A mosque in Texas

I flew to Dallas and moved in with my grandma. She still lives in the same general part of town—just north of downtown—as she did when my grandpa was alive. Only she’s traded the swanky townhouse for a little unit in a “retirement community.” I suppose as far as old folk’s homes go, her’s is upscale. The building itself has a Mediterranean feel with cream-colored stucco exterior, dark wood accents, and lots of archways. Windows look out at gurgling water features surrounded by greenery with a tropical vibe. It all but screams: this is not a last stop on the journey to the grave, it’s an exotic holiday!

Grandma’s apartment has an extra room with a pull-out sofa. She’d had a helper make the bed and clear a space in the closet for my things. Grandma knew about my project and why I had come to town. I had explained it to her by phone several times, slowly and clearly. Since my last visit, she’d given up driving, though she kept a car in the parking garage for others to use. She kept saying I could use it to drive myself to “synagogues.” I never knew if this was an honest slip or wishful thinking. As I would correct her and explain the difference, her eyes always took on a look of distress. I couldn’t tell if she was concentrating to hear me or if she didn’t like what I was saying. I had two main goals for my time in Dallas: do whatever Grandma wanted and worship at mosques. It occurred to me that the one thing Grandma might want more than anything was for me not to worship at mosques.

The first Friday of my trip, I gave myself an hour to make it to the mosque. The jummah prayers were supposed to begin at 1:30, so I left Grandma’s at 12:30. It was more time than necessary given the distance, but I was anxious about navigating the roads. I had never been a driver in this city, only a passenger. I studied the street map the night before and wrote out each turn in big letters on my day planner. I wanted to proceed deliberately and cautiously. I didn’t want to so much as scratch Grandma’s car.

As I set out, I noticed I was a little nauseous. Now that I was behind the wheel, I realized all my worrying about the streets and directions had been a distraction from what I was really nervous about, which was the destination. I had no idea what to expect. Would it be obvious which entrance I should use? Would other women be there? I had selected this particular mosque to start because it had a website with clear information and a recorded message when I phoned reiterating the time of prayer. I would have preferred to speak to an actual person but as I called the mosques on my list, I realized I was more likely to reach voice mail. In most cases, I would just need to show up at the appropriate time and hope for the best.

From about a mile away, I spotted the dome. It wasn’t huge or fancy, just a simple green-capped cupola at the corner of two main roads in a mainly residential area. I pulled in to the parking lot. The building was situated such that I was able to maneuver the car around its perimeter, observing it from all angles. It wasn’t much more than an oversized cube of cream-colored brick uninterrupted by windows. Black security cameras were affixed at each corner, standing out against the blank canvas of the walls. I considered that it might not be a working mosque at all, but a brilliant art project providing socio-political commentary on being Muslim in Texas.

5 thoughts on “A mosque in Texas

  1. California and Texas are two of the biggest concentrations of Muslims in the U.S. Now, it remains to be seen re: what it was like to go and experience the mosque.

    • Cheri! Hello. Your reply looked so lonely that I thought I might add a couple of ideas. I, too, am interested in Corinna’s two- pronged journey…..both the personal one and the one where she is searching out religious experiences. I had no idea that Texas had such a large concentration of Muslims……does anyone know the reason for this? It doesn’t seem—-with my old Texas stereotypes—-that it would be a very welcoming place, but apparently there is something compelling Moslem folks to settle there.

      • Hi Merrill, I think the reason for the large influx of Muslims in Texas is similar to the story of immigrant populations that have settled in other parts of the country. A few came and made good lives for themselves and then when new people were deciding where to settle, they picked the place where they knew others like them (maybe even family members) were living. Actually, it’s exactly how my Greek side of the family ended up in Texas. But the Muslims in Texas is a very new wave of immigrations and still very much in process.

  2. Corinna,

    These accounts relating to Islam are the best you have written. You are very prepared and methodical. I know you want varied experiences, but what are you getting from all your efforts? I remember, still, one of your first writings. I believe you went to the Methodist Church and commented that you felt Jesus’ presence. Do you feel spiritually edified after participating?

  3. I think it’s difficult to put any stereotypes onto Texas anymore. I recently read a book about Dallas in conjunction with the Kennedy assassination, and it’s plainly not that place anymore (I’m sure there are still pockets). I also realized it was different after watching “Walker, Texas Ranger”! It’s becoming a very cosmopolitan place.

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