If you search the internet for “Houston mosque” or even simply “Houston,” nearly every mainstream media publication has multiple articles, being updated regularly, showcasing Houston area “mosques opening their doors to hurricane Harvey victims.” In fact, even so-called fact-checking website Snopes published an article on the matter, and not as a fact-checked one, but as a promoted news story. Many of these articles are centered on the issue that mosques opened their doors to evacuees, but Christian pastor Joel Osteen did not immediately open his megachurch doors. (Osteen later alleged that the surrounding streets were not open or safe; and the city never asked him to use the building as a shelter.) Personal feelings about Osteen aside, the media is using this as an opening to push the narrative that Muslims are the heroes of this hurricane, and the white people seeking solace were forever changed by the kindness and generosity of their Muslim neighbors.
A few issues with the story right from the start — it’s not the Houston mosques that are taking in these evacuees; it’s a few Houston Islamic Centers. Non-Muslims generally aren’t allowed in mosques, unless they are allowed entry for a reason like seeing how Muslims pray. We’ll get to that later.
The other part of the news story that is conspicuously hidden is that there were only 35 evacuees at the Champions mosque, also known as Masjid al-Salam, at the peak. As of Friday morning, 14 evacuees stayed on. The majority of those evacuees were Muslim. Brand Lane Center in Stafford, Texas claims to be housing 80 to 90 people currently. Whether those figures are accurate and whether those were families from the mosque or non-Muslim evacuees, nobody knows. The picture used in one of the articles about the Muslim heroes is a picture from the Convention Center. Out of an estimated 200,000 Muslims in the greater-Houston metro area, the headline-worthy news is that they were able to help about 125 evacuees.
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