“One helpful rule for being a Muslim on the internet – don’t read the comments.” This is from a series of short films called The Secret Life of Muslims, created by filmmaker Joshua Seftel.
Police say two women could face trespassing charges after a live Facebook video showed them snatching items from a Tempe mosque, urging children to join them in taking printed materials and mocking the Muslim faith.
The pair — identified as Tahnee Gonzales and Liz Dauenhauer on their Facebook profiles — visited the Islamic Community Center of Tempe to expose “the infiltration of the Arabic Muslim coming in and destroying America,” according to the video posted to Gonzales’ page March 4.
Gonzales removed the footage after being contacted by The Arizona Republic on Tuesday, though it remains available on other profiles.
The original video shows the self-described “patriots” encouraging three children to help them as they take stacks of pamphlets and brochures to stop the spread of “propaganda.” They pull down fliers for tax assistance and other services, ridiculing Muslims for nearly 25 minutes.
The video, described as “jarring” by a Muslim-rights advocate, comes at a time when experts say anti-Islamic sentiment is on the rise. The number of anti-Muslim incidents in the U.S. has increased sharply since late 2015.
Neither Gonzales nor Dauenhauer responded to requests for comment. But remarks made during the Tempe mosque video, as well as other posts on their Facebook pages, indicate they do such “exposés” fairly often.
Mosque officials confirmed they had filed a police report and turned over security-camera footage of the incident.
“At this point, it is an active case and our detectives are investigating the incident,” Detective Lily Duran, a Tempe police spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
Women paint Islam as ‘a threat’
Throughout the video, the women explain they are filming to shed light on a “threat that we’re facing in America.” They emphasize that the mosque has infiltrated a “nice suburban city” where “many young vulnerable people pass by.”
They give the children various warnings during the visit. As the kids pass by the mosque’s playground equipment and climb onto a funeral van, Gonzales tells them they “don’t know what filth has been on there” and that items touched by Muslims could be “disease-ridden.”
“They multiply,” Gonzales says as she films, at one point implying Muslims endorse pedophilia and “smell like goats” because they have sex with them.
“They’re multiplying, so that they’re able to continue their invasion and illegal takeover of everything,” she says.
The video indicates Gonzales might have been armed, despite multiple signs prohibiting weapons at the mosque. “They carry AKs (assault rifles) around and kill people all the time,” she says of Muslims in the video.
The video ends with Gonzales shouting at a man standing near one of the community center’s doors. As one of her dogs runs over to the man, Gonzales yells at him not to touch it or eat it before launching into a tirade against “Sharia law.”
Arizona Muslims find video ‘disturbing’
Comments poured in as Gonzales live-streamed. A few criticized the women, but most supported them, saying, “Be careful! They are dangerous!” or, “Muslims do not belong in America, they train and brainwash our children.”
“It was really disheartening to see how ignorant some people can be,” said Ahmad Al-Akoum, imam at the mosque.
“The thing that affected me most was those young children being drafted by their mom and being taught hate and intolerance,” he said. “It was really disturbing for them to feel comfortable enough to come inside…and do all of that.”
Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter, called the video “one of the more jarring incidents I’ve seen.”
“When you see them dismissively just marching through the playground that our kids played on, or mocking funeral vans when we’ve had loved ones whose funeral services have been at the mosque, it hits close to home,” Siddiqi said. “It’s really a peek inside what’s happening in this polarized state of our nation.”
Incident part of a larger pattern
Materials on the women’s social-media pages indicate they are supporters of the Arizona Patriot Movement, which describes itself as “a grassroots organization” of “Constitutional Activists who believe that we must defend American values against the progressive Leftist and Globalist Agenda.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes it as a “fringe group” that has been “energized and influenced by the president’s over-the-top rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims.”
In a video taken Sunday outside of a Phoenix rally for former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Gonzales encounters U.S. Senate candidate Deedra Abboud and begins heckling her, screaming, “Deedra Abboud supports Muslims who hate America!”
Other clips focus on fighting undocumented immigrants either at counterprotests during rallies for immigrant rights or in person at the border.
Gonzales frequently involves her children in her videos.
Imam: As intolerance spikes, so does support
Given heightened political tensions and anti-immigrant sentiment, Siddiqi said he expects more episodes like the Tempe-mosque broadcast in the future.
“With the virality of social media and Facebook Live, it emboldens people to sort of outdo one another,” the Muslim-rights leader said. “It’s part of a larger, disturbing trend.”
Al-Akoum said agitators show up at the mosque “almost on a weekly basis.”
“A group will come stand on the sidewalk and yell at members, tearing up a copy of the Koran to antagonize them,” he said. “This often happens on Friday, when we have a midday prayer with over 1,000 people. At this point, our members here know not to engage.”
The imam said he won’t let attacks change how the mosque does things, however. Doors will remain unlocked, he said, and members will continue to welcome visitors of all faiths.
“With every incident, the amount of support that we receive at this place is way, way more than the intolerance,” he said. “The phone has been ringing all day today with people saying, ‘Stay strong, your neighbors support you.’ I think the majority of people are good people.”
THE SECRET LIFE OF MUSLIMS: POSITIVE PORTRAYALS IN POP CULTURE
Reza Aslan, a scholar of religions, shares why he believes we need more positive portrayals of Muslims in pop culture. This is from a series of short films called The Secret Life of Muslims, created by filmmaker Joshua Seftel.
Read or Share this story: http://azc.cc/2FEEUkj