So far in 2015, it has been a scary year to be a Muslim Texan. That fact seems to have come to a head following the shooting of Ahmed Al-Jumaili, who was killed on Thursday in Dallas as he watched the three and a half inches of snow come down—the first snowfall the Iraqi immigrant had ever seen—around his apartment complex.
The story attracted local attention in the days after it happened, with the Dallas Morning News reporting:
Early Thursday morning, Ahmed al-Jumaili, 36, saw something new: snow in Dallas. He and his wife and her brother rushed out after midnight to take pictures, barely noticing a group of men—at least one of whom had a rifle—nearby.
“Just like all of us, a pretty snowfall brings the child out in us,” Dallas police Maj. Jeff Cotner said. “You can just imagine the excitement between his wife and his brother and himself as they were enjoying the snowfall.”
Moments later, the snow was stained by blood as al-Jumaili retreated to his far northeast Dallas apartment nursing a gunshot wound. He died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
Police released new details about al-Jumaili and the slaying Friday, but they said they still have no leads and know of no motive for al-Jumaili’s seemingly random killing by two to four unidentified young men.
The story failed to garner much major national attention over the weekend, until a post from Vox attempted to shame the Internet into caring. That post recalled a shooting last month in North Carolina, when three Muslims were killed in their apartment complex by a neighbor who shot them in the head, that similarly flew under the radar until an increase in media attention raised a debate about how to determine if a triple murder is a “hate crime” or just a dispute over parking. Vox argued:
This is a silence that has accompanied the recent wave of hostility against Muslims in America. Just three weeks earlier, when a man in Chapel Hill gunned down three Muslim-American college students, it took a grassroots social media campaign—#MuslimLivesMatter—to compel coverage of murders that were initially treated as a “parking dispute,” and of the growing fear that Muslims are made to feel in this country.
Yes, perhaps the murder will turn out to be unrelated to Al-Jumaili’s faith or background. It could have been a random attack, or even, as police say they are considering, an accident. But it seems odd that Americans, who pride themselves on inclusiveness and tolerance, would be so blithe and so uninterested that, in a time of increasingly overt hatred toward a minority group, yet another member of that group has been murdered for no apparent reason, in his third week in this country, while photographing snow with his wife.
The post at Vox seemed to trigger widespread interest in Al-Jumaili’s killing. You can find stories from British outlets like The Independent and the Daily Mail now, as well as countless domestic sources. (Over at conservative blog Breitbart, a writer argued that Vox’s attempt to tie Al-Jumaili’s death into a “climate-of-hate” was ill-informed, since so little is known about the shooters at the moment.)
Indeed, unless and until the shooters are found (the Dallas Police Department is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest, with another $7,000 from the Council on American–Islamic Relations’s Dallas–Fort Worth chapter), there’s no way to know what motivated the people who shot and killed Al-Jumaili. But given the way the past several weeks have played out for Muslim Texans, speculation isn’t unreasonable.
In February the Houston Quba Islamic Institute was set on fire. A homeless man was arrested days later for starting the blaze and told police that it was an accident. Leaders at the mosque seem to be taking him at his word and have asked police to drop the arson charge against him.
In Austin, meanwhile, one Central Texas representative made things uncomfortable for Muslim consituents in January. Representative Molly White, a Republican from Belton, attracted headlines on Texas Muslim Capitol Day—an event she didn’t attend—by declaring that Muslim visitors needed to pledge allegiance to be allowed into her office.
“I did leave an Israeli flag on the reception desk in my office with instructions to staff to ask representatives from the Muslim community to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws,” she posted on Facebook. “We will see how long they stay in my office.”
That’s a trio of incidents within six weeks that could make anyone concerned for the safety and dignity of their Muslim neighbors. We hope that the man arrested for the fire at the Quba center in Houston did indeed start the blaze accidentally, with no intention to target the building; we can further hope that the person or people responsible for killing Ahmed Al-Jumaili did so for reasons unrelated to his religion, and that White’s humiliating demands of her Muslim constituents were a regretful blip in a career that otherwise aims to serve all Texans. But when so much happens all at once, it’s not unreasonable to hope that there are a lot fewer incidents like this in the future—and to pay close attention to these things when they do happen.
(AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Cody Duty)