Life is hard. I have searched for a job for ages. I am tired of asking for help. Nobody cares. Everyone thinks that I am a burden. My relatives are now refusing to answer my calls. I hardly even get a reply to text messages and when I do it is just a polite text saying, ‘I am busy, call me later.’ I call them later but again, they never answer. I really do not know what it will all come to. I am responsible for the lives of two people now. Yes, my wife is going to have a baby. I cannot bear to bring up a child whose future is uncertain. It would bring shame upon my name. It will also tear my wife’s heart apart. I must find a way.
This is my only chance. Suleiman has just called me for an interview. I have studied hard for it but I am not sure if I will get the job. I have barely slept for the last two weeks. We will know our results in a matter of minutes after everyone has done the interview. I have a good feeling about this. I know that God will smile upon my family and me. I have faith. I put my trust in God.
The interview room is intimidating. The panel is stern looking and I can see that the only woman in the panel is startled to see me. I can understand why. Many women jump to conclusions as soon as they notice my skin complexion and hair. She is very tough on me. She actually reminds me of my sister. What a stubborn and inquisitive little sister I have. My heart lightens. She asks me question after question. It seems as though she wants to ask me something else but never quite gets to it. The interview is over. I tried my best.
My hands and knees shake as I wait for the results. I can feel sweat dripping from my forehead. I take my handkerchief and try to wipe it off but there is nothing there. My mind is playing tricks on me. I laugh silently to myself. Such is life. The panel finishes the interviews. They all walk majestically past us except for Suleiman, the general manager. He calls us in one by one. I am the last person he calls into his office.
I am scared. If this does not work then I have no reason to live. Who is a man who lives that does not take care of his family. I will not be a disgrace to God and to my parents. Thoughts of suicide race through my mind but suddenly Suleiman calls out to me to get my attention. He instantly gets to the point. He says, ‘You scored the highest points. You scored 9.5 out of 10, two points higher than your closet competitor. Congratulations, you have the job.’
I know this will sound strange to you but I pictured my wife as soon as Suleiman told me that. I thought about how happy she would be and tears started running down from my eyes. Suleiman looked at me and said, ‘Man up. Sympathy did not get you the job. I would not hire you if you had scored eight out of 10. You know how it is for us.’ He then looks keenly into my eyes and says, ‘you had to be the very best otherwise they would say that I hired you because you are Muslim.’ I quickly regain composure, I walk out of the office and head straight home but I first must pass by the store and buy something special for my wife perhaps even a gold plaited necklace.
I stride happily to the store. I am not ashamed to say that. I am happy. I will stride, not walk as much as I want. I get to the store. It is beautiful. It has so many things that I cannot afford but still, I could not care less. I am happy. I start walking through the aisles. Immediately, people start becoming self-conscious. Mothers hold their babies a bit tighter. Ladies clutch their purses and look towards the exit. Men look at me as though they have seen a threat. This usually bothers me but not today. ‘I am walking on sunshine.’ I buy what I can afford and head out of the store. I look back as I hear murmurs of how terrible terrorism is. Those in the store loudly whispering these words now look at ease. My heart is now sad. I cannot wait to see my wife.
I board the bus. My heart lightens once more. I am close to home. I am closer to my wife and soon to be baby boy. I have not told the truth. I hope it is a boy but I am not sure. Regardless of whether it is a boy or girl, I will love my baby will all my heart. Suddenly, the bus stops. Somebody wants to get out. It seems as though the bus is not heading in his direction. A couple of people also get off. I cannot believe it. So many people are now suddenly going in the wrong direction. I would love to believe that that is true but I know better. They all looked scared as though they had seen death. Am I death? Those who stay behind look even more uneasy. I would love to reach out to them and calm their nerves but I know better. They will jump out of the window as soon as I stretch my hand. I do not want them to get hurt. I want peace. I want to get home to my wife and my baby.
I alight from the bus. Home is now closer than ever, just two minutes from the bus stop. I walk past a Christian preacher preaching to a crusade. I admire his zeal. God Bless him. The preacher then looks at me. He, like so many other people notices my skin complexion and my hair. However, unlike many other people, he knows me personally and I know him. The preacher suddenly begins to speak about hell. He claims that Jesus is God and those who do not know him shall perish. I do not want to quarrel. I do not want to argue. I know that he is targeting me instead of preaching to the congregation.
He speaks of how those who do not believe will burn in hell. He speaks about how one of Abraham’s children had so much hate in him. I stop looking at the congregation. I focus on home. I focus on my wife. I focus on how I will teach my son if it is a boy or how I will protect my daughter if it is a girl. I refuse to respond to hate. The preacher escalates his ‘preaching.’ He starts questioning the Prophet. Immediately, my heart begins to boil. What has the Prophet done? Why bring the name of the Prophet when he is not here to defend himself? Why? I look towards the preacher. I know that Hadija refused his advances. I knew she would not accept zina. I knew she would not convert. How bitter is this man now. I hope his bitterness one day turns to love and maybe then, Hadija will accept him.
I reach the steps of my building. I am angry now. I cannot believe the nerve of some people. My patience is only so much. Two young women barely clothed stand outside my building. One of them is giggling while looking at me. The other is a bit sterner and I can feel her resentment for me in her eyes. All I can ask myself is where the parents to these young girls are. The cheeky one giggles even more as I approach the building. I wish that I could fly to second floor but wishes are not horses are they. I keep a straight face as I move past them and up the stairs. The giggly one says, ‘He is so cute.’ I believe that was said for my benefit. The other one says, ‘You want a married Al Shabaab. His wife will bomb you.’ I believe that that was also for my benefit. I pause a bit. I hate Al Shabaab. Everybody looks at me differently because of those people. Everybody thinks evil of Islam, which is a beautiful religion because of those people. I choose to let the children be and instead focus on my wife and the good news I have for her.
I opened the door to my house and I almost cried. I am home. My wife calls out to me. She is in the kitchen preparing the evening meal. She is not a good cook. This is unlike most women from our village but I indulge her because she gives me strength, courage and heart. I love her. I picked her and she picked me. We love each other. She has chosen me and only me to see her beauty, to witness her wonderful physique and to be her lifelong partner. She is not in chains. She is free. I love her because she chose me even though she could have gone with the provincial chief her father chose for her. She fought for me and I will die for her. She is free when she is with me and I am complete when I am with her. She teases me and I just smile. Yes, I have tears coming from my eyes. These are tears of joy and she knows it. She teases me so that she can keep herself from crying.
I receive a text from my phone. It is Mohammed. Mossad just picked up my cousin in Palestine who works as an aid worker. It is now likely that we will never hear from him again. My smile disappears. Life is not fair. Things were going so well and now my cousin will not witness the tremendous strides I am making in my life. He was to help our brothers in Palestine while I help the family here. Now, things have changed. Mohammed sends me another text. He is asking me to do something about the Zionists. He tells me that he now has brothers who can help us make a statement, American, British and Kenyan brothers. I look at the message and then at my wife. I think for a moment and then I choose my wife and if God wills, my son over hate. There is no ‘us’ when it comes to Mohammed and his cause. I will not harm innocents to bring the cause of innocents to the surface. I will teach my son the faith. I will teach him the religion of peace. I will teach my son true Islam not fundamentalism.
I put the phone on silent mode. I will not tell my wife a word of this. She is carrying my baby and I will not let her worry. I now hope that it is a boy. There is so much hate in this world. I just hope that it is a boy first and then daughters later. I want someone who can stand strong in defense of my family with me or without me. Suddenly, the phone starts vibrating. My wife sees it. I know she will ask questions if I do not answer it, so I answer it. It is Suleiman. He just called to see if I arrived home safely. I did. He told me that I impressed everyone on the panel and especially the woman among them. I thanked Suleiman for inflating my points but he corrected me. He actually reprimanded me for saying such a thing. Apparently, Suleiman had given me a seven but the woman had given me a ten. She made the difference. She got me the job. Suleiman clarifies to me that the woman does not like Muslims at all but when it comes to work, she only chooses the best. I receive these revelations with a bit of shock. I do not know whether to be offended at the woman or to be grateful to her. I chose to be grateful. Suleiman tells me that something is wrong. There are people with guns around him. The shopping mall he is in is under attack. I cringe. What can I do? Suleiman’s phone goes off; he is not answering my calls. I ask myself, ‘is this real or just a bad joke?’
A few hours go by, nothing. Suleiman is still unreachable. I look at the news. Nobody knows what is going on. Is it a robbery, is it a terrorist attack. What is it? I do not know. Fear grips my heart. I remember the scared look people had in the store earlier in the day as I walked past them. I hold my wife a little tighter. I say a silent prayer to God. Allah will hear our prayers. Allah will save us from all of this hate.
Suddenly, a loud bang goes off in my building. I can hear people shouting, ‘they are on second floor. The terrorists are on second floor… arrest them.’ I hold my wife even tighter. Then I hear a loud thud at my door. They are trying to break into our home. I looked outside the window. My wife cannot jump. I see unmarked cars and immediately, I know who has come for us. It is the anti-terrorism police unit. They said I would pay for not telling them more about Mohammed and my cousin in Palestine. They said my family and me would cry. I would have told them more if I had known more but they would not believe me and now they have come. I have done nothing wrong.
They bust through the door, they throw something on the floor and smoke quickly engulfs our home. My wife falls to the floor, something has hit her, she cries out for help. I ran towards her but I suddenly feel numb. I fall to the floor. I try to reach out to her but I cannot move. The smoke increases, I cannot see. There is darkness. My God, what is happening?
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