Saturday, September 30, 2006

Leila Abu-Saba has lost her father

Leila at Dove's Eye View says goodbye to her father in a tribute to his life. Very much worth a moment of your time to read. He comes across as an old-fashioned liberal who lived the values in which he believed, a true citizen of the world.

...all people must be appreciated for their merits and achievements, not for their family background or religion. He was proud of his Arab heritage and his Lebanese identity; he appreciated his Melchite Catholic cultural inheritance. But he did not believe that these identities were superior to others. He reached out to people from every culture on the planet. He loved meeting new people, gabbing to them about his Lebanese identity, learning their languages, participating in their rituals, finding out about their history. He kept copies of the Koran and the Torah in his home, read them, and enjoyed discussing theology with rabbis, sheikhs and priests.
After getting a Ph.D. in engineering at VPI, Dad taught at a traditionally Black university in North Carolina for over twenty years (North Carolina A&T State University). His love of teaching and his determination to help others succeed made him a popular professor. I left out the part about my mother's civil rights work in college - he completely supported her when she got herself arrested for trying to integrate a lunch counter in Lynchburg, Va., in 1960. She went to jail for a month during her senior year, and he was 100% behind her. Teaching at a traditionally Black university in the South was Elias' way of solving the problems of racial injustice in this country. He identified with Black struggle, because of his own critique of colonialist subjugation of the Arab world.

As part of my father's passion for ideals of the Arab awakening, he became a strong supporter of women's rights early on. He lived those ideals by urging his parents to educate his sisters; by educating his nieces; and by supporting my mother in accomplishing all her professional goals. When we were small, Dad took care of us and did housework so Mom could get a Ph.D. Once they became a two-Ph.D. household, he continued to take part in all aspects of our upbringing, including the laundry and cooking. He and Mom made their career and financial decisions jointly, cooperatively. In 1993, when she was appointed professor of Psychology at the American University of Beirut, he retired early from his teaching position in North Carolina to be with her in Lebanon. For the next eight years, he was the chief cook and househusband, devoting himself to my mother's comfort while she worked hard at the university.

Lots more at the link, but you get the idea.

When I hear people painting whole populations with broad-brush evidence of their own profound ignorance I don't quite know where to begin talking with them. Leila and her family beautifully illustrate a rich heritage of cultural sophistication and educational achievement that most people only dream about.

Leila's blog is one of the treasures of my list.
The Dove's father is a Lebanese Christian immigrant, with relatives spread out from Lebanon to Australia. Her mother is a Southern WASP whose family lives in Virginia, Texas and other parts. The Dove's father's Christian Lebanese village is right next door to a Muslim Palestinian refugee camp, built on what was once our family farmland. The Dove is married to a wonderful man who does bear a Scottish surname but is halachically Jewish, via his lovely mother, who has a large and supportive family. The Dove herself grew up in the Midwest and South, but spent many long summers and one school year in Lebanon as a child; also lived in Cairo, Egypt for a junior year in college. Full disclosure: a 4 year marriage to a Muslim Egyptian in her 20s gave her an inside view into upper class Cairene families, and an appreciation for secular modern Muslims and their relationship to Islam.

You get that?
All of it?

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