Meet the Neighbors

Meet Abdul-Wahab, the Chaplain, Community Leader & Counselor

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Name: Abdul-Wahab Omeira

Occupation: Muslim Chaplain at the California State Prison–Los Angeles County

Education: B.S. of Religious Studies

Country of Origin: Syria

Neighborhood: Eastside

City/State: Palmdale, CA

Number of years in the U.S: 43

It has been quite interesting, wonderful and educational living in the US and I would not have changed it for the world. Mid 1970, six months after I arrived to California, I was attending night school. I came to my usual bus stop when group of high school students stopped to offer me a ride. Lonely, shy, intimidated, and afraid, I accepted the offer. I excitedly ran toward the car feeling welcomed and accepted. However, as soon as I got close enough they drove off a few feet. Then they stopped again and I ran harder this time to try to take them up on their offer and yet again they drove fast forward a few feet. After a few times of hustling after the car, I came to realize that they are just having fun at my foreigner expense.

Unfortunately,  experiences like this were not isolated nor rare. I worked 18 years at a big chain grocery store and being the outsider in the store I was always the punching bag and the source of humor and laughter of my fellow employees. It didn’t matter which branch I went worked at. I got used to being called Ayatollah Khomeini, Ali Baba, and Ahab the AAAraaab and other derogatory and demeaning names. Moreover, if anything went wrong I was the first one to be charged with the crime.

To this day, I ask myself how and why I put up with so much abuse and hatred, even though I was the best worker they had. In spite of all of the above and much more than mentioned, I persevered, raised five wonderful children, and established the Islamic Center of North Valley, the Guidance Charter School. I was the Key Note speaker at many public events and I currently serve as a community leader and counselor. I never let life treat me the way it wanted, I treat life the way I want.

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