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Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 1 Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed) July 17, 2011 Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Alhadi: My name is Esam Alhadi. Today is Saturd ay, July 17, 2011, and it is now 9:50 AM. I am here with Mr. Abu Mohamed in his house in Ocala, Florida. This interview is part of the Arab Immigrants Oral History Project of the University of Florida Digital Library Collection. May peace be on you. Ab u Mohamed: And you too. Alhadi: Mr. Abu Mohamed, would you please give us a few hints of your personal history such as your full name, place of birth, social background. Abu Mohamed: I was born in a town called Al Beera in Palestine which is ten miles a way from Jerusalem. I came here when I was four years old. My father joined the American army and was stationed in Chicago, Illinois. I grew up there and then moved to the University of Missouri. Alhadi: Does that mean that you had all your pre college education here in America? Abu Mohamed: I returned back to Palestine when I was eleven years old. I stayed there for five years with my grandparents because my parents remained here in America. I came back again to finish my high school and from there I went to the University of Missouri. Alhadi: What did you study at college? Abu Mohamed: I double majored in Psychology and Chemistry. I started my MA, but I felt tired and quit. I got married in 1987.
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 2 Alhadi: Did you get married here or in Palestin e? Abu Mohamed: I got married in Palestine. It was an old fashioned marriage. Some of my family members requested from her family members that we meet together and see each other. We both agreed to each other, got married, and I brought her here with me. Alhadi: Can you give us some details as to how the wedding rituals proceeded? Abu Mohamed: After asking for her hand, I had to pay 5000 Jordanian dinars to buy her gold and jewelry. A few days after the request of marriage was proposed, and the en gagement was officially announced, we had to go to a marriage clerk to certify the marriage. The next day was the wedding procession and party where a number of cars were used. They proposed that we should ride a horse, but we Alhad i: After you came back to do your high school and college education in Missouri, what happened? Abu Mohamed: I got a job working with troubled young boys who are imprisoned in correction institutions. Rather than sending them to a prison, they put them for a period of three months in these facilities. It was a good job, the facility was in the mountain area in order to make sure that the kids not run away. Alhadi: Was this in Missouri? Abu Mohamed: Yes, in Missouri. Alhadi: Where in Missouri, what c ity? Abu Mohamed: My first job was in Troy Missouri. There is a river and forest in that area. It is very beautiful, but very snowy in winter.
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 3 Alhadi: Very good. When did you move to Florida? Abu Mohamed: We moved to Florida in 1988. Alhadi: And you c ontinued to be living in Florida since that time? Abu Mohamed: Yes, we took an apartment and I transferred my position to a hospital here after being promoted to a manager. Then we built this house. Alhadi: Why did you specifically choose Florida? Abu Mohamed: I learned that the weather is nice here. Alhadi: Is this the main factor behind your move to Florida? in Miami and another one in Cleveland and a brother in Denver. We all live apart from each other. Alhadi: Are they still in the same cities? Abu Mohamed: Yes, they are still in the same cities. The rule is that when a girl gets married, she will move to wherever the husband works. That is why a siste r of mine is now in Cleveland with her husband and another one is in Miami and another one is Denver, and my brother got married but he remained with my sister. Alhadi: Do you still have family members in Chicago? d out. Chicago is not a pleasant place. However, there is a big Muslim community, but the city is a terribly unpleasant place, especially when you consider the lack of jobs there. Alhadi: Abu Mohamed, would you please tell us a little bit about the A rab community here in Ocala. How do they integrate and deal with each other?
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 4 Abu Mohamed: The members of the Arab and Muslim community are nice to each other here in Ocala. Alhadi: Is it a big community? Abu Mohamed: Not too big. There are aroun d 150 families. We usually see each other in the mosque, or when somebody passes away, or when there is a community project like the one we call Project Downtown, which aims to distribute food to homeless and poor people on Saturdays and Sundays sometimes Alhadi: Where does the food come from for this project? Abu Mohamed: We do it at the mosque. All teenagers participate in preparing the meals, and from there they take the food and give it to the poor people. Many people help in this project. There are other activities such as lectures. These activities are open for all Muslims. Alhadi: Are there different Arabic nationalities? Abu Mohamed: Yes, all of them. There is no difference between them. Some of them are from Saudi Arabia, others are from India and Pakistan. Alhadi: Abu Mohamed, would you please tell us about your professional life? What are you doing here in Ocala? Abu Mohamed: My work here started in 1988. I started as a manager in a section that hold a director position which put me in charge of 150 employees. My job begins when doctors prescribe medication for ADHD and schizophrenia. We have more than 4,000 cases that come for treatment. We have a residential section for those of them who don
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 5 to deal properly with medication. They stay in the hospital for one or two months until their condition improves. Abu Mohamed: Yes. Alhadi: How do you feel about your work? Are you satisfied with it? Abu Mohamed: Yes, and praise be to God. We helped a large number of people. I know one of the cases that we helped is now a lawyer and others have become doctors. I am following my religion which instructs me to help a ll people. Offering help to other people makes me feel good about myself. Alhadi: That is very good. You mentioned earlier that you are from Palestine. I want to ask you about your relation with your family members back home. Are you in touch with the m? Do you talk to each other? Do you visit Palestine? Abu Mohamed: Yes, but not every year. We go maybe every two years in the summer for two months. We see our family members. My mother is there and my father is there too. Alhadi: Are they still l iving in Al Beera? Abu Mohamed: Yes. And in the same old house. My brother is there too. He decided decided to stay there. He is working there and he is taking care of my fa ther and mother which is good. It is good to have somebody there. Alhadi: How about the other members of your extended family, like your paternal and maternal uncles?
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 6 live s here in North Carolina. My extended family is small. I should mention that Alhadi: When was that? Abu Mohamed: My grandfather came here and joined the forces during WWI. Th at back every year or two. They, instead, stayed here for ten or fifteen years. That generati on, tend to be together. One of my grandfathers had two sons and the other one had only my mother. Alhadi: Did you visit any other Arab country? Abu Mohamed: No. Alhadi: Do you fly through Jordan? Abu Mohamed: I fly to Tel Aviv. Alhadi: That means y ou have never been to any Arabic country? Abu Mohamed: I have never been to any Arabic country. When you fly through Tel Aviv, it will be hard to go to another Arabic country because it gets a little risky that they the Israelis will not allow us to get let us get in for no reason, although we are there for just a visit. We love to go there, but we are afraid that they will not let us get in to see our relatives and families. Alhadi: Abu Mohamed, you with an Arab and M uslim background, I want to ask you about what do you think America has offered you?
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 7 Abu Mohamed: America gave me a lot. It gave us the freedom to go wherever. It gave us the opportunity to join a college. It gave us a good living that helped us to rai se our sons and daughters. It helped us a lot. Alhadi: And what did you give to America? Abu Mohamed: I have been giving to America for a long time. I go to court and help with trials, I vote every year, I volunteer for many things, I also give to my c newspaper mainsheet like the politicians do. We offer a lot. Alhadi: I know that you had your high school and college education here, and also your kids studied here. How do y ou see the educational system here in America? Is it suitable for our boys and girls to have their education here, taking into account our different social, religious, and cultural backgrounds? Is it the right education system for them? Abu Mohamed: I h ad part of my education back home. I noticed that the middle and high school education back home is stronger than here in math and science. It better. Our school day there wa s from 7 AM to 5 PM, while here is between 9 AM and 2 study the same class every day. This makes them weaker here. I talked to many people here including Muslims and Jews who all agree that the school system is weaker here, especially the middle and high school. The drop out rate in high schools in Ocala is 70%. Why? Our kids went to magnet schools. I wonder why
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 8 and high school that need improvement. Alhadi: So, do you think that the school setting and environment are appropriate to put our kids in it? Abu Mohamed: This generation needs to know their religion first. God gave them a lot, but they need to know h ow to pray and fast and to know their God before anything else. The rest comes later, but they have to know their God first. Whether being in America, Africa, or the West Bank, it starts at home to teach them about God. Alhadi: Do your children travel to the West Bank? Abu Mohamed: Yes, we all go. We are here ten people in this house, which makes it very costly to go every year. That is why we go every two years. My daughter went to visit her grandmother a month ago and will be back in one week. Alha di: Does your daughter Layalee go there? Abu Mohamed: Yes she does. She lived there for two years. She loves to be there. One of her visits coincided with the Intifada. The schools were closed. Our residence is four or five blocks away from where th e Arafat compound stands. I went there to get her back. Alhadi: I want to go back to the issue of the Arabic community. Do you think that the members of the Arabic and Muslim community are closely and adequately integrated? We all know that at the nati onal state level, there are too many unsettled issues and sensitivities between many of these Arabic countries. How is
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 9 Abu Mohamed: Muslims in Ocala are closely integrated in all aspects. It is true that some members politics or voting and things of the like. There is nothing we can do to them. One time we had about forty members of our community went to the capitol here in Florida to meet with the con gressmen and senators. It is about Muslims to get to know the politicians. Some of the youth of fifteen and sixteen years old participated in this trip, including my son and daughter. Alhadi: Are they all from Ocala? Abu Mohamed: Yes, from Ocala, but o ther delegations came from Tampa, and they all met there. It was good for the young generation to know the importance of voting. Alhadi: Abu Mohamed, I know that in some cases Arab parents interfere in their udy or not to study certain fields. What do you think about such behavior, which, of course, goes back to the like. It is about parents dictating what children should study Abu Mohamed: We of the Muslim and Palestinian community love to see our children proceed with their education. This is also true for other communities such as Jews, Christians, and Indians. They all want their children to learn and succeed. However, t here should be no pressure on the children. The only advice should be that there will be jobs in the field they choose to study for their future career life. If one wanted to be a teacher, they need to make sure that there will be employment opportunitie s. It is meaningless to study education, and then end up
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 10 not finding a job. It is true that the medical and law fields have an abundance of jobs, which is not exactly the case in the engineering field. They need to search carefully what jobs that will b e available after graduation that they need to go for. This is not just us, it is everybody. Alhadi: Abu Mohamed, in regards to the issue of community and children, I am relationship s with their friends. Are they having relationships only with their Arab and Muslim peers, or are they open to all other groups? How is it for your own son and daughters? Abu Mohamed: Do you mean who do they socialize with? Alhadi: Yes. Abu Mohamed: T hey basically socialize with Muslims, but there will be no objection to socialize with another young person from a neighboring house or a good family. We, the Muslims, love to make other communities understand that we are like them and there is no differe nce between the two communities. In my work, they understand that when I close the office that I am doing my prayers. They also know when the time for is to start fasting. They know and I tell them. It is true out what we do, and for that reason we do what we do. Alhadi: There is an opinion that is almost everywhere among the American society towards the Arabs and Muslims. Is it j ustified for them to have that kind of opinion regarding the way they see the Arabs and Muslims?
Khalid Abdul Jabbar (Abu Mohamed), 7 17 2011, Draft 2, Page 11 Abu Mohamed: When we first came here in Ocala, many people had a prejudiced view towards us. But I always tell my wife and children that we should make them learn that we are not the bad people they conceive. They may not understand, but we have to tell them. We should let them know we are not bad. We are people who are striving to live like you, safe and secure. My daughters in high school, where as expec ted, there will be a bunch of immature people, heard many students calling them terrorists because they put on their Islamic uniform. This is they should tell their teachers. care. One time, one of my daughters who had her Islamic uniform on, was understand that this is a religious obligation. They th ought I was forcing her which is not true. My wife chose not to dress in Islamic uniform, but my daughters chose to. It is their decision which is a personal decision. Alhadi: We are now approaching the end of this interview, Abu Mohamed, but before we your complete name at the beginning. Abu Mohamed: My name is Khalid Abdul Jabbar from Al Beera. Alhadi: Thanks to you, Abu Mohamed. We are happy that we are here with you today Abu Mohamed: You are welcome. [END OF INTERVIEW]