Protesters dressed in camouflage and armed with loaded rifles have been demonstrating in front of the city’s largest mosque. Others are coming out to back the Muslims who practice their faith at the Islamic Center of Irving.
Avi Selk, a staff writer for The Dallas Morning News, says the dueling protests have polarized what was a “fairly normal suburb.”
“They were arguing about things like whether to build a concert hall, but were suddenly transformed into a sort of stage where people are holding rallies and making public statements, a stage for people from outside the city to come and kind of act out their parts in this controversy over Islam,” Selk says.
Irving was in the news in September when its most famous resident, 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed, was arrested after bringing a clock to school in a suitcase. Officials mistook it for a bomb.
The city is a cosmopolitan Dallas suburb. One third of its residents are foreign born.
Selk says the mosque attracts some first-generation immigrants, and the vast majority of the Muslims he’s met there are professionals.
“They’re generally techies. They’re Microsoft employees, they’re very very well educated,” he says. “One of the first Irving, Muslim grassroots activists I met had worked on the particle super-accelerator that they were building in Texas.”
Selk says the armed protesters aren’t Irving residents.