the United States.

How friendly and kind an average American is? This is not the way to look at the real American society, How they treat a stranger is the real question that can answer a lot about the real American values and society. I realize this when nobody ever asked me who am I? where I am from? Why I am here? Which religion I do belong? What is my legal status etc. instead they just interacted with me so well and as on an equal basis that I felt myself proud on my visit to United States and that also gave a real picture of the American society towards visitors especially a Muslim.

It is true that different states in the US has different moods and anyone should understand the variations in daily life interactions with locales. Just for an example if you greet a passing by or say a Hello to anyone in Washington DC or Chicago, they will warmly reply to you but if you do the same in NYC or Los Angeles, may be it will not give you the same response; but its due to the different circumstances within the different states. But this does not means that Americans in general are not warm welcoming and friendly. Can you imagine people would like to drive miles to take you to your exact destination if you ask for the directions only, even they don’t know you. If they found you lost, they themselves volunteer their help, you never need to ask.

An average American normally interacts with you with a friendly gestures of a Hello! Hi! And how do you do? And then in a few minutes you would not believe it, you will feel yourself like his lost friend. It is my personal observation that these are our own insecurities that keep a distance between ourselves and Americans and this is all because of the misunderstandings which resulted in Illusions. The real problem, I guess, is that we even really don’t know how Americans are? And on the other hand they also don’t know us, they don’t know not all Muslims are meant to be their enemy, they don’t know what really Islam stands for? And how Muslims differentiate their religion, social values with the rest of the world and on what grounds? In a general statement nobody knows the exact face of each other; and this is all because of the lack of communication.

Freedom of faith, freedom of expression, respect of individual rights, kindness, friendliness and warm welcomes, these were the realities of the American society I have experienced throughout the United States.

As for my personal experiences, I would like share a few observations in future. Fortunately my trip was in two parts, one was my special status as a State’s guest on IVLP program and the other was my status of a general visitor on my own. Luckily I did not found much difference in both statuses.

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