American Freedom Defense Initiative

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

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.


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Good grief, Los Angeles Times: Site of Texas shooting linked to Muhammad cartoon contest is no 'small town'

Good grief, Los Angeles Times: Site of Texas shooting linked to Muhammad cartoon contest is no 'small town'

When you hear "small town," do you think of Mayberry, U.S.A.?

Or do you think of a sprawling Dallas suburb with a quarter-million residents?

The Los Angeles Times' answer might surprise you.

According to the Times, Garland, Texas — site of Sunday night's shooting outside a Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest — is a "small town."

The Los Angeles newspaper uses that description in this lede:

GARLAND,  Texas — Pamela Geller is a 56-year-old Jewish arch-conservative from New York, a vehement critic of radical Islam who organized a provocative $10,000 cartoon contest in this placid Dallas suburb designed to caricature the prophet Muhammad.
Elton Simpson was a 30-year-old aspiring Islamic militant from Phoenix who fantasized to an FBI informant about “doing the martyrdom operations” in Somalia and was convicted in 2010 of lying to the FBI about his plans to travel to the volatile eastern African nation.
Their lives intersected Sunday in this small town in north-central Texas, an unlikely venue for a violent collision of cultures. After a Sunday evening shootout outside the contest site between police and Simpson and another man firing assault rifles, both gunmen lay dead in the street. And Geller quickly posted a defiant blog: “This is a war on free speech. ... Are we going to surrender to these monsters?”

Just how "small town" is Garland?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it's a little larger than Mayberry — with an estimated population of 234,566.

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Basic facts crucial on shooting outside Texas contest for cartoons depicting Muhammad

Basic facts crucial on shooting outside Texas contest for cartoons depicting Muhammad

Violence tied to a contest for images depicting Islam's Prophet Muhammad is making headlines this morning.

The latest news from The Associated Press:

GARLAND, Texas (AP) — Two gunmen were killed Sunday after opening fire on a security officer outside a provocative contest for cartoon depictions of Prophet Muhammad in Texas and a bomb squad was called in to search their vehicle as a precaution, authorities said.
The men drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in the Dallas suburb of Garland as the contest was scheduled to end and began shooting at a security officer, the City of Garland said in a statement. Garland police officers returned fire, killing the men.
"Because of the situation of what was going on today and the history of what we've been told has happened at other events like this, we are considering their car (is) possibly containing a bomb," Officer Joe Harn, a spokesman for the Garland Police Department, said at a news conference.
Police are not aware of any ongoing threat and had not received any credible threats before the event, Harn said.
Harn said it was not immediately clear whether the shooting was connected to the event inside, a contest hosted by the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative that would award $10,000 for the best cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.
Such drawings are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous.

The Dallas Morning News reports:

Before the shooting, the scene was unremarkable outside the Culwell Center, except for the thick security that included Garland police, school district security and private guards.
“We were expecting protests outside the building,” (event attendee Stephen) Perkins said.
But Alia Salem, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Dallas-Fort Worth, said she and other Muslims had wanted nothing to do with the event.
“We were actively ignoring and encouraging the community to ignore it,” she said. “We did not want to be the bearers of any kind of incitement.”
Imam Zia Sheikh of the Irving Islamic Center wrote online that though he was waiting to see how the facts unfold, “as of now condemning any act of terror. No justification whatsoever.”
“Seems like a lone wolf type of attack. Just what we didn’t want,” he wrote.

As this story develops, presenting basic facts will be crucial for media coverage.

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