Ahmed Tharwat is an American television host. He is a witty and articulate man who refers to himself as a ‘hyphenated American’. What he means by this is that he is Arab-American, but chooses to highlight the marginalisation he feels he and many Asian and African Americans have dealt with before, or more particularly after, the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001.
He is pragmatic about his situation and doesn’t complain about it, rather he simply shines a different light on it and enables others to see the funny side of his story.
Born in Egypt and a practicing Muslim, Sam Lees recalls his hilarious, provocative and inspiring story of how a Beagle puppy called Oliver enabled members of Ahmed’s community to overcome their preconceptions and embrace Ahmed as a member, not of the Arab-American community, but as a member of the dog loving community.
It is uncommon for Muslim families to keep a pet dog, especially in the house. Not necessarily because they don’t like dogs, or because that their faith decries the dog itself, but because a practicing Muslim must wash his hands seven times after touching a dog if he is going to pray. This makes owning and keeping a dog somewhat impractical for many Muslims.
After much persuasion and nagging from his young daughter, Ahmed relented and agreed to allow a dog into the family home, under a few conditions. The dog was to stay downstairs and was not allowed in Ahmed’s prayer room. His young daughter was thrilled to bits, and on a cold, winter afternoon Ahmed brought home a six-week-old Beagle pup, he called him Oliver.
Being a well known figure on local television, Ahmed had become acutely aware of the situation that many Arab-Americans were finding themselves in post 9/11. For many suspicious glances were becoming all too common. This was all about to be turned on its head for Ahmed, and the cause of this would come from a very unusual source.
Ahmed needed to go to the supermarket one day, and with nobody being at home with him at the time, decided to take Oliver along too. He noticed something was happening to him that had not happened since before the atrocities of 9/11, and only then did he realise just how isolated he had felt, until the familiar friendliness of his community was returned to him.
Has your dog changed your social life, or how you fit in with the community around you? Let us know - we'd love to hear your stories!