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FEATURE Letter from Dallas After September 11, Metroplex Muslims Are Holding Their Breath BY KAREN OLSSON T he patch of southeast Dallas traversed by the 10000 block of Elam Road is one of those places where it seems the city has only a loose hold on things, where old pastures try to reassert them selves in empty lots thick with prairie grass, and where, one recent afternoon, all was quiet but for the strain of conjunto music floating out of somebody’s stereo. On that block is Mom’s Grocery, which from the street resembles any other convenience store in a lower income neighborhood, with its aluminum siding and barred windows, the Job Connection bulletins out front and the handpainted “Check Cashing 1%” sign in the parking lot. The memorials lately left by the door for Wagar Hasan, the store’s recently deceased co-owner, are discreet: a few melted-down candles, two wreaths, several notes taped to the door”To the family of Hasan. He was a wonderful personJean McCallum.” Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant, was killed at the store, by a single bullet to the head, sometime close to 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 15. His killer has not been found, but given the timing and the fact that no money was taken, many believe that the murder constituted someone’s notion of revenge for the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was the most grave in a recent string of crimes against Arabs and Muslims that have taken place around the Metroplex. In the days after the airplane crashes, vengefulness ricocheted through the suburbs here: A mosque in Denton was firebombed, another in Irving was shot at, and a brick was thrown through the window of a third one in Carrollton. Shots were fired at the house of a Pakistani family in Coppell.A Romanian jogger in Carrollton was beaten by men who apparently mistook him for a Middle Easterner. Two Ethiopians visiting the Fort Worth botanical gardens were stabbed. Such crimes have not been limited to the Dallas area, but in the number and severity of reported incidents, the area has been significantly affected. Out of the 104 anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hate crimes that were reported nationally to the FBI’s 56 field offices between September 11 and the end of the month, 12 of them occurred in North Texas, the majority of those in the Metroplex. \(In Houston, where twice as many Muslims live, the FBI has opened three “I’ve been here almost 20 years, and this is the first thing like this that ever happened,” says Rokaya Jawaid, who awoke early one mid-September morning to the sound of gunfire outside her two-story house in a Coppell subdivision.At first, she says, she thought the noise was the sound of someone’s broken garage door. But later, downstairs, she and her husband noticed the plaster dust on the living room floor and the quarter-sized holes in the wall; they found a bullet lodged in a window frame in the dining room. In the weeks since then, says Jawaid, “I’m very scared inside. Me, my kids, our lives are changed, totally changed.” While only a small number of people have been directly targeted in such incidents, the reverberations have affected many more.”I cannot tell you what an awful feeling it is,” says Hind Jarrah, a Lebanese-American who lives in North Dallas. “Your basic sense of security is gone completely. You think what will happen if I go here, if I go there, if they notice my accent. Many of the ladies who wear the hejab don’t go outside any more.” There are well over 100,000 Muslims in the Dallas-Fort Worth area \(as well as thousands of other potential harassment victims, such as Arabs who are not Muslim, and Sikhs who are the September 11 attacks and their local aftermath have been varied: Among the Muslims I spoke with on a recent trip to Dallas, some said they were fearful of being harassed, or worse, while others said they were not. What many people did seem to have in common, whether they were Arab Muslims or white Christians, was a sharpened and at times painful consciousness both of self and community, and of the state of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in the city. grants, and they are typically very busy establishing their lives here, learning the culture, learning the language, learning the laws,” says Mohamed Elmougy, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth chapter of the Council for American-Islamic years ago. “We forget that we’re part of a bigger community, and we need to talk about ourselves. We have neglected that. We have the responsibility to open up so we’re not immediately painted with that brush and become a scapegoat.” A similar sense of obligation seems to have sprouted up among 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/12101