He Is an Afghan American, and He Too Feels the Pain of Terrorist Attacks

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Knott

He has packed away his T-shirt, the one in jest that reads, "Don't mess with the Afghans."

This is no time for messages of that sort. Not in America. Not after the carnage of Sept. 11, 2001, inspired by Osama bin Laden, who functions in Afghanistan with the blessings of the Taliban government.

He is an Afghan American, born in Kabul, who came to this country 15 years ago while Afghanistan was in the midst of a war against the invaders from the then-Soviet Union.

You recall that distant event only because of America's decision to boycott the Moscow Games in 1980. We missed out on the Olympic Games. He missed out on discovering his origins.

He never has returned to Kabul. If he ever stepped foot in the country, he would be arrested by the Taliban. The Taliban would see him for what he is now, a Westerner, an American with a clean-shaven face who favors jeans and T-shirts. In the twisted doctrine of the Taliban, he has been polluted beyond help, compromised by American pop culture: our movies, our music, our television, everything.

He does not want his name used. It is crazy out there, and he is trying to come to terms with his fears: fear of the Taliban sympathizers who live in America and fear even of Americans, many of whom view him with suspicion and contempt because of his Middle Eastern features.

He has cut back on his social activities. He goes to school. He goes to work. He goes to the gym. He goes to places where he already is known, where he is comfortable. He can't be too careful.

He was driving on Fairfax Drive in Arlington the other night, waiting for a stoplight to turn green, when he locked eyes with the driver in the vehicle beside him. He soon looked the other way in discomfort, hoping to avoid a confrontation, after the driver refused to stop glaring at him.

After the light turned green, he drove ahead while the driver in the other vehicle stayed at his side, speeding up and slowing down whenever he did. This went on a couple of miles before the driver of the other vehicle decided he had made his point and moved in another direction.

The Afghan American does not know what to say to this. …