About 100 Muslim men and women gathered at a North Austin mosque on Friday night to share with Mayor Steve Adler their concerns about affordability, health care and transportation in the city.
The town hall was held after sundown prayer at the North Austin Muslim Community Center, the fourth meeting this summer in which members were able to engage public officials about the issues facing their community.
People asked how to get more involved in local politics and outreach and in helping the refugee population.
But their main concerns revolved around bettering schools, accessing good health care, making housing more affordable and increasing transportation options.
“We are growing, our community,” said Nusrat Habib, who moved to Austin in 1999 and has been coming to the mosque since then. “Every day it is getting worse and worse. What’s our plan so we can grow our transit system?”
Adler laid out the city’s plans to address their concerns, including investing money in community health, crafting a regional mobility plan and placing a $250 million bond on the November ballot that would boost affordable housing.
“I am really proud of the work that this city is doing with respect to equity,” Adler said. “There is a long way to go.”
Imam Islam Mossad said the mosque has been working over the past year to get its members more involved in civic life.
“We are part of the city, and we feel the benefit as well as the difficulties that the city is going through,” Mossad said. “Muslims are just like anybody else, in that they want a safe place for themselves and their families. They want to be able to live in a community that is not only prosperous but also has a quality and services for those in need.”
The meeting, which was scheduled two months ago, came on the heels of three recent vandalism incidents that occurred at the mosque in the past two weeks.
The first incident happened Aug. 29, when someone came through the wooden fence at the mosque and slashed tires on a vehicle.
Then, on Sept. 2, video footage captured a person entering through the wooden fence again and smashing glass doors at the front and side entrances of the mosque.
And early Thursday, a person who appeared to be the same vandal as in the previous incidents was seen in video footage at the mosque slashing four tires on a van and a vehicle belonging to a security guard.
Austin police say they are investigating the incidents but have not determined whether they will classify them as a hate crimes.
Adler on Friday night called it a “top priority” for the city.
“I believe that when someone, if anyone, attacks a place of worship it creates a crime and an attack which is greater than just vandalism,” he said. “Oftentimes those kind of attacks are intended to make someone scared, to make an entire community scared. And that elevates that crime.”
No one in the crowd at Friday’s meeting raised any questions about the mosque’s security. But after it finished, Habib and another woman, Taskina Chowdhury, said they were afraid of praying at the mosque.
“It is becoming a safety issue,” Habib said. “We come here to pray and we don’t know what will happen next. It is time now that we should address this issue.”