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Kate Orman
News From the House of Sticks
12th-Oct-2010 08:39 pm
While I was in Canberra last week, I spent much of my time at the National Library of Australia, where I was able to search a database of newspaper stories from the state of Texas just after 9/11. What I was after, as you've probably guessed, was the context for this part of Ms Moon's posting about Park51:

"But Muslims fail to recognize how much forbearance they've had. Schools in my area held consciousness-raising sessions for kids about not teasing children in Muslim-defined clothing...but not about not teasing Jewish children or racial minorities. More law enforcement was dedicated to protecting mosques than synagogues--and synagogues are still targeted for vandalism. What I heard, in my area, after 9/11, was not condemnation by local mosques of the attack--but an immediate cry for protection even before anything happened. Our church, and many others (not, obviously all) already had in place a "peace and reconciliation" program that urged us to understand, forgive, pray for, not just innocent Muslims but the attackers themselves. It sponsored a talk by a Muslim from a local mosque--but the talk was all about how wonderful Islam was--totally ignoring the historical roots of Islamic violence."
I don't know exactly where Ms Moon's local area was at the time (and it's none of my business). Some of her grievances here may be legitimate - although if so, they're the responsibility of the schools, the police, and her church, not just the mosques.

What I'd like to do here is to use some of the news stories I dug up to put her recollections into context. The weeks after 9/11 were a terrible time of shock, confusion, and fear. For Texan Muslims, on top of that, it was a time of blame and hate: bomb threats against schools, firebombs and bullets aimed at mosques, vandalism, beatings, shootings, arson, and murder, and the repeated refrain: "You're not Americans". But it was also a time of support and understanding, with people of other faiths rallying to support their neighbours, and Muslims reaching out to their community.

ETA: Looking at the dates, for Ms Moon's local mosques to have asked for protection "even before anything happened", they would have had to do so before the windows were shot out of the Islamic Center of Irving on 12 September. Well, that could be the case; the threatening phone calls probably started before any actual attacks. What is hard to believe is that local mosques didn't condemn the terrorism; the news reports quote one Muslim after another doing so. On 12 September a press release from Dallas religious leaders, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim, denounced the attacks as "evil".

On 13 September, the Austin American-Statesman reported that "The Islamic Center of Greater Austin received at least seven threatening voice mails since Tuesday morning, and the Austin Police Department provided security guards to watch over two of its mosques. 'The messages were to "Use the time and get out of here. You are not Americans,"' said Adel Hussain, the center's president... When their 13-year-old son came home from an Eanes middle school Tuesday, Ali and Nahid Khataw heard the pain in his voice as he described how fellow students picked on him. "They were saying "You're not American,"' Ali Khataw said. All of the Khataws are U.S. citizens."

On 14 September, AP reported that in San Antonio, "three windows of the small, family-owned Shiraz restaurant were shattered early Thursday, apparently by a slingshot... An anonymous caller to a police dispatcher reported that he vandalized the restaurant in response to the attacks on the East Coast."

On 15 September, AP reported that an Islamic center "took safety precautions Friday before a prayer service, one of hundreds held by Texas congregations to remember victims of terrorist attacks on the East Coast. About 100 people said prayers... Leaders met with FBI officials before the service, held in a back room instead of the front chapel with large windows."

On 16 September, the Austin American-Statesman reported the firebombing of a Muslim-owned gas station; police were investigating it as a hate crime. The Houston Chronicle reported on a fire at a mechanic's shop in a Pakistani area; police said that, if the fire was intentionally set, they'd be investigating it as a hate crime.

On 18 September, the Houston Chronicle that "Molotov-cocktail-type devices were thrown on the roof of a Nation of Islam mosque in Austin early Monday, making it the fourth attack on Texas mosques since last week's terrorist attacks... At least three other mosques in North Texas have been vandalized since Tuesday. The Islamic Society of Denton was hit with a firebomb Thursday. The day before, at least six bullets shattered windows of the Islamic Center of Irving, and someone smashed a window at the Islamic Center of Carrollton, police said... children throughout the Austin Independent School District have experienced six bomb threats since Tuesday."

On 20 September, the Texas Christian University's paper Daily Skiff reported a threatening call to a local mosque soon after 9/11: "According to a tape heard by the [newspaper], a caller said, 'Prepare to die.... You want a holy war? You got it.'"

On 27 September, an AP story described a visit by the Austin mayor and police chief to reassure frightened schoolchildren, quoting a nine year old afraid of being killed because she wears a headscarf. "Police are investigating at least three crimes committed against Muslims and their businesses in Austin since [9/11]... A carpet store owned by a native of Jerusalem was set on fire last week."

On 3 October, AP reported on outreach efforts and hate crimes against Houstoners, such as the bashing of Hasnain Javed (later covered by the LA Times). "'These incidents are due to ignorance,' said Hassan Al-Asfur, who was shot in the leg two weeks ago by a man who put a gun to his head and told him, 'Your people killed my people.'"

On 1 November, AP reported on Americans' hunger to learn about Islam, and Muslim outreach efforts, including offering speakers and lectures and mosque open houses: "'If we don't explain Islam correctly, people like Osama bin Laden are going to explain it, which is very bad,' said Mohammad Suleman, president of the Islamic Association of North Texas... 'This is an opportunity for us, but we don't like to use the word "opportunity" because of all the deaths," he said. 'We say it's the right time to be proactive in dispelling any misunderstanding or confusion.'"

From that 1 November report: "Imam Yusuf Kavakci said he'd feared that the Dallas Central Mosque would become a target of hostility after the tragedies. Instead, it's become a hub. More than 2,500 people recently turned out for an open house. 'I'm amazed at the interest,' he said. Some churches are turning over worship time and Sunday school classes to teach about Islam. Others are sponsoring forums and lectures."

Similarly - and I've saved this until last, because it's my favourite - from a 24 September Austin American-Statesman story about an open house: "The mosque's trustees wanted to help people understand their faith and show the Central Texas community that they are Americans who condemn the recent terrorist attacks. Many of the non-Muslims who attended said they too had a goal: Show the Islamic community their support and make it clear they will not stand for discrimination against anyone. 'This is what we can do to show support,' said Diane Weir... 'It's not much.' But to the Islamic community, it was a great deal. Muslim after Muslim commented in amazement at the turnout - hundreds of visitors kept a large patio full for the more-than-three-hour event - and how it meant so much to them. The large Jewish presence, members of the mosque said, touched their hearts in a special way. Yasmeen Jehangir said every Muslim is aware of the suffering of the Jewish people throughout history, and for them to stand in solidarity with the Islamic community during a time when Muslims are the targets of discrimination is a powerful symbol of brotherhood. Many people look to what happens in Israel and the Palestinian territory as though Jews and Muslims have always been at odds, she added. Historically, the two religions have been very close, living peacefully together, she said."
12th-Oct-2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for very good work, from so far away.

12th-Oct-2010 10:59 pm (UTC)
*blushes* Ta.
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