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US: Two anti-Muslim women arrested for vandalising mosque

17th Mar 2018
US: Two anti-Muslim women arrested for vandalising mosque

By Safvan Allahverdi


WASHINGTON (AA): Two women known for anti-Muslim rants at Phoenix-area political events, were arrested Thursday for breaking into an Arizona Islamic center and making anti-Islamic/Islamohobic remarks, police said.

Tahnee Gonzales, 32, and Elizabeth Dauenhauer, 51, were arrested on suspicion of felony third-degree burglary after an investigation into theft and vandalism at a Tempe mosque.

Arrests came after the mosque officials pressed charges against the women who also filmed themselves and their children spouting hate speech while removing flyers and pamphlets from the mosque.

In the videos, the two women can be seen bringing the children to the Islamic Community Center of Tempe and narrating what they describe as their attempts to expose “Sharia law in America” and “the illegal invasion of Muslims.”

They refer to themselves in the videos as “patriots” and “infidels,” and say they are removing items from the mosque to expose “the infiltration of the Arabic Muslims coming in and destroying America.”

“The Muslims are nothing but devil, Satan worshipers,” one of the women says at the mosque, pointing at flyers on a community message board at the mosque.

At least one of the children seems to take the message to heart. “They smell like goat,” the child can be heard saying.

“Exactly! They smell like goat,” Gonzales responds.

“Mommy, they buy their chicken to rape it,” the child says.

At one point, toward the end of the approximately 24 minute video, the women can be seen berating an unidentified man, who comes out from the mosque, with insults and epithets.

In the 20-minute long Facebook Live video, the women along with three children, walked around the property. They approached the gate where there is a “no trespassing” sign and a sign prohibiting firearms.

One of the women is heard asking one of the children to take her gun back to their car. They then walk past the entrance and immediately begin removing posters, brochures and other materials while insulting Islam and Muslims.

The imam at the mosque, Ahmad Al-Akoum, said members of the Muslim community in Tempe were disturbed by the video. “What really saddened me the most was to see those people bringing their children, giving them lessons in hate, feeding them false information,” he said.

Mr. Al-Akoum said it was not unusual for people to stand outside the mosque, harass congregants and, sometimes, damage copies of the Quran. “We’re used to this kind of stuff,” he said. “But for somebody to just act so brazen, to come inside somebody else’s property and take things without permission, this is new.”

He learned about the Facebook video from the Southern Poverty Law Center on March 5 and reported it to the police on March 8. Since then, he said, the police have increased patrols in the area and the mosque is considering hiring private security workers.

When he learned on Thursday that the women had been arrested, he said: “My heart sunk. I know those ladies have children.”

Imraan Siddiqi, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group Arizona chapter told Anadolu Agency on Friday that the women are affiliated with the Arizona Patriot Movement (PMAZ) which was established by far-rights and white supremacists.

Siddiqi said the Muslim community in Arizona has been persistently harassed by the group, adding that in recent years PMAZ members who were carrying firearms stood in front of the building where nearly 600 Muslim community members were inside for an annual event.

They were screaming racial slurs to women and little children, Siddiqi said, adding that especially Muslim women are often targeted not only in Arizona but also around the country.

“As a Muslim women, not only in Arizona but most of the state, they will tell you that they have probably been harassed, followed, or tried to get run off the road,” he noted. “That is the new normal for a lot of Muslim Americans now.”

Recalling the Phoenix mosque incident in 2015 when members of the Arizona Patriot Movement encircled the building with heavy weapons to protest Muslims, Siddiqi said that open carry laws (allows to carry firearms openly), lack of regulations and people who glorify gun usage are serious threats for Muslims.

The Southern Poverty Law Center said earlier this year that it found “a dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country” since the President Donald Trump’s Nov. 8, 2016 electoral win.

Additional report by The Muslim News

[Photo: Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Arizona. Photograph by the Centre]

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