Invisible Neighbors: SA's Muslim Community Perseveres Despite Facing Discrimination 

click to enlarge Muslims in SA say all they want is a chance at the American Dream, just like everyone else. - SARAH BROOKE LYONS
  • Sarah Brooke Lyons
  • Muslims in SA say all they want is a chance at the American Dream, just like everyone else.

Does the name Ahmed al-Jumaili ring a bell?

Probably not.

Perhaps the names Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi sound more familiar.

The two men were shot and killed by police in a Dallas suburb just over a week ago, when they opened fire outside a controversial cartoon exhibit of the Prophet Mohammad organized by hate-monger Pamela Geller.

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Most Muslims consider depictions of the Prophet to be offensive, though none actually protested the event.

After news spread of the terrorist attempt, Muslims in San Antonio braced themselves for an endless onslaught of Islam-bashing by media commentators and on social media.

"Those men are just like any criminals. Why are they calling them Muslims?" asked Sarwat Husain, founding president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national advocacy group.

Al-Jumaili, however, was not a criminal and the 17-year-old accused of killing him was allegedly seeking out rival gang members, not Muslims.

The victim, an Iraqi man, had been in the United States for just over three weeks and was taking pictures of snow — something he had never seen before — when he was murdered in Dallas just over two months ago in an apparent case of mistaken identity.

After he was killed, there was rampant media speculation that his death was a hate crime. It wasn't. But that didn't stop fear from spreading through close-knit Muslim communities in Texas cities.

It's no surprise then that the murderous intentions of Simpson and Soofi, which were fueled by their admiration of the terrorist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, would also instill panic — perhaps to a greater extent.

Just two days after the attack made headlines and consumed airwaves across the country, a Muslim child was allegedly attacked in a San Antonio school, according to Husain.

But she wouldn't provide details, insisting she was not at liberty to identify the victim.

She had a reason.

click to enlarge Sarwat Husain, founding president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations - BRYAN RINDFUSS
  • Bryan Rindfuss
  • Sarwat Husain, founding president of the San Antonio chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations

"The fear factor is so high in the community," she told the San Antonio Current. "All of a sudden, after what happened in Dallas, everyone was on alert in San Antonio, in the state and the nation."

That's reminiscent of post-9/11 and just about every time there's an altercation involving Muslims or Islam — people clam up, unwilling to speak up to report crimes, fearing retaliation.

"About two or three weeks ago, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab was attacked real badly at Home Depot," Husain said in an interview last week. "So those kind of attacks do take place. Some are reported to us, but most are not reported to us."

That sounds alarming. Hate crimes are apparently still happening in the Alamo City, but the news stays within the Muslim community. And yet other attacks could be taking place but news doesn't go farther than the victim's home, if that.

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety's latest crime statistics, from 2013, Lone Star State law enforcement agencies reported 135 hate crimes with just over two percent labeled as anti-Islam and nearly one-and-a-half percent described as anti-Arabic. The San Antonio Police Department reported 11 hate crimes that same year.

Religious discrimination is the fourth-most common hate crime in Texas and the majority of reports are assaults.

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