Where are you from?

Karachi, Pakistan

What was it like growing up?

It was very different than what it is now. I grew up in a city that is now 24 million people. I think, when I was living there, it was four million.

What brought you to Cleveland?

I had a sister who had gotten married. She and her husband immigrated to the Cleveland area (Westlake). I followed them here soon after, in 1972.

What were your first thoughts about coming to America? Did those change?

The thing that I was pleasantly surprised about was how green Cleveland was. I came here in the summer, and it was beautiful. I had never been alone until I moved to the United States. I grew up with five sisters. I was the only son. So, I was a little overprotected growing up. I had never even warmed the water to make a cup of tea before. There was a cultural shock.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

I didn’t have a tremendous amount of challenges, because I spoke English.

What is your occupation?

I’m an Executive Director with Morgan Stanley. I’ve worked at Morgan Stanley for 36 years.

How have other Clevelanders made you feel welcomed?

I’m a Muslim. Since 9/11, there have been times when people say things that are pretty hurtful. It’s been a struggle, because people don’t understand that Pakistan is a very large country with a huge population, so it’s not the same everywhere.

What traditions or customs do you continue to practice?

We have our Independence Day celebrations. The Pakistani American community in Cleveland is large enough that we are able to get together often.

What do you love about Cleveland?

Cleveland has all of the facilities of a major city at half the price. All the major sporting events and entertainment at very reasonable prices. Most people don’t experience that in big cities.

Why is it so important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

Most people think of America as a melting pot. I don’t like that term. America is more like a salad. Each of the distinctive pieces have a different taste and color, They are separate, but work very well when they come together. The diversity of thinking that comes from different parts of the world makes this country what it is. Immigrants leave their country for economic reasons, for freedom, for all different reasons. The people who immigrate are the ones who are willing to take the risk to go to a whole new world that they don’t know much about, and have no idea what it will be like. They come here to make their dreams come true, because that’s what America is.

What suggestions do you have to make Cleveland a more welcoming community?

We need to look at immigrants as people who will help us make this city and country great by their involvement and their cultural and societal changes that they bring with them, rather than being a burden. I think we need to, as a city, educate our elected officials, police officers, and all of the other people who come into contact with immigrants, so they are aware of the cultural differences that exist. There are parts of the world where it is considered impolite to look a respected person in the eye. Here in the United States, if you don’t look someone in the eye, it’s considered that you’re hiding something.