Sudanese Or American

Sudanese Or American



I returned from the most civilized and contemplative experience in my life: 12 days in a luxurious Caribbean cruise. A Sudanese village boy among about 3,000 civilized White Christians. Who am I? And how I relate to this American civilization that I live in?

Washington: Mohammad Ali Salih:

I, in my sixties, am a Sudanese by birth and an American by citizenship. I spent the first half of my life in Sudan and the second half in America . For 40 years, I have been a professional journalist, and for the last 30 years a foreign correspondent, here in Washington , DC , for major Arabic newspapers and magazines in the Middle East .

During the first ten years in the US, I looked at myself as a Sudanese living in the US, and planning to, someday, return to Sudan – with my American wife and our US-born children.

During the second ten years in the US , after I became a US citizen, I was confused about my identity for, at least, two reasons: (1) I pledged allegiance to the US , but still felt mostly a Sudanese. (2) As an African, I couldn’t relate to the African-Americans, mostly because I rejected their pre-occupation with their color, with slavery and racial discrimination.

These confusions, other problems facing a stranger in a strange land, raising a family and striving for a living, caused me to take, for years, Valium and Librium. After I stopped that, I spent years in counseling. After I stopped that, I spent years visiting -- beside mosques -- churches, synagogues and Hindu and Buddhist temples; not only looking for the “truth” but, also, to expose my children to other religions, hoping that they would grow up with open minds and seek the “truth” anywhere and in anyway.

During the third ten years in the US , in another attempt to find my identity, I started to thoroughly read the Koran and to understand it myself, without the confusing and mostly out-dated explanations of medieval Islamic scholars in the Middle East .

Accordingly, I have come to believe that: (1) The color of my skin doesn’t have anything to do with my identity. (2) The core of my identity is my faith. (3) My mixed Arabic-African culture comes second, and, then my citizenship, American, Sudanese or something else.

If I were born in the US , or came at a young age, most probably my culture would have been American, and I would have felt more American than I do now.

Now, as I enter my fourth decade in America, I have this almost unexplainable feeling: the more I feel American, the more I feel Sudanese; the more I feel at ease in the US, the more I read and write about Sudan; and the more I feel proud for being an American, the more I feel proud for also being a Sudanese.

But, I differentiate between this feeling and being a Sudanese citizen who votes and runs for political offices there. Since I pledged allegiance to the US , I stopped using my Sudanese passport.

I don’t believe in dual citizenship, although the US government allows it. For me, it is like having two wives and being equally fair to both of them. I believe that is impossible and it involves hypocrisy and self- deception.

I don’t like the description of being a Sudanese-American; I fell I am both a Sudanese and an American. Not 50 percent this and 50 percent that, but 100 percent this and 100 percent that.

I don’t know how to explain this; I will call it “Trinity Identity,” three in one, but each stands by itself: I, Sudan and the US .

One thing I am sure of: this feeling has something to do with this great American freedom. At first, I thought it was the freedom to talk, write, vote and practically do anything, But, recently, I have come to feel -- but not see and touch -- the “spirit of freedom,” something like the spirit of God. No wonder, because, about ten years ago, I had found that the “spirit of American” is from the spirit of God.

On the other hand, someone may reject these explanations and say: C’mon, the truth is that you feel guilty for leaving your original country, and you are trying to find an excuse. Whoever says that might be correct.

Meantime, this Sudanese village boy has found himself closely living for 12 days, in a very civilized cruise ship, with about 3,000 Christian Whites. And this experience will be the subject of these 12 pieces.