Muslim Immigrant Thanks Westport

Kenan Trebincevic is 34 years old. He lives in Queens, and works as a physical therapist.

In 1993, he was a 12-year-old Muslim refugee. He, his brother and father were exiled from Bosnia, during a war against his people.

In between, he was a Westporter.

This week, Kenan told his story — one that resonates strongly, now that Donald Trump has called for banning all Muslim immigrants to the United States — on Esquire.com.

Kenan Trebincevic (Courtesy/Esquire.com)

Kenan Trebincevic (Courtesy/Esquire.com)

He writes about his parents’ decision to apply for permanent asylum in the US:

“Dad and I will be nobodies, so you boys can become somebodies,” my mother said. We were blessed to be sponsored by the generous churches and synagogues of the Connecticut Interfaith Council.

A Westport Methodist minister shared his home with us for 4 months and helped my parents find jobs. A nearby orthodontist fixed my teeth for free. When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, a Jewish surgeon operated on her without sending a bill for the operation, chemotherapy, and radiation.

At [Bedford Middle] school, I was unable to speak English. The principal introduced me to the 7th grade class. Miguel, a Spanish Catholic boy, offered me the seat next to him and became my best friend, eventually teaching me about baseball, football, and hockey.

The family moved a few times — to Norwalk, Stratford, then back to Westport at Sasco Creek Village.

Kenan Trebincevic, from his website.

Kenan Trebincevic, from his website.

Kenan earned his masters degree in physical therapy from the University of Hartford in 2004. Today he’s got a thriving practice, specializing in adult and adolescent sports rehabilitation.

He’s also an American citizen.

Kenan’s Esquire essay is titled “I’m Muslim. I Was a Refugee. I’m Proud to Be an American.” Click here to read his full story.

It’s a great one.

(To learn more about Kenan’s immigration and stay in Westport, click here for the book he wrote with Susan Shapiro. Hat tip: Roger Sherman)

19 responses to “Muslim Immigrant Thanks Westport

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this story.

  2. Michael Calise

    A Good Story. This the is what the United states is all about. A great respect for those who strive to better themselves to the benefit of all!

  3. A wonderful story, and I’m sure there are many more. Unfortunately, this is not 1993. ISIS didn’t exist back then. Our immigration system is in shreds, our borders open doors. Time and circumstances demand reexamination and tightening…we have to do a better job vetting those who come here, to protect those already here, including our current immigrants. Not wonderful, but necessary.

    • Mary, in 1993 the first World Trade Center bombing took place. And in 1990, the assassination of Meir Kahane took place in Manhattan. But the answer has never been to pursue a radical type of policy proposed by Donald Trump.

      • Mr cantor why don’t you read up on what these Muslim kids are being taught In mosques in America. Quite frightening.

        • Mr. Arciola–there is no question whatsoever that there are extremists (as there are in all faiths). I’m Jewish. And, sadly, it was a Jewish extremist who assassinated Israel’s Prime Minister in 1995 because he opposed the Prime Minister’s diplomatic efforts.

          Religious fanatics can be found all over but they shouldn’t be viewed as defining any entire group of religious followers.

    • Mary, one other point related to this issue. (Sorry, I would have posted earlier but a couple of workers showed up unexpectedly to repair a fence.). A lot of people tend to forget that, in 1968, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for Presidenr, Bobby Kennedy, was assassinated by an immigrant from the Middle East, Sirhan Sirhan, because he was upset with Kennedy’s policy approach to the Israel-Arab conflict. Sirhan was not Muslim.

  4. Anyone entering as a Refugee has been through a long and thorough vetting process. That is not true of people who enter on a visitor’s visa and simply don’t leave the country when the visa expires, or those who enter without paperwork. Refugees aren’t the problem.

    • They very likely will be. The current world situation is dangerous. The seas that separate us from other countries are mo longer a deterrent. The fanatics who would like to cause us harm will use their passport machines to their advantage. This is not a time for complacency.

    • That would be wonderful if it were true. Unfortunately it is not. As the director of the FBI has said on number of occasions, we cannot vet them if we do not have the requisite data, and at this point we do not have the data.

  5. This is a great story, Dan. Thanks for sharing it. We have to remember that Kenan’s story is the norm, not the exception. There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. Folks need to stop quaking in their boots. They need to stop listening to folks like Donald Trump.

    (Elyse Evers)

  6. What a wonderful, wonderful story. Congratulations, Mr Trebincevic!

    I ashamedly admit that I enjoy watching and listening to Mr Trump and some of the other candidates on both sides; rather like watching a circus act –but at the same time, I wonder with great concern what will become of this upcoming presidential election. For when I hear sweepingly blanketing statements about immigrants and now, Muslims in particular, it alarms me.

    Thank you for holding a mirror up to those who dare to gather all who “seemingly fit” in some sort of category and therefore should be treated accordingly. Dangerous. We’ve blamed our forefathers for not having stopped Hitler and other lunatics who led by that threatening, threatening rule of thumb.

  7. Hi Dan

    Thank you for this. You have made my day and probably my week.

    Best

    Bennett >

  8. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    Kenan’s story, which should be iconic, is one that probably has been replicated many times without the coverage that you have provided, Dan. However, it occurred before global terrorism joined ethnic cleansing as an instrument of evil policy. Trump doesn’t seem to be able to separate bigotry toward Muslims and/or Mexicans from prudent border security at a time when we need to reject the former and embrace the latter. We are currently in an asymmetrical world war and it is very difficult to distinguish friends from enemies, not only among immigrants but also among presidential candidates. Trump is only making it more difficult to safeguard our citizens while providing refuge for those who need it.

  9. There is little doubt that we now face a new type of war that effects what was once normal. As we are mostly children of immigrants somewhere in our family line, the basic open doors that the US has previously offered is now part of the negative impact of extreme radicals.

    Safety must be the goal as the threat of killing grows. If and when we can destroy this illogical behavior, then hopefully we can get back to the norm.

    But for whatever reason, we seem to be failing to protect us all. Here is part of an article from the NT Times. Scary at best:

    WASHINGTON — Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. But none uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.
    She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it.

  10. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    It truly is shocking that American gun violence is overshadowed by American xenophobia, ignorance regarding the refugee crisis.

  11. Thanks, Dan, for once again showing us how “Westport meets the world”.

  12. Kenan, I was your teacher at Bedford Middle School when you first came in and were in 7th grade. You were a remarkable young man, then. You are now a remarkable adult. I am so proud that maybe I had one small part in all your successes. I wish you all the best always.

  13. Dick Lowenstein

    Kenan came back to Westport in March, 2014, when he spoke at the Library. He was here with his father, Keka, and older brother, Dino. For Ellie and me. it was a reunion of sorts, because we were among the many people who befriended and helped the Trebincevic family. It wasn’t always easy – for them or for us — but it worked out. For a view of Kenan’s thinking about terrorism, which has been alluded to in some of the comments, read what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal about the Boston Marathon bombers. (http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323789704578443473812237556)