Discussion Dinner #13: What It’s Like to Be Muslim in Austin [Sept 24]

I. Overview

In 1990, the Texas Historical Association cited 5000 Muslims in Austin (population ~465,000). Extrapolation alone would put today’s number over 20,000, with some estimates exceeding 30,000. The Greater Austin area contains nine mosques, with Friday prayers being repeated up to three times due to lack of space. The Pew Research Center updated its US estimates for 2015 to show the US Muslim population to stand at 3.3 million people. But what is it like to be Muslim in Austin?

This will not be a religious or political debate. Those discussions will have to wait until after we’re friends. This dinner is to hear the stories of what it’s like to live in Austin as a Muslim, worship as a Muslim, raise children in a predominately Christian nation, and so much more.

II. Facilitators

Luai Abou-Emara, Helen Heston, and I, Samantha Fagan, will be leading our discussion, but we can’t do it without your stories. Please join us for an evening of delicious food and stimulating conversation.

Luai Abou-Emara is a proud Austinite since 2001. Originally, Palestinian and born in Cairo, he lived most of his life in Saudi Arabia. At the age of 16, Luai and his family moved from Saudi Arabia to Seattle. After graduating from the University of Washington, Luai’s career brought him to, the one and only, Texas. In the US, he built a future on a foundation that was not available in any other country. Laui has a strong foundation in the Arabic language and in Islam, but gone are the days where everyone around him talks like him and practices their faith (or lack thereof) like him. It is important to learn from each other and appreciate each others experiences, especially, in times like when fear and doubt charge the airwaves.

Helen Heston is a student at the University of Texas studying Middle Eastern studies–more specifically, Arabic and religious studies. She has met many members of the Muslim community here in Austin, and some of the people she loves and cares about most are Muslim. This past summer, Helen spent Ramadan (a month of fasting and celebration) in Egypt with a Muslim family. Though most of her closest Muslim friends live elsewhere, it is important to her to support the Muslim community here in town and help create a space for learning and connection. Additionally, Helen loves meeting new people and sharing a meal, and she hopes to make some new friends.

III. Menu

*No pork & no alcohol* Potluck! Bring a dish to share (approximately 20 people). Bring your own drinks, but no alcohol, please! Water is provided.

IV. Schedule

7-7:30 Arrive and get to know each other.
7:30 Dinner starts.
8:00 Discussion kicks off!
10:00 Wrap up and clean up.

IV. Submit a question

Do you have a question surrounding this dinner that you want to ask but are nervous about asking in person? We understand. You can email any and all questions to [email protected].



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