In 1992, Muhyaldeen Dia was all set. He had a growing family and a great job as a cardiologist in the cosmopolitan Persian Gulf port city of Abu Dhabi.
So, after his wife came back from a trip to see family in California, the native of Damascus, Syria, surprised even himself when he agreed to pick up his brood and move halfway across the world to America.
"I was thinking, 'There's something missing, and I finally know what it is,'" said Dia, an Orland Park resident. "We opted to be here because of the freedom, the land or opportunity. People are nice and tolerant to foreigners like me."
When he came here at age 36, the accomplished doctor started his career again almost from scratch. He went from being an attending physician at a well-respected hospital to a lowly intern at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
It was a tough road, but Dia worked his way back up the ladder. He is now a specialist.
But 2 1/2 years ago, life in America changed for Dia and many other Middle Eastern immigrants.
"September 11 was a big setback for all immigrants from the Middle East," he said. "We love this country, and we didn't agree at all with September 11. But there was some generalizations about Arabs and Muslims because of what happened."
Dia said he understands why the federal government scrutinizes Middle Eastern men and why some of his non-Muslim neighbors recently spoke out against the building of a mosque in Orland Park.
But he also hopes such treatment will end soon. "We have trust in the American people that after the initial phase of anger and rage, they will come to accept us," he said. "I believe in decent people. I believe in the decency of human nature."
by Dan Lavoie