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Arlington Muslims Report Continued Harassment

By Rob Tranchin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Wednesday night, Arlington police and the director of an Islamic center met to discuss reported vandalism and harassment of worshippers. KERA's Rob Tranchin visited the center.

It's a hot August afternoon at the Dar El-Eman Islamic Center in Arlington. Teachers dressed in traditional Muslim hijabs supervise children waiting outside for their Moms to pick them up.

Not far away, the children's playground stands surrounded by yellow tape, one side still an ugly tangle of charred wood and melted plastic.

Two weeks ago, the Center's leaders say vandals burned the playground's equipment and spray-painted an obscene image on the Center's parking lot, a depiction of Uncle Sam assaulting Allah. Worshippers at the center's mosque reported a carload of people driving by after services shouting slurs.

Fidaa Elaydi, one of the center's teachers, is worried.

Elaydi: We've never had anything happen like this before, so it's kind of shocking and kind of scary.

Arlington Police and the FBI say they're still investigating the incidents and, as of yet have not classified them as hate crimes.

But Elaydi and the kids say that the harassment has continued.

Elaydi: A lot of people that come in the evenings, they say that people yell at them at night after the evening prayers and they still get bothered a lot at the mosque.

Child: It happened yesterday!

Elaydi: It happened yesterday? Were you here?

Child: Oh yeah! They came, drove by and started um

Child: Cussing us out a lot.

Child: Started cussing, and then they drove away.

Child: Yeah, they did that!

Elaydi: Did you get scared?

Child: Me? No way!

Child: I shoulda beat them up! I shoulda beat them up!

Elaydi: No, we don't fight people.

Jamal Qaddura: It's mainly devastating on the children. They can't understand why this person would burn their playground.

That's the Center's director, Jamal Qaddura. Behind him, a television monitor beams images from the center's security cameras.

Qaddura: When somebody draws pictures of Uncle Sam having sex with Allah, that just shows how sick that person is and to the extent how much that person carry hate against the American Muslims and against our own faith. This is placing fear in the hearts of American Muslims not to come and pray. And this is something very terrible. That's terrorism.

Ramadan, the holiest period of the Muslim year, starts next week.

And Fidaa Elaydi says she'll be afraid.

Elaydi: I'm thinking when I come at night for Ramadan, I'm probably not going to go outside by myself at all. And we're probably going to do something inside for the kids so that they don't have to be outside either. So, you know, this time that is the most special time of the year for us is going to be a time filled with fear, and we're not going to feel safe in our own place of worship.