Mina Samaan’s story as told Josh Holowell
Mina is 28 years old
Everything was quiet. Everything. And this is not how it is in Egypt. Egypt is crowded and loud. But on that day, as I walked home from school, something was different.
I entered my house and my whole family was gathered around the television. My mom turned to me and said, “America has been hit.” Then she turned back to the television as my whole family watched the news of airplanes being flown into buildings. My heart dropped. The place I had dreamed of going to for so long had been attacked and my heart hurt deeply for the world and for America.
I eventually made it to America, and I have to relive the events of 9/11 over and over again.
As a person who is from the Middle East, I have experienced discrimination. I have been assumed to be a terrorist. I have been treated as though I am already guilty and I have been told to go back where I came from. People assume I have malice in my heart toward them and that I am some sort of ticking time bomb waiting to attack them.
I even had a co-worker invite me to go with him to a shooting range, yet he felt the need to ask me on our way there if I was going to shoot him.
You know, people often say they are nervous seeing Middle Eastern people in the airport or on their flight. I can guarantee you that the most nervous people in an airport are Middle Eastern people. Every time a ”random” security check happens, I am forced to stand in front of everyone to be patted down while my stuff is strewn all over the floor. I have to answer extra questions. I have to explain what my camera is and what my cell phone is. Did I pay any less than the other customers? Am I somehow less human? It strips away my dignity.
But I’m told that it’s ok to racially profile people from the Middle East.
“You just don’t understand. If you knew what we experienced on 9/11, you would understand. We have to be careful now.”
Am I not human?
Was I not affected by that dreadful day?
The place I had longed to go to—and now call home—was attacked on that day. I felt pain in light of the suffering. For the lives lost, I felt pain. For the freedom that was attacked, I felt pain. And yet now I am forced to relive that pain, simply because I am from the Middle East.
It is ironic, but the very reason I am here in the US is the hope for a place that is free from unfair discrimination. I fled Egypt because I faced persecution and discrimination as a Christian. I could not worship freely and feared for my life daily. I was hated for simply being a Christian. And because of that I fled to a place where I could openly practice my religion—America. What I was shocked to find was that, although I no longer faced religious discrimination, I now faced racial discrimination.
So why do I stay here? I can remember the exact moment down to the minute I landed in America. It was one of the greatest days of my life. I came to have a better life. To worship without the fear of death. And though there is this struggle with racism, I stay because of the people who have embraced me.
When I first landed in New Jersey I had no one. I had to struggle to make a living and work extra hard to make it in a tough place. But then I met a college student named John. John changed everything about my life in America. John was living in New Jersey for the summer as part of a mission trip with a college group. I met John in July and he left after just a few weeks, but he showed me such hospitality.
In January of the following year, John called me and let me know that he was coming back for another summer in New Jersey. But after that summer he wanted me to come back with him to Muncie, Indiana. He had asked his roommates if I could come and live with them.
Still to this day I am shocked by John’s hospitality. This white man from Indiana inviting a Middle Eastern man he hardly knew not just to come visit but to come and live with him and be a part of his community and church. How? He was motivated by Jesus’ love for him and showed that love to me. The world desperately needs a lot more of the Jesus that I saw in John.
Many people in Muncie and my church community have embraced me and loved me. And even though John is gone I have decided to stay here. It has become my home because of those who have loved me. Those who have embraced me with the hospitality that John did.
We need more of the hospitality of Jesus in our world.
This story originally appeared in Facing Racism in Muncie, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by R.A.C.E. Muncie in Muncie, Indiana.