Thursday, September 18, 2014




Revelations: We don't live in a perfect world

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
July 12, 2013 at 2:12 a.m.
Updated July 13, 2013 at 2:13 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

I always feel the need to fight for the underdog - the ones most deserving of a cheerleader.

I fight because I've been an underdog myself.

I know how it feels to be attacked without cause; I know the loneliness of standing alone in a fight you didn't pick.

In a perfect world, we wouldn't need cheerleaders.

But we don't live in a perfect world.

I felt the need to fight this week when the Islamic Center was spray-painted with "H8" - a computer shorthand for "hate" - Wednesday.

The crime happened on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam.

My heart immediately sank when I first learned of the incident.

I knew I'd have to report on the crime and ask uncomfortable questions to the center's imam.

I knew he wouldn't want to make a big fuss about the incident and would rather me focus on Ramadan, a celebratory time in their faith.

I didn't want to ruin his day with my reporting or change directions on my regular (happy) coverage of Ramadan.

But sometimes, that's what reporters have to do. That's why, at times, we don't have many friends.

I did my job. I told the story. It went viral and a day later, a man came forward admitting to his involvement in the crime.

In a perfect world, he would be charged with a hate crime and spend some time in jail.

But that probably won't happen. He'll probably get a slap on the wrist and get some kind of deferred sentence.

Like I said, we don't live in a perfect world.

I'm not Muslim, nor do I have plans to convert.

But I can say with confidence the Muslims who attend and lead the Victoria Islamic Center are without question some of the friendliest and warmest residents I've met since moving here three years ago.

It goes without saying that as a religion reporter, I've met just about every religious leader and church member and developed relationships of some kind with most of South Texas' faithful.

Some I absolutely love.

Others, well, let's just say, I don't love so much.

The Islamic Center folks - I love.

Why? Because they're real.

The Center's Imam, Osama Hassan, for example, is the only religious leader in the Crossroads who regularly invites me to community dinner at the mosque.

He's also the only religious leader in this town who always, without fail, asks me about my family (my mother in particular) and relays his well wishes to my family.

He doesn't care that I'm a reporter or expect anything from me in return. He's simply a nice man with good manners.

I could say this about just about everyone I've met at the Islamic Center.

In my lifetime, I've heard talk from a lot of different people in a lot of different countries about who they think Muslims are. They have ideas about their family values, upbringing and education and make sweeping assumptions about the violence in their religion.

I've seen the way they hold American Muslims, most of whom are living peacefully and quietly in the United States as the Victoria Muslim community does, to task for acts of Muslim extremists living on the opposite side of the world.

But the truth is many of the people who have the loudest anti-Muslim voices in Victoria haven't spent too much time around the people they seem to know so much about.

If they did, they would see that the Muslims in the Crossroads are some of the most successful, most educated and friendliest folks in town. They're doctors and businessmen; they're committed husbands and wives and doting parents.

They're the kind of people who would forgive the man who spray painted the H8-ful message on the Islamic Center.

I'm not sure why I feel the need to to explain how great the Victoria Muslims are, except that maybe, I feel it's important that everyone know how special this little community is.

I guess in a perfect world everyone would already know, and there wouldn't be any need to be their cheerleader.

But we don't live in a perfect world.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or jlpreyss@vicad.com or @jenniferpreyss on Twitter.

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