Several years ago, I was with friends at a Denny’s on Airport Freeway in Irving, Texas. It was after a gig, so coming down from the high of performance involved late-night diner waitresses, Camel cigarettes, and Grand Slams. My band and I shared the smoking section with a few other tables, mostly composed of townies looking to sop the liquor from their bellies, but one table in the joint was composed of two Muslim men. They were college age, dressed casually (hoodies and jeans, if I recall correctly), and like the rest of us, laughing and carrying on about whatever came to mind. I glanced over my drummer and caught a glimpse of three “good ol’ boys” sitting a booth away. One of them was staring at the Muslim men and motioned his hand into a gun, flicking it back as if to simulate shooting them.
This is the psychology that pollutes many in Irving, Texas. While the nation as a whole must contend with Islamophobic sentiment, Irving has become something of a flash point when it comes to ongoing conservative anti-Islamic rhetoric. Over the past couple of days, social media has erupted over the unlawful arrest and civil rights violation of Ahmed Mohamed, a 14-year-old engineering aficionado who built a clock that was considered a “hoax bomb” which ultimately led to him being removed from MacArthur High School in handcuffs. This is a horrible story, but not an uncommon one as far as the city of Irving is concerned.
The former home of the Dallas Cowboys was in crosshairs as recently as six months ago, when Mayor Beth Van Duyne and the Irving city council opposed the creation of a supposed Sharia court within the city. In reality, they were opposing an alternate dispute-resolution system operated by local imams for the city’s estimated 30,000-40,000 Muslim residents. The dispute-resolution system, called The Islamic Tribunal, only mediated civil disputes between area Muslims, similarly to dispute-resolution systems operated by Christians and Jews.
A Sharia court has never existed Irving, Texas, but that hasn’t stopped the injection of bigoted venom into the city’s collective consciousness. Mayor Van Duyne is a prominent anti-Islamic activist, having spewed her bigoted vomit anywhere a conservative pundit will give her a platform. Area Muslims feel targeted. Mosques in Irving have had to beef up their security amidst threats. Accusations of discrimination were shrugged off by officials who claim their actions were not religious in nature.
Ahmed Mohammed told interviewers that the incident made him feel like he wasn’t human, that he was a criminal. I often wonder if the entirety of Irving’s Islamic community feels the same way.