Muslims in Texas: Stereotyping mars New York Times' otherwise excellent front-page story

In reporting on the Muslim experience in the Dallas area, a front-page story in today's New York Times seems a bit bipolar.

On the one hand, the report generalizes in a negative way about Texans who are not Muslims, characterizing the state as "accommodating of bigotry" but failing to provide any real evidence.

On the other hand, if you keep reading, the Times actually does a nice job of reflecting real Muslim voices — and their nuanced perspectives on a state and nation they love and neighbors they describe as tolerant and respectful:

Of course, the news peg for this timely story is Sunday night's shooting outside a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland.

After setting the scene, the Times moves to portray Texas — "and Dallas in particular," as the newspaper puts it — as bigoted: 

Muslims in the Dallas area have worked hard to find their footing in the conservative Christian culture of the Texas suburbs, and the shooting on Sunday in Garland set off another vigorous effort to defend their faith and their American ideals, while also condemning extremism of any kind.
Texas, and Dallas in particular, has been both welcoming to Muslims and accommodating of bigotry. Even as the numbers and economic clout of Muslims continue to grow — an estimated 200,000 now live in the Dallas area — they have faced a series of political and cultural challenges just in the past few months.
The shooting in Texas, showcasing that there are Islamic extremists in the United States encouraged by radicals overseas, comes just as Muslims here have been confronting suspicions about their faith and loyalty.
An imam who gave a nondenominational prayer at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in February, at the invitation of organizers seeking to be more inclusive, received so many hateful comments on social media afterward that he canceled a second scheduled appearance there.
In January, at an annual lobbying day in the State Capitol for Muslims, Molly White, a state representative, told her staff members that any Muslim who entered her office must be asked to pledge allegiance to America and its laws and to renounce Islamic terrorist groups.
The Texas Legislature is also considering a bill, similar to ones passed in other states, that would prohibit basing decisions in state courts on foreign legal codes. It was proposed by conservative activists who contend that the goal of Muslims in the United States is to gradually impose Islamic law, or Shariah — an assertion that Muslims say is false.

How has "Dallas in particular" been accommodating of bigotry? The Times provides no evidence and asks no non-Muslim leaders — political, religious or otherwise — to respond to that claim.

Of the three supposed examples provided, the first is from Fort Worth. Even if one were to consider "hateful comments on social media" as representative of an entire community, J.R. Ewing and 1.3 million other proud Dallas residents would tell you, partner, that Dallas and Fort Worth are definitely not the same. 

The next example cited mentions a state representative from Belton, which is in Central Texas and a 140-mile drive from Dallas.

Likewise, the final example provides no information explaining why "Dallas in particular" might be accused of being "accommodating of bigotry." So, dear Times reporters and editors, on what basis do you make that statement?

But the "Jekyll and Hyde" nature of the piece is such that the story takes an abrupt, interesting turn in the middle.

That's when the Times stops bloviating and hands the microphone to real Muslims:

Many Muslims here defy easy categorization. They embrace their many identities — as Texans, Muslims and Americans. Many of them are registered Republicans. 

Mohamed Elibiary is among the Muslims quoted:

Mr. Elibiary, who was born in Egypt and grew up in the Dallas area, runs a security consulting firm from his home in Plano, a suburb of Dallas that is a short drive from Garland. On Tuesday afternoon, he was wearing a button-down shirt emblazoned with the Texas flag.
Many of those who attended the Garland event were not from there, he pointed out, or even from Texas.
“These aren’t native Texans that are gravitating to picking a fight with their neighbors,” he said.
Similarly, he added, Muslims in the Dallas region view the two gunmen — who lived in the same apartment complex in Phoenix — as outsiders.
“Their actions don’t go into our calculus,” Mr. Elibiary said.
The migration of Muslims to Texas can be traced to at least 1854, he noted, and their bonds to the state will outlast Sunday’s shooting.
“A lot of things happen because of ignorance, limited understanding,” said Azhar Azeez, who has lived in Dallas for two decades and is the president of the Islamic Society of North America, a large umbrella group.
“But I can tell you from firsthand experience that there is a lot of goodness, people are very tolerant and respectful of each other’s faith,” he continued. “People like Pamela Geller, they are fringe elements. They won’t be able to sustain themselves for too long, because what they are selling is lies.

So are Dallas-area residents bigoted or not?

The Times says up high they are. But by the end of the story, a different picture emerges.

That's bipolar journalism at its best. Or, should I say, at its worst.

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