When I was asked to be on a bus with Muslims to Manzanar this year, my reaction was mixed: How could I not welcome an opportunity to tell my camp story of 77 years ago to a group of people our community had befriended after 9/11? On the other hand, I would miss being with all my friends on the bus leaving from our community center in the San Fernando Valley.
“At the end of the day” is a phrase we hear often. Taken literally, the end of the day for Marion and me was quite satisfying. We learned a whole lot about people we only knew about from the media.
On the bus we sat behind two members of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Chapter, both of whom spoke at the afternoon’s program: A woman attorney, Roula Allouch, and Nahad Awad.
In a private conversation I had with Nahad as we toured the Manzanar grounds after the program, he told me that he was raised in Palestine and came to the U.S. around 1994. He has a degree in engineering and was one of the founders of CAIR. He now serves as its executive director.
He told a particularly memorable story to the pilgrimage audience. Nahad has had a longtime interest in our camp experience during the war, which he shared with his daughter, who was 8 at the time of 9/11. The day after 9/11, he discovered his daughter had packed her suitcase. Her explanation to him was that remembering the story Nahad had told his daughter about how we were forced to leave our homes after Pearl Harbor, his daughter had prepared herself for the same fate!
I was impressed, once more, with Warren Furutani’s retelling of the early days in getting interest going for the pilgrimage. As was the case with redress, the Issei and Nisei were not interested in having to relive their painful past. By and large, it was the Sansei and Yonsei, the third and fourth generation, who persevered, resulting in the impactful experience we have witnessed these past 50 years.
Also, how inspiring it was to hear the story of Mo Nishida, who organized the many marathon runners who annually ran from L.A. to Manzanar.
On the bus going up I met Wendy, one of the few who did not have an Arabic name. She told me she is a Christian, which surprised me. Then she told me working at another CAIR office was a young Jewish woman. I thought how good it was to include non-Muslims in their organization. Incidentally, on the bus, Wendy was given credit for doing a major job in organizing for the pilgrimage.
I received a warm letter of thanks from Hussam Ayloush, executive of the CAIR L.A. office. As I related on the bus, we need to provide more opportunities for Muslims to interface with others. We struggle to deal with tragedies we have come to witness in this country involving deranged individuals who strike out at distorted impressions of others. We would do well to provide more avenues to bring together Muslims and others to bring about greater mutual understanding.
Phil Shigekuni writes from San Fernando Valley and can be contacted at [email protected] The Rafu Shimpo management and staff continually strive to maintain high editorial standards for professionalism as well as accurate and balanced news coverage. The inclusion of a particular piece, including columns and op-ed submissions by contributing writers in print and/or digitally, does not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the owners, management, individual staff members, and editors. The Rafu Shimpo welcomes responses to any article published in print or digitally. Responses may be sent to author directly or emailed to [email protected]