Over the last three decades, over a million members of the Rohingya ethnic group have left their homes in Myanmar, seeking safety and acceptance elsewhere. Many of these people have found homes in the Dallas Forth-Worth area, adding to one of the largest Burmese populations in the United States.
In many places, the Rohingya are met with discrimination or outright violence due to their ethnicity or religion. Instead, they have found community and prosperity here in Dallas.
The Rohingya community in northeast Dallas currently consists of approximately 300 families and is centered around the small mosque that Imam Mufti Mohammad Ismail started in an apartment laundry room several years ago. While the mosque offers traditional prayer and faith services, it also acts as a hub for the community, connecting members with services such as the Rohingya Muslim Relief program or Mohammad Osman Abduljabbar’s grocery store.
Just a few short blocks from the mosque, Abduljabbar opened a grocery store selling halal meats and food from his Burmese culture and places like Thailand and Malasia. These countries often serve as waypoints on Rohingya people’s journeys to freedom.
“This is more of a community shop. Sometimes people come and we just give them items at cost because we want to make sure that they’re doing fine,” Abduljabbar said. “A lot of times, people just come in here to chat.”
Something as simple as this grocery store indicates how far these immigrants have come, from a homeland where the government would never allow such a thing. In Myanmar, if more than 10 Rohingya are believed to be gathering together, the authorities will come to break it up.
Here in Dallas, they are building places where they can gather and support each other and Muslim refugees from other areas such as Somalia and Afghanistan.