Most weekends, in front of the White House, you will come upon a one-man jihad, a man in a dark suit fighting against Islamophobia.
He carries a large banner with messages on either side. One side reads, "What is Terrorism?" and the other side, "What is Islam?" In small print on both sides, the banner adds: "31 Years Washington Journalist. Don't Trust Politicians. Appeal to People's Conscious [sic]. Will be here until I die!"
He would like to raise enough money at his website to be able to vigil full-time for the rest of his life.
This is Mohammed Ali Salih, who immigrated here from northern Sudan in 1980 and has since then worked as a freelance journalist for American and Arab newspapers. His op-eds have been published repeatedly in the New York Times and the Washington Post, among other prominent U.S. newspapers. He has been married for 35 years to a white conservative Christian Republican, whom he met in this country. Together they have borne three children and reside in Burke, Virginia.
He had wanted his children to have not one race but two. Now he realizes that race doesn't matter and that mixed race doesn't matter, but that "the new 'post-race' thinking could be equivalent to 'no race.' His son refers to himself not as biracial but "post-racial."
"A country without racial divisions. What a concept" ended this recent USA Today autobiographical column. (All of his op-eds are in one way or another autobiographical.)
He has immersed himself and his children in other religions of this country and the world, including Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. He has written of spending a day of Ramadan at a Catholic monastery and of attending Orthodox Jewish Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services as well as a Passover Seder. He is teaching his children to be open-minded. This writer got to know him at DCIPI (DC Interfaith Peace Initiative) meetings. a group that discusses and activates interfaith outreach ideas and events--one of many in this enlightened and cosmopolitan area.
Mohammed al-Salih's first memory "has become a symbol of my life-long struggle between Islam and the West":
"The eldest of 15 brothers and sisters, I was probably three-years old, with my father and mother in a ten-by-ten ft. mud room that had a ceiling of tree branches and leaves, like most houses in my poor Sudanese village, on the Nile River, south of the borders with Egypt.
"It was evening and the room became dark and my mother lightened a kerosene lamp, and my father struggled to start a portable kerosene pressurized stove. Those were the first Western technologies my father bought after he married my mother and they were the latest in a village where most people use candles for light and wood for cooking.
"That evening, while my mother was making "shai samooti," (heated milk with tea), our evening meal with home-made biscuit or dried bread, my father spread on the floor a colorful mat, faced Mecca and started 'Magrib' (sunset) prayer. He stood up, loudly recited verses from the Koran, bent forward, sat down, touched the floor with his forehead, stood up and repeated those movements few more times.
"I can still visualize the singing sound of the Qu'ran verses mixed with the sound of the pressurized-stove's blue flames, while I was waiting for supper. . . ."
In this journalist's words, again:
"My village looks like one of those Afghan villages shown on TV, with mud houses, donkey carts and men in flowing garments. Sheep and goats are kept inside homes; dogs wander the streets; women cover their bodies and hair, but not their faces."