Despite scare, Islamic faithful rally at Capitol


by MARK WIGGINS / KVUE News and photojournalist ROBERT MCMURREY

Bio | Email | Follow: @MarkW_KVUE

Posted on January 31, 2013 at 6:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 31 at 7:13 PM

AUSTIN -- The language was different, but the content was familiar.

"We seek your divine guidance in decided matters for this state," prayed North Austin Muslim Community Center Imam Islam Mossaad, the first Islamic leader this session to offer the traditional daily benediction over the Texas House of Representatives.

"I think it shows that Texas is a place of openness and understanding. That in times where there is a lot of cynicism and in times when there is a lot of confusion and misconceptions, that we embrace one another," Mossaad told KVUE afterward. "The members here in the state, I think they understand and recognize that there is a higher power, and we're doing our best to do things right."

The prayer marked a day of events and presentations aimed to bring Muslims and lawmakers together dubbed Texas Muslim Capitol Day.

"They want to be part of this country, their issues are our issues because they are Americans as well," said State Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston), who helped organize the event along with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

On the south steps, Islamic faithful from across the state rallied under heightened security after comments posted to an anti-Muslim website urged "a warm Texas welcome... How do you Americans say? LOCK AND LOAD!" Another comment suggested, "Call out the Texas milita and kill or capture all participants."

Mustafaa Carrol of CAIR of Houston told KVUE he received a threatening phone call as well, and event organizers took both seriously enough to contact the FBI and local police.

Despite the scare, Carrol said the sentiments are not a reflection of Texas as a whole.

"You have nuts everywhere, in every religion, every faith, every state," said Carrol. "And those nuts sometimes make everybody think that the whole world is like that, and that's not true."

Carrol said many Texas Muslims are recent immigrants and immigration issues are a big concern. He explained part of the idea behind the day's event was to remove some of the confusion and mystery between Texas Muslims and their elected representatives.

"One of the reasons why we're here today is to reduce the mystique around government and law enforcement," said Carrol. "Our people, many of them have come from places where you didn't criticize the government, you didn't even talk to them. You didn't vote, and so this is new."

"We also want to teach the politicians who we are, what we are, how many of us are here," said Serwat Husain of CAIR of San Antonio. "There's more than a quarter of a million Muslims living in the state of Texas."

The 83rd Texas Legislature has received and recognized dozens of interest groups at the Texas Capitol for legislative days since the session began January 8.