NEWS
21/03/2018 00:22 SAST

Vandalized Arizona Mosque Flooded With Support From Interfaith Allies

“It’s beautiful to see how two people’s hate brought together hundreds of people in love,” said the mosque’s office manager.

More than 200 people attended an interfaith solidarity event at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe on Saturday.
Islamic Community Center of Tempe / Facebook
More than 200 people attended an interfaith solidarity event at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe on Saturday.
Islamic Community Center of Tempe / Facebook
More than 200 people attended an interfaith solidarity event at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe on Saturday.

Weeks after two women filmed themselves vandalizing a mosque in Tempe, Arizona, members of the local interfaith community showed up en masse to stand in solidarity with their Muslim neighbors.

Kristy Sabbah, office manager at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, said the messages of support from allies haven’t yet stopped pouring in.

“The response from the interfaith community has been overwhelming,” Sabbah told HuffPost in an email. 

The mosque continues to receive phone calls, emails and Facebook messages from people expressing their solidarity, she said. Interfaith allies are also sending the center flowers and sweets. Many have even brought their children to the Islamic center with handmade cards of love and encouragement.

“It’s beautiful to see how two people’s hate brought together hundreds of people in love,” Sabbah said.

The two women in the video, identified by police as Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer, were arrested on suspicion of felony third-degree burglary on Thursday. On March 4, Gonzales appears to have uploaded three Facebook live videos of her and Dauenhauer taking three children to the mosque to vandalize and steal materials. Gonzales lectures the children and her Facebook audience in one video about how Muslims are destroying America and are “devil Satan worshippers.” 

Sabbah and others in the mosque community were particularly disturbed by how the two women appeared to encourage the children to make blatantly racist and Islamophobic comments. In the video, a young girl can be heard making statements like, “Muslims are waiting to rape you,” and “They smell like goat.”

SCREENGRAB TAKEN FROM FACEBOOK LIVE VIDEO
A screengrab from a video uploaded by Facebook user Tahnee Gonzales.

Sabbah said that her mosque community hopes the two women are “prosecuted to the fullest extent.” But she said they are hopeful that the children will be learn to be more compassionate.

“Children are smart and their hearts are pure. We are hopeful for them,” Sabbah said. 

On Saturday, the Islamic Community Center of Tempe partnered with local Muslim and interfaith organizations to host a “Love and Coffee” event at the mosque. The event was livestreamed on Facebook and attended by more than 200 community members, including Muslims and their interfaith allies. 

Local interfaith leader Rev. Erin Tamayo organized a letter that was signed by those who attended the event.

“You are valuable members of our community and we are grateful for your existence,” the letter reads. “May you never feel alone in the face of any adversary for we stand with you.”

Islamic Community Center of Tempe / Facebook
A letter signed by attendees of an interfaith "Love and Coffee" event at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe.

The letter is currently on display in the mosque’s office. The community hopes to frame it so that it can be preserved for years to come.

Sabbah said that her Islamic center has long had a strong relationship with local interfaith allies. They’re hoping to conduct more events together in the future.

“The biggest takeaway from Saturday’s event is that love trumps hate,” she said.

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