Thursday, March 10, 2011

Texas Life

I didn't know exactly what to expect when I moved to Texas. I had rented an apartment over the phone, without ever visiting the DFW area where I'd be spending the next year.

And honestly, Texas has been the butt of many jokes between me and my husband--we like to call it the One Star State. (Note: I've heard people wrongly say "so-and-so and I" so many times lately--they should say "and me," it almost sounds wrong to say "me" even though it's correct.)

Dallas is definitely not one of America's jewels. It seems to be known for its air pollution, football, and almost year-round heat (and now its inability to cope with winter weather) and even high crime. It's even on this list of 10 worst cities to raise a family. In general, the people aren't really that friendly (Carolina folks are nicer, in my opinion) and the scenery is just tiresome (I'm missing the picturesque horizons from Seattle, not to mention the greenery.) I hate driving around here, because despite the sign (from my honeymoon drive through Texas two Decembers ago), drivers are aggressive and either inconsiderate or oblivious to other drivers.

But there is something here which maybe isn't expected--a well-established and thriving Muslim community, including open and active masajid, and a number of well-educated scholars and imams. In fact, though my husband used to joke about hating to come visit me here in Texas, the last time he was here he remarked that Dallas actually might be a nice place to settle down--due especially to the masjid, surrounded by neighborhoods full of Muslims. Maybe that's easy to say in the middle of winter when daily highs are only rarely over room temperature, but I think it is true that Dallas is a good place for Muslims. Or maybe not Dallas specifically, but its suburbs--Irving, Plano, Richardson, Arlington, Colleyville, etc.

I'm not convinced that I'd like to settle here but I can't deny that the community is very welcoming. And while I can't disguise my eagerness to return to Seattle, some major credit should go to the leaders of the Dallas Muslim community for all their efforts to make this place such a great place for Muslims to live.


mezba said...

Interesting, and I have a question.
What are some of the specific activities by the Muslim leaders, or some features of the Muslim community, that makes Dallas (or its suburbs) so welcoming for Muslims?

I have been there (only as a kid, so don't remember anything) but have some friends in Houston who say the same thing.

Amy said...

Good question. I don't even know the extent of all the activities so I'll just share what I've seen and heard about.

There are scholars living here (really well-qualified ones) who not just give khutbahs but they have weekly halaqahs. And a halaqah with a graduate of an 8-yr Shari'ah program in Arabic isn't the same as someone who went to a 2-yr program, or a 3-mo program, etc. The wisdom they have is immense, so even in regular weekly programs there's tremendous benefit.

But then there's a variety, too. Here, in a week, there are two different Qur'anic tafseer lectures. Different lecturers, different parts of the Qur'an, different times of the week.

Every other week or so, there's a massive youth program with some variety of scholars who can relate to the youth and provide advice to a large audience. And a youth director who can reach out to Muslims who are on the outside edge of the community.

The masajid will have open houses every few months, da'wah classes on a recurring basis, some for non-Muslims and some for converts, and Arabic classes as well.

There are a number of tajweed circles in which one can participate.

Several of the imams and leaders were raised here, and studied overseas--a truly beneficial combination for a community with immigrants and American born residents.

The leaders of the masjid have a strong connection with law enforcement and local politics, even. They've made a big and positive impact in the area around the masjid--cleaning it up, so to speak.

And the masajid don't have fights with each other or between congregations. They don't compete, it seems like they're working for the same goal, and you can find related activities at all the different places.

That's what I see--though I've been here about 6 months only.