‘It is the best country in the world:' 31 take oath to be new U.S. citizens

Dalih El-Far, left, her husband, Mohamed, hand on heart, and two of their children, Hashim, 3, and Ahmed, 6, say the Pledge of Allegiance during Thursday's naturalization ceremony.
Dalih El-Far, left, her husband, Mohamed, hand on heart, and two of their children, Hashim, 3, and Ahmed, 6, say the Pledge of Allegiance during Thursday's naturalization ceremony.

Asked what his dreams were for his three grandchildren, Jaswant Singh Sidhu, 62, hesitated for a moment before answering.

“They can be anything they want to be when they grow up,” Mr. Sidhu said, as he glanced at his son, Amandeep Sidhu, who stood nearby, smiling and shaking his head approvingly.

Amandeep Sidhu, 36, explained that in their homeland of India, adults have the final say in many decisions, including what careers their children will pursue.

Jaswant Singh Sidhu was among 31 people who took the oath of U.S. citizenship during a naturalization ceremony held Thursday at the Fort Meigs museum in Perrysburg. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey J. Helmick presided over the ceremony.

PHOTO GALLERY: Naturalization Ceremony at Fort Meigs

For many of the new citizens, the biggest challenge is trying to adapt to a new culture and customs.

“Everyone had to struggle and experience culture shock when they come here,” said 46-year-old Jahangir Adil, who came from Pakistan to the United States on a study visa 12 years ago. “It’s a very different culture in Pakistan.”

Mr. Adil, his wife Lubna, 43, and their son Arslan, 18, all became U.S. citizens Thursday. The citizenship application for the Adils' youngest son, Ammar, 13, is still being processed.

In Pakistan, children are expected to take care of their parents when they get older, said Mr. Adil, who is now a Toledo physician. That tradition was put to the test when his mother became severely ill in 2003.

Initially, Mr. Adil was afraid to return to India because his wife and two children were already living with him in the United States. If he returned to care for his mother, there was no guarantee that he would be issued another visa to return to American soil.

Eventually, he was allowed to visit his mother before she died.

The family never planned on staying, Mr. Adil said. But, after several years, they realized their roots were now here. “The people around here are very nice and the crime rate is low,” Mrs. Adil said. “It’s a great place to raise kids.”

Family roots are also what prompted Mr. Sidhu and his wife, Paramjit Kaur Sidhu, 65, to come to the United States and seek citizenship. Their son, Amandeep, came to America on a work visa in 2007. His sister, Naudeep Sidhu, 32, arrived in 2005 to study. They are also in the process of seeking U.S. citizenship.

“Leaving your friends behind is difficult,” said Jaswant Singh Sidhu, who was in the India military for more than 25 years. “But there’s a balance — the children and family are here.”

One drawback is the prejudice Mr. Sidhu said some misguided Americans direct at himself and his family. When some people see Mr. Sidhu, who wears a turban, they assume he is Muslim.

“My religion is Sikhism,” Mr. Sidhu said. “But some people [incorrectly] compare it with being a Muslim. I’ve had some people tell me that [President] Obama is a Muslim. ... My religion believes that all humanity is one.”

Despite the prejudice, Mr. Sidhu says he has no regrets about becoming an American.

“It is the best country in the world,” Jaswant Singh Sidhu said. “It’s an honor to be a part of the greatest democracy in the world.”

The new Americans and their native countries are:

Brazil: Ali Mohamad Jarouche

Canada: Rawan Narwal Kasmani

Egypt: Mary Barsoum, Mohamed Taha Elsayed El Far

Ghana: Laud Nii Boye Kwaku

India: Vibha Bhalla, Palak Jayesh Shah, Jaswant Singh Sidhu

Iraq: Saad Ezzat Shammas

Jordan: Bassam Jawdat Almasri, Akram Ragheb Assaly

Lebanon: Nouhad Jamil Al Jarouche, Dali Ahmed Al Jassim, Damia Morkos El Douaihy

Nigeria: Funmilola Remi Fadahunsi, Monisola Ajoke Fatinikun

Pakistan: Arslan Adil, Jahangir Adil, Lubna Adil, Adan Ehtsham Samie

People’s Republic of China: Xiaobin Chen, Ai Hua Lin, Xiadong Robert Wang, Jia Liang Weng

Philippines: Cindy Celerio Cavanlit, Golda Ong Palmero, Monica Gochioco Schick

Russia: Svetlana Bulgakova, Alyona Victorovna Colley

Ukraine: Inna Alexandrovna Orlovska

United Kingdom: Susan Suggit Kurivial

Contact Federico Martinez at: fmartinez@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.