“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 clips remain available on other profiles.
The original footage 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.
Though The Republic was not able to reach mosque officials, Tempe police confirmed a report had been filed.
“At this point, it is an active case and our detectives are investigating the incident,” Detective Lily Duran, a Tempe police spokeswoman, said Tuesday.
Arizona Muslims find video ‘disturbing’
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.”
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’s definitely disturbing to see something like that happening,” Imraan Siddiqi, executive director of the Council on American Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter, said after being alerted to the video Tuesday.
“You can see the innocence in the kids, who are more concerned about playing and walking around,” Siddiqi said. “But the parents in the video are actively trying to push the kids into thinking a certain way, and then you start seeing the kids mimicking the behavior.
“This is definitely one of the more jarring incidents I’ve seen,” he said.
Incident part of a larger pattern
Materials on the women’s social-media pages indicate they are either members or 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.
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.”
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.
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