AbdulRahman Zeitoun visits a job site.
AbdulRahman Zeitoun is an iconic American Muslim. But if you tell him this, he will shrug and change the subject. He doesn’t talk much about the book written about him or the animated movie that is in the works (directed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme). He’d rather talk about his painting company or the masjid that he helps run.
For those who are not familiar with Zeitoun, I strongly recommend picking up the book about his life before and after Hurricane Katrina - Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. Zeitoun stayed in New Orleans during the vicious hurricane and rode out the storm. After the levees broke and chaos ensued, he was arrested and held in maximum security prison for three weeks. I read the book last Ramadan during our New York City trek and was surprised at how much the book reminded me of God and his countenance.
I met him yesterday at Masjid Rehma near Tulane University and followed him as he visited his job sites and broke his fast at the mosque.
Zeitoun examines a paint job with a client. Zeitoun visits six to seven paint job sites at lease three times during the day.
Zeitoun drives as Aman fields a radio interview. Zeitoun is a quiet man. He shared only small anecdotes about him and his wife. He recollected the story of him stalking his wife outside of the furniture store she worked at before proposing to her.
Zeitoun holds unripe tomatoes he has grown on one of his properties. Zeitoun loves to grow fruit and vegetables. He took us to the backyard of one of the houses that he has leased. When I asked if we should ask permission before going in the back, Zeitoun responded, "Why? This is my house." He then proceeded to open the backyard gate.
Zetioun with his son, Ahmad, eats a meal at Masjid Rehma after breaking his fast. Ahmad is the youngest of Zeitoun's children and was born after Hurricane Katrina. "This child has brought so much life into our house." Kathy, Zeitoun's wife, tells me.
AbdulRahman and Kathy Zeitoun stand outside of their house. Zeitoun's quietness is made up for by the outward, bubbly personality of his wife, Kathy. Her sincerity and generosity in the novel and real life will steal your heart. "I talk a lot when I get nervous," she tells me, "hope it's not weird or anything."