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BLOG 2: Doc in Pakistan

Thumbnail image for Wasel HeadShot.jpg(Dr. Wasel Kabir is a Canadian physician who is volunteering to help Pakistanis affected by the floods.  It is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.  Dr. Kabir is blogging exclusively for Day 6.)

Day 2: Drawing Parallels

I know where I'm going, yet I still don't feel it as much as I think I should. Perhaps it is the ignorance of the sheer magnitude of the situation, or a mundane use of rationalization that is responsible for the lack of feeling overwhelmed.

After all, I am part of the first Canadian chapter of Islamic Relief travelling to do any international initiative of any kind. We have no precedent to hang our insecurities on. We are the first. This realization should be unnerving. But I feel confident. Trust the team. Trust our skills.

We cannot do bad doing good.

* * *

We had a 7-hour layover in Washington, and decided to get out of the airport microcosm and sightsee. Samad called his friend, who was gracious enough to take us out.

The first thing we wanted to do was pray. We arrived at The Adams Mosque in Sterling, VA. The plan was to pray, and continue on our way. But we were so captivated by what we saw and experienced that we quickly decided to stay. It actually served as an example and a reminder of the journey we have embarked on.

To see people, from children to the elderly, united and working for the benefit of others was moving and inspirational. They were swiftly preparing plates of food as the time to break fast was quickly approaching.

I wanted to be a part of it and immediately offered to help. My boys joined in as soon as they completed their prayers. We filed into an assembly line, and prepared 360 plates of food, distributed for free. I was amazed. They somehow manage to do this every night, without financial compensation, purely on donations. Every night. In a state of starvation, in the final hour of the fast! It was noble. It was the Islam I know.

They were organized, had a positive disposition and non-self serving attitude. It was a reflection of how we must be, how Muslims really are. They had welcomed us warmly and were grateful for our help. They praised us for our commitment to help the flood victims and looked at us as celebrities.

It was encouraging to see the positive results of a little good will. We conformed to our surroundings and provided aid. My team gave themselves for others without skipping a beat and loved it. I feel it was a small test to see how well we function as a unit and how we respond to hardship. We did all right. Our main test, a daunting task, lies in Pakistan, and I am comforted by this experience.

I think we'll do all right there; no, I know we will.

* * *

We returned to the airport, picked up our boarding passes for the 12-hour flight to Doha, the second leg of our journey.

Of course, we tried to get bumped up to business class, but yes we were denied.

I mean, come on: we are after all a bunch of young good-looking men put through the ringer of medical school. Don't we deserve a little luxury, like those nice, spacious comfy seats, great food and service? It was worth a shot. I guess our charm just wasn't enough.

Next, we entered the security line deep in conversation, comparing stories of the trials and tribulation of getting into and surviving medical school, when to our surprise we were "randomly selected," for a more detailed screening. That's right, not just one of us, but all four of us!

Never before has this happened to me! Ever! We were all escorted into a small, square plexiglas walled room into the middle of the security detail. We were individually patted down and our carry-on bags were searched in detail. Why?

Was it actually random or was it racial profiling, four Pakistan bound Muslim men?

Perhaps it was punishment by a woman unimpressed by my friend's poor flirting skills in attempting to get us all upgraded? No (but I like to think it was).

We were in fact told that it was because our flight was booked last minute: go figure.

I have to say it did show me the other side of things. The bias of having that red flag subjectively stamped on our foreheads and the potential to be adversely treated because of our station, religious and ethnic background no matter what our intention and purpose. It was sad.

(some editing by Day 6 producers)

SEE ALSO: Canadian Doc in Pakistan (part one)

LINK:  Islamic Relief Canada

LINK:  Adams Mosque

DONATE: CBC Pakistan Relief

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