I am ashamed, sickly saddened again at what happened in Orlando. I am also angry. I am angry to see America bleed again. I am livid to see lives taken at the hands of violence, but more so, I am aggravated that it all happened because someone did not respect freedom.

I came to this Land of the Free, more than two decades ago. I started a family here, volunteered in a laboratory at a medical university and later worked at one at minimum wage to pave my way to securing a residency and to resume my career as a physician.  Life was different than the first thirty years it made me see.  It took me a while to get used to these differences here. I missed cricket. I missed seeing faces like ours when I would glance at the people in the car next to me at a traffic light. As an avid runner, I felt the heat more in a full body suit even in the mild summer of Massachusetts compared to the sweltering heat of Lahore, because everyone else wore shorts to track.  I argued with my loving husband to endorse my choice to wear Pakistani clothes to job interviews. I admit I felt awkward but never once was looked at awkwardly for anything I decided for me. Those were the days, when as young parents and newly adjusting immigrants, we could not afford to buy new books. So used book sales and public libraries were our respite. It was a Saturday morning with early spring sunshine.  As we were helping our four year old first born to rummage through a box of children’s’ story books at a garage sale, an older gentleman asked us where were we from. As my mind was processing an answer, I came up with a quick response:

“Well, originally we are from Pakistan.”

“And I am an American but I am a Muslim too”

My son fervently took a pause at his book hunt to reply, with a glow in his eyes eager to engage into a conversation with a friendly elderly, an art he was trying to master already.

The gentleman, who by now was enjoying the self-reliance of a three year old, said:

“You are an American AND a Muslim young man!”

“Can I be both, mom?”

The little face had his curious eyes set on me. Before I could answer, the gentleman was kind enough to make it easy for me:

“Yes!  And don’t ever let anyone confuse you on that.”

I am trying not to be confused today when my son is ready to embark upon a new phase in his life and go to a college a thousand miles away. What do I tell him on a day like this? That a fellow American Muslim Omar Mateen brutally took lives of fifty people and injured many more in the name of Islam. His father stated that he was anti-gay and did not like homosexuals being physically intimate with each other in front of his wife. This concerns me as an American Muslim. It took me fifteen years of hard work to acquire my American citizenship and the day I held that piece of paper handed over to me by a Judge, I felt free. . It is not a cliché. There I was a person of color, with a name that ninety nine percent could not pronounce, practicing a religion that most were not familiar with, and I still could breathe freedom! I do not want anyone to take this freedom away from me.

So I told my son today the same thing that I have been teaching him the last eighteen years: All lives matter. All faiths or the lack thereof, are to be respected. Everyone is free to make a choice and that must be accepted by others.

So my dear fellow American Muslims, if we chose to live here, we have to respect and accept the values America and the Americans believe in. Otherwise do not be enraged when someone tells you to go back to Afghanistan, Pakistan... wherever you came from.  Or better yet, migrate to the beacon of light (read axis of evil!), Saudi Arabia and live a second rate citizen's life for the rest of your days. Yes, you can have dislikes, different opinions and you are free to express those. No one here can identify or discriminate you on the basis of your color or your faith. No one can tell you not to practice or propagate your beliefs. So it is our duty today to come together to support American values of Freedom and Civil Rights. Otherwise be ready for the worst that has not happened yet. Be thankful to the society that protects you.

Please, instead of talking anti American, anti LGBTQ and discussing politics with a one sided view on dinner tables, teach your children tolerance and pluralism if you want to live here. Do not raise a confused generation. Let them be Americans at heart. Do not impose your culture on them. Otherwise tomorrow one of our children, and I say it with difficulty and pain, will do what Omar Mateen did today and there will be no one to stand for us.

When I hear some of us say that San Bernardino shooters were wrongly accused as ‘they, especially the wife,  was a God fearing, Quran reading Muslim and a mother who couldn't have left an infant home to go kill people’, it is disturbing to say the least. I do not see how with this mindset, we the Muslims in America demand not to be labeled as 'Islamic radicals'.

To my friends not living here in US, I would like to share with you that despite all this, I feel safe, secure and assured that nothing bad will happen or will be said to me or my family when we leave the house for work, schools, to meet people and see patients tomorrow. This sense of belonging and safety comes from a society where majority is fair and thinks rationally. And those who do not, I feel reassured, will not be accepted or allowed to unleash their ignorance upon my life. 

So let us be thankful to America for that. 

Orlando, we mourn with you. We are with you in this fight against violence and terrorism.