One might have never thought of the Muslim community in Dallas as newsworthy or a news generator, but since I was assigned to cover Islam in Dallas four months ago, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of stories and acts of activism, civic engagement, intellectual participation, philanthropic contributions, interfaith conversations, and human narrative that this community has had to offer.
The year 2011 was by no means easy on Muslims here in Dallas or anywhere in the world. Many North Texans have family members and relatives inside the Arabic world, Iran, Afghanistan, and even Europe, affected by wars, unrest, revolutions, protests, and everything in between. Here in the US, American Muslims are still struggling to be part of society and culture.
However, 2011 did bring a lot of happy memories and positive events. The Dallas Fort Worth community came together to commemorate the tenth anniversary of 9/11 throughout the metroplex, often in a form of a small interfaith conversation, but most notably when a Baptist church opened its doors to hundreds of Muslims to take part in a neighborly get together, to build bridges of understanding and compassion among fellow Texans. This was not the first time Muslims entered a church or a synagogue, or Christians visited a mosque; the huge turnout was what made this event significant and symbolic to the desire of the Muslim community to celebrate inclusion.
Most significantly, Muslims in 2011 achieved a presence in American media, to have a voice of their own, to choose to show and tell America what Muslims are all about. TV reality show “All America Muslim” started airing in November on TLC, representing the diversity of Muslims, their daily problems, their challenges, their aspirations, and their standard lives as American Muslims. This show is not to be mistaken of representing all Muslims, because Muslims cannot be represented in one single block: they come from diverse countries, ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, and speak different languages. Yet, the opportunity to take part in American culture through the media and to represent a side of the multi faceted community of American Muslims is an American achievement in pluralism, democracy, and constitutional rights.
But Muslims really did not have to be on TV or attend big interfaith conferences to show their true face and faith to America. All they had to do is be themselves: be American neighbors, be American philanthropists, be American community workers, be American teachers and educators, doctors and managers, students and co-workers. For Dallas Muslims, walking the faith speaks beyond long articles. If Americans would like to get to know their Muslim neighbors, then they can directly speak with them, engage with them, and start a conversation with them. They can also read my previous articles posted here.