dinner or attending a Muslim event. One woman, recalling the pen pals of her youth, proposed the name “Dallas Peace Pals,” which was modified to “Dallas Peace Partners,” and kept on mutating. By the end of the meeting, it wasn’t clear to me whether the naming issue had been resolvedthough I believe there may have been a committee assigned to examine it further. Tempting as it might be to dismiss all of this as a bureaucracy of good intentions, the questions embedded in the project were ones being asked by a much broader group of people in response to the recent hate crimes:What can we do? How do we condemn such crimes? How do we stop them from happening? After an earlier meeting, the Accompaniment Project had been mentioned in the Dallas Morning News, and as a result the Peace Center was flooded with calls from prospective volunteers. While only a small number of people have been directly targeted in such incidents, the reverber ations 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 here; nevertheless, he told me, in the wake of the targetings of mosques and persons thought to be Arab, “I have felt an uneasiness that I’ve never felt.This is my home, I’ve lived here most of my life. But the way people look at me…” His soft voice tapered off and then continued: “I’m afraid to go into new areas. I never felt that discomfort before; I felt I could travel without any qualms. Now I really consider where I’m going. I try not to look around too much when I’m driving a car. I’m grateful for my tinted windows.” The meeting attracted around 50 people, most of them white men and women over 30, and it began with the lighting of a candle and a moment of silence. Then Lon Burnam, a Fort Worth state representative and one of the peace center’s three part-time staff members, introduced an invited guest, Parvez Malik, founder and president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Pakistani Chamber of Commerce. Addressing the group, Malik echoed what Jawad had said to me earlier: “For the first time in three decades here I’ve felt that I am a foreigner. I do not belong in this land that raised my children.” His words served as preface to a lengthy group discussion of a project that had been in the works since the first meeting, in which volunteers would accompany Muslim women who were afraid to leave their houses to go on errands. Central to the discussion was what to call the project. “The Accompaniment Project,” an early choice, seemed to be on the outs. In fact there seemed to be some question as to whether any Muslims were actually interested in the accompaniment service. More general names were suggested”Arab-American Support,” “The Solidarity Project,” “Friends Supporting Friendsand various activities other than accompaniment were proposed, such as inviting Muslims over to Given the low overall numbers of reported antiMuslim violent crimes, the fact that many such crimes go unidentified as hate crimes, and the unquantifiable nature of other, less severe acts of harassment, it’s impossible to say whether Dallas has suffered more or less than other cities. What is certain is that for every report of a serious incident, there are many more of harassment and hostility. “A number of the people I’ve talked to, they feel they’ve been stared at, they have been looked at, they just don’t feel right,” says Parvez Malik. Some Muslims suggested to me that local factors feed into this hostility. “There are always a few elements in any society that are resentful of certain groups,” says CAIR’s Mohamed Elmougy. “The Dallas Muslim community is very sophisticated, it’s a yuppie community, with professionals and engineers. We’re highly visible in the workplace, highly visible in society, and that doesn’t sit well with some reactionaries.” Others point to the news media and to what they see as unfavorable portrayals of Muslims. Published and broadcast reports have investigated alleged connections to terrorist and militant groups in the Middle East, and those reports have at times come under fire. One Islamic charity, the Richardsonbased Holy Land Foundation, has long been at odds with The Dallas Morning News, ever since the newspaper \(following the lead of The New York Times 1994 to report on accusations that the foundation had ties to Hamas, the militant Palestinian group. \(The Israeli government accused the foundation of supporting Hamas, and court records have implied that the U.S. government is investigating the group, but the foundation has not been charged with anything, and the FBI neither confirms nor always said that it collects money for Palestinian orphans, and the Muslim community, which has generously supported the foundation, reacted negatively to continued Morning News articles. 8 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 10/12/01
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