One Dallas journo’s experience
Two years after standing on the Brooklyn Bridge and watching the second tower fall, I joined the Dallas Morning News. My wife, a native Dallasite, praises our new city as “a September 10 kind of place.” She means that the anxieties attending our post-9/11 New York life simply don’t exist here. The downside is that people lull themselves into a false sense of security about the Muslim community. From where I sit, it looks to me as though the entire mainstream media also live in a September 10 kind of place. We—and I say “we” because I’m part of the dreaded MSM—really don’t want to know what’s happening among Muslims in Dallas, Brooklyn, or anywhere else.
Dallas is home to a large and relatively prosperous Muslim community. The Dallas Central Mosque is Texas’s largest. The area’s Muslims, though, have had a contentious relationship in recent years with the Dallas Morning News, mostly because of the paper’s groundbreaking 2001 reporting on the Holy Land Foundation, whose leadership is now under federal terrorism indictment. Since then, local Muslim leaders have engaged in a running dialogue with the News, with the declared aim of improving relations.
It was in that spirit that Sayyid Syeed, then head of the Islamic Society of North America, came in, together with a local delegation, to see the editorial board a few months after I arrived from New York in 2003. Syeed made a laborious presentation about how journalists needed to join with the organization in promoting peace, tolerance, and reconciliation. I knew something about ISNA and asked Syeed why—if his group truly supported peace and suchlike—its board included members directly linked to Islamic extremism and anti-Semitism, including the notorious Wahhabi-trained Brooklyn imam Siraj Wahhaj. The professorial Syeed dropped his polite mask, shook his fist at me, told me that I would one day “repent,” and compared my question with a Nazi inquisition.