Fort Worth Muslim community seeks unity and outreach over fear

By Katie Coleman

With the increase in hate crimes and the rising threat of systemic discrimination in America following the election of Donald Trump, the Islamic community in Fort Worth is striving to maintain a positive attitude.
After the election, American Muslim organizations issued a national call to discuss the election. The Muslims in Fort Worth went to mosque, prayed, and counseled one another.
According to the FBI 2015 hate crime statistics, attacks on Muslims increased 67 percent since 2014, and Muslim reports on Twitter indicate the upward trend continued after the 2016 election.

Entrance to Ibrahimi Mosque in Fort Worth
Entrance to Ibrahimi Mosque in Fort Worth

During his campaign, President-Elect Donald Trump proposed a ban on Muslims entering the country and insinuated during debates and speeches that all Muslims are terrorists.

Since his election the Muslim ban has been removed from his website, but there is still discussion of re-creating a Muslim registry.

Fort Worth psychaitrist Dr. Basheer Ahmed said the anti-Muslim rhethoric is causing children to be bullied at school.

Ahmed said a nine-year old came home with bruises and told his parents his classmates beat him, called him a terrorist, called his father a terrorist and told him he should go home.

 “He was born here,” Ahmed said. “His father was a professor. He has three PhDs, and he was a professor in three universities in this country.”

Ahmed said the boy’s father was working on a project: How to protect people from mass terrorist attacks.

“He was also threatened a few months ago by some neighbors,” Ahmed said. “When this incident occurred with the son he sent his family back home. Now he’s commuting between Pakistan and here.”

Fort Worth’s Imam Moujahed M. Bakhach said he has noticed the rise in harassment against Muslims in North Texas.

Imam Bakhach meets with reporters to discuss refugees.
Imam Bakhach meets with reporters to discuss refugees.

“The hate crime, the crazy. No doubt about it, it’s increasing,” Bakhach said. “We saw that young lady Muslim in Richardson that somebody tried to take the headscarf from her. We have others say the same thing.”
Bakhach said he counsels to be brave and visible.
“Be proud of your head scarf, be proud of your faith, and stand up,” Bakhach said. “It’s positive more than negative. Keep standing.”
Bakhach said involvement in outreach programs-  such as volunteering for habitat for humanity and becoming a member of the clergy and police alliance- has helped to keep his community safe.
“That’s defense line number one,” Bakhach said. “Neighbors. When my neighbor understand who am I, then if someone is to speak against me, he or she or they will stand up against them.”
Fort Worth Police Officer Daniel Segura said no hate crimes were reported after the election, but they take the threats very seriously.
“We are constantly looking at Facebook posts or any posts about hate crimes,” Segura said. “We follow each one of them.”
Reporter for Dallas Islam and instructor for TCU’s Silver Frogs Dina Malki said the Muslims in her community are counseling themselves with Qu’ranic teachings of patience and trust in their creator.
“I’m concerned, I’m scared,” Malki said. “But you put your trust in God and you go out. I’m not going to take the Hijab off because it’s my crown. It shows my identity.”
The interfaith group Daughters of Abraham holds open discussions so women of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faith can learn from and support one another. The Muslim women in attendance of their meeting Thursday echoed Malki’s comments.
Richard C. Esler III, FBI's liason to the Muslims community in Dallas, speaks IQRA town hall meeting, October 2016
Richard C. Esler III, FBI’s liason to the Muslims community in Dallas, speaks at IQRA town hall meeting, October 2016

“We don’t reject God’s plan, we accept it,” said group member Elizabeth Shaheed of Trump’s election.
Moazam Syed, co-founder of the Institute of Qu’ranic Knowledge and Religious Acceptance said he still believes in American democracy.
“After the election we felt as if somebody died,” Syed said. “But whatever it is, he won. He’s the president, we have to accept it and try to find ways, make channels to work with him.”
Both Malki and Syed expressed concerns about the American government deteriorating into that of the countries they left behind.
“I came here by choice because I admired the American way of life, democracy, opportunity, equality to all- something in the Middle East we don’t have,” Malki said “It’s very shocking and devastating that we’re going to lose these things here.”