With last month’s terrorist attacks in Paris, America is experiencing a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment. Greater Austin is no exception, with one reported incident at the Islamic Center of Pflugerville involving feces and crumpled pages of the Quran tossed at the entrance of the mosque.
That type of vandalism is rare in Austin but the message is clear that a wave of fear has set in our community. I sit on the board of an interfaith group, the Dialogue Institute Southwest, whose Austin chapter was founded by a group of Muslims from Turkey. My colleagues feel the backlash and anti-Islamic rhetoric following every major act of violence perpetrated by a self-proclaimed Muslim. I see it in their faces and hear it in their voices.
They’re moved to public apologize for other’s actions, such as this latest response: “(we) strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in Paris . . . We stand united with the people of France and with people around the world in mourning the loss of innocent lives and offering our deepest condolences to the families. We honor the victims by strengthening our commitment to peace, tolerance and mutual respect.”
We live in a world where a guy like Donald Trump’s ugly rhetoric – suggesting a database of Muslims living in the U.S. to protect us against terrorism – is met with approving nods. Trump and Co. also would consider shutting down mosques for safety reasons.
Following the Paris attacks, we saw refugees become the first and easiest target. Our esteemed governor instructed Texas-based refugee resettlement organizations to refuse serving Syrians.
Austin, to its credit, won’t cooperate with such nonsense. Mayor Adler boasted that Austin welcomed three Syrian refugees in the past two years with another on the way.
Meanwhile, over on the University of Texas campus on Nov. 13 (the day of the Paris attacks), an incident occurred in a classroom that drew national attention. Media reported that a professor was giving a lecture on the history of Israel’s military when he was interrupted by protesters who are part of a Palestinian student organization. As one student began delivering a speech about how the Israeli military had forced his family to become refugees, the professor apparently called him a terrorist. A formal civil rights complaint has been filed.
Despite these demonstrations of our volatile times, Austinites seem to maintain a sense of optimism. No individual exemplified that confidence more than Davy Jones.
Davy was a distinctive musician whose physical, fervent guitar prowess helped spark Austin’s alternative music scene in the 1980s. He left us on Nov. 25 after battling cancer. From the city’s punk heyday to the present, Davy was a formidable talent, handling guitar duties for the Next, the Ideals, the Hickoids and other bands. He defined unconventionality and his shadow looms large over every Texas musician who plays with integrity. I had the privilege of his friendship, some treasured performances and with love and respect, dedicate this issue to our brother.