own the road from the Texas ranch where U.S. President
George W. Bush held meetings to plan the invasion of Iraq, Muslim leader
Afzal Siddiq has become something of an Islamic peace envoy to the Bible
Belt Christians of Bush country.

A Pakistani-born U.S. citizen who founded the only permanent mosque in
Bush’s McLennan County, Siddiq has spoken about Islam at more than 30
churches since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that set the White House on the
road to war in Muslim Afghanistan and Iraq.

He writes a religion column for the local newspaper and has persuaded his
fellow Sunni Muslims to open their services to students from
Baptist-affiliated Baylor University.

“The Christian people really opened their doors to us after Sept. 11. They
invited us to their churches because they wanted to know about Muslims,”
said Siddiq, a former U.S. Army officer who studied engineering at the
University of Texas before moving to Waco to help run a family convenience

“It surprises them that we have similar beliefs. I explain to them that
‘Allah’ is simply the Arabic name for God. It’s not a different God,” he

But other measures paint a more disturbing picture. Data from the Council
on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which includes federal crime reports,
show 36 threats or acts of violence against an estimated 500,000 Texas
Muslims in 2002, rising to 57 incidents in 2003.

“There appears to have been an upswing in Texas in recent months,” said
CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper, noting a surge of incidents since the grisly
murder and mutilation of U.S. military contractors in the Iraqi town of
Falluja last spring.


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