SMITHVILLE, ARKANSAS — When Ammar Abdul Malouf, 32, stepped off the plane that had taken him from Newark to Little Rock, he said he “knew he was home” within just minutes. Malouf is a Syrian-born refugee that came to the United States to escape as he put it, “a war zone back home.” After being in his new home town for less than an hour, he told our reporter he “knew he’d chosen the right new war zone” to make his new life in.
“I was confused when I arrived here in town and within ten minutes I heard gunshots,” Malouf said. Gunshots are something he says he had become very accustomed to hearing, but he said he he didn’t know what to make of the ones he heard in the small Arkansas town he had been settled in by the refugee placement program. His fears were quickly assuaged by a man he saw walking down the street, seemingly unaware of the gun fire ringing out in the street. “I stopped him and asked him why he wasn’t ducking for cover,” Malouf told us, “then he reassured me it was just two American citizens exercising their Second Amendment rights to end disputes with murdering each other, as the Founding Fathers intended.” Malouf said he knew then and there “that this American war zone would be much different than the one in Syria [he] left behind.”
Malouf said that’s when he had the idea he was hoping would serve as the foundation of the new life he wanted to create for his wife and two children. “I came up with a t-shirt design that was really simple. It just said ‘War Zone, Sweet War Zone,’ and it had an American flag and a gun on it.” Malouf, however, said that many of his neighbors weren’t sure what to make of the shirt, and they asked him what would make him call America a war zone.
“What else do you call a country,” Malouf said he has started asking them, “where thousands of people die every year at the business end of a gun?” Malouf told our reporter that he then points to crime statistics that show more Americans have died in gun violence since 9/11 than all the terror attacks in the same period combined. “Most of them though,” he said, “just shake their heads and tell me that it’s different for one reason or another, but I keep telling them that the only difference between where I left and here is the bombs that fall from different countries’ planes.”
Ultimately, Malouf said he’d “never be happier” than he was to be in America. “Because at least I know the bullets I’m dodging here are etched with freedom,” he said, “the freedom to carry as much firepower and ammunition you want because you’re dead convinced someone who is not coming for your guns is in fact coming for your guns.” Mr. Malouf said he’ll “learn to live with the daily terror of gun violence” in America as long as his t-shirts are selling.
“Because ignoring societal problems as long as there’s money to count is the most American thing I can do,” Malouf said as the interview was ending.