If you were like the millions of Americans who are still wondering whether president Obama may be a closet Muslim, wonder no more. He is not, he just got a dog to live with him in the white house. President Obama has tried his best to disassociate himself from his father faith is not even funny. During his bet to get elected; he knows very well that having anything to do with Islam or Muslims is the political kiss of death in this country. Throughout his camping he crafted a Muslim free camping without any Hijab like supporters in sight, he went even further and declared to anyone who wants to listen his loyalty to the Jewish community by amazingly finding out that, not just Jerusalem is a Jewish city but also his first name “Barak in Hebrew means blessing”, he declared to a Jewish gathering; Incidentally in Arabic too,. However Muslims Americans and Muslims allover the world were still hopeful and willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, and wishfully thought that he may be a closet Muslim. Now we know, he is out of the Muslim closet, he is definitely not a Muslim. The Obama family just adopted a rescued Portuguese water dog’ name Bo. This for most Muslims is too much to bare. A devoted Muslim wouldn’t share living with a dog let alone rescue one. Having a dog in a Muslim household is an exhausting proposition. Who wants to wash or take a shower every time a dog touches or licks you, as I was brought up to do back home in Egypt? In Islamic tradition, Muslims are very meticulous when it comes to touching dogs and would avoid touching their saliva at any cost, which it is hard to avoid if you are a dog lover. If you do come in contact with a dog, you’re supposed to wash your hands before you pray; some Muslims would go to as many as the magical seven times washes. It is ironic this excessive washing ritual is coming from people who were mostly living in places where water is hard to come by. Most Muslims will go to a great length to avoid dogs to stay clean for their daily prayers. There are however a few closet Muslim dog lovers, and I reluctantly became one of them.
Still, after a long nagging from my daughter and a few Internet pictures of an angelic beagle puppy, I reluctantly agreed to let a dog into our home under a few conditions. The dog was to stay downstairs in what is now known in our house as the bunker, and my praying area would be designated a “no-fly” zone for the dog.
They brought home the 6-week-old, 3-pound beagle on a cold, crisp Saturday afternoon. My daughter named him Oliver and until today I have no idea why. A few days after he had arrived at our house, I realize that I’m not a dog owner material, cat maybe; at least we both could relax and ignore each other. But Olive has a different idea of what our relationship should be, laying on the couch for more than five minute is not a masterful manner, he thinks. If you want to be a master of a beagle be ready to be standing like a man and ready to do useless things like asking the dog to fetch for something you don’t really want. One day alone and hungry I had to take Oliver with me to the supermarket. I noticed something new was happening out there, something Muslim-Americans have rarely experienced since Sept. 11. People on the street, in their cars, in the parking lot, and at the supermarket were giving me a new look—a friendly one. Strangers who used to skillfully avoid eye contact now wanted to engage me in warm conversation. Patriotic national hotline tippers, who are usually more concerned about Muslim sleeper cells, now stopped me and cordially inquired about my puppy’s sleeping habits, breed, and big black eyes. Families congregated around me with their children to see the cute puppy, and they talked to him as if he should know what they were talking about.
As a hyphenated-American, I discovered that having a dog easily accomplished what many diversity training programs have failed to do for years. Regardless of our race, color, religion, or country of origin, we are one civilized nation under dog.
Oliver is now a full member of the family; mostly bounding with me on the couch his warm body and complete loyalty more than not softens the venomous evening news alarming us of the new culture warfare in America. I take Oliver everywhere I go. He is not just my post 9/11 homeland-security blanket, he is my American patriotic stimulate. Muslim-Americans: if you want to get melted in the American pot; do what president Obama just did. Get a puppy, now that you need a real friend.
Ahmed Tharwat produces and hosts the Arab/Muslim-American television show Belahdan in Minnesota’s Twin Cities.