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What to do when a hate group shows up outside your mosque

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Imagine stepping out of your house of worship and seeing a group of screaming, belligerent hecklers ripping apart your holy book – spitting on and stomping on the pages.  Imagine being shouted down, and told your faith is a lie by a group of people flashing gaudy, hate-filled signs and matching tee-shirts.  This has become the reality for worshippers at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe.

This past Friday, a group of hate protesters gathered outside the largest mosque in the Phoenix area, the unhinged “Brother Dean” Saxton – an infamous student-preacher from the University of Arizona.  He has received the most attention for declaring “You Deserve Rape” to female students that he deems inappropriately dressed – as he preaches in open air-spaces.

Over the past few years, Brother Dean has become so infamous at U of A – there is an actual petition to have him expelled from the school, due to his menacing style of evangelism.  Vice also did a documentary about him – which gives some insight that this individual is not playing with a full deck.

Saxton has taken his roadshow from U of A and is now frequenting the Arizona State University campus – shouting down female students, Muslims, Catholics, and essentially anyone that falls outside his narrow definition of what a believer is.  Since the Tempe mosque falls directly on the ASU campus, it has now become a target for those aiming to vilify Islam.

Over the past few years – a group of evangelical Christians strategically places a team outside each entrance and exit of the mosque – mindful to occupy the first bit of public space outside the Islamic center’s property.  These individuals attempt to engage congregants in a theological discussion, passing propaganda pamphlets aimed at converting them away from Islam to Christianity.  Needless to say, these evangelists have become a nuisance to deal with for Tempe mosque-goers on a week to week basis.  For people like me, who attend the mosque on a weekly basis – It has become part of my calculus of where I go for Friday prayers, in considering if I will have to deal with these individuals.

Pages of the Qur’an were torn out, thrown on the ground, spat and stomped upon during last week’s protest.

Pages of the Qur’an were torn out, thrown on the ground, spat and stomped upon during last week’s protest.

But then, Brother Dean and crew started showing up.  And however sad it may be – those who attend the mosque would much rather deal with the relatively calm folks blocking the entrances, than the vile, unabashed hate offered up by these street-preachers.

The hate group proceeded to desecrate Islam’s holy book, spitting on and stomping on pages – even throwing them down a nearby gutter.  Children were also present at the mosque during this time, however this was of no consequence to the demonstrators.

Don’t believe me? Check out the video worshippers at the mosque captured during the latest demonstration:

So Who Are These Guys?

After watching the Vice documentary, you can clearly tell that “Brother Dean” doesn’t possess the wherewithal to mastermind a protest of this nature – with professionally produced signage and cameraman in tow.  After doing a little bit digging, it appears that the most notable of the hate-preachers is this guy – Ruben Israel. (Yes – he also has a documentary about him.)

Street Preacher – Ruben Israel

Street Preacher – Ruben Israel

Apparently, this community of preachers travels the country and seeking out large gatherings of people to shout down and demonstrate in front of.  This would explain why this same group initially showed up outside the Tempe mosque during the week of the Super Bowl, which took place in the Phoenix metro area.  Their usual method of operation includes standing outside convention centers, university common areas and sidewalks – shouting down anyone and everyone who they deem as “sinful.”  Even though the content is highly offensive and aimed at fostering a reaction from passersby – this genre is usually taken with a grain of salt.  Showing up outside a house of worship, however is a different story altogether.

Why This Matters

It is undeniable that we are witnessing unprecedented levels of anti-Islam sentiment in the U.S. – and beyond.  I wrote earlier about a wave of anti-Muslim incidents that took place, in the wake of the tragic Chapel Hill shooting.  On an almost weekly, if not daily basis – we are hearing of stories of Islamophobic attacks against mosques and even Hindu or Sikh institutions that are perceived as being “Islamic.”

In the last few days alone, we have seen mosque attacks in places such as Edmond, Oklahoma,Stillwater, Oklahoma, and Kansas City.  Not to mention recent incidents, such as pigs heads targeting a mosque in England and an Islamophobic attack against a Sikh Gurdwara in Scotland.  The upswing in violence against individuals and institutions is a direct correlation between the amount of hateful rhetoric that is pulsing in a given society.

Intersection of Gun Culture and Islamophobia

A second video (possibly from earlier in the protest) was captured by the congregation members as well:

In this video, you see two of the protestors make their way onto the mosque property, briefly exchanging with members of the mosque.  “You’re trying to abolish The Constitution. And implement your sharia law,” claims the heavily bearded individual seen here:

(Photo courtesy of author)

(Photo courtesy of author)

After doing some research, his Facebook profile was located – with some disturbing results:

(Image: Facebook)

(Image: Facebook)

It is also unclear on whether or not Steven or any of the other street-preachers were carrying weapons outside the Tempe mosque.  He does appear to be wearing some sort of pouch on the right side of the belt, which could plausibly house a weapon – and this wouldn’t be the first time weapons were brandished at an anti-Islam protest.

At an anti-Islam protest in Garland, TX – a few protestors such as this individual were spotted with weapons.

At an anti-Islam protest in Garland, TX – a few protestors such as this individual were spotted with weapons.

While we’re mentioning the Garland protest, look who else showed up there.  Israel and his crew also showed up at Dearborn’s Arab-American Festival, a few years back – with a pig’s head on a pole.  Clearly, as you can see – these guys are the carnies of the Islamophobia world.  It wouldn’t be surprising if the likes of Pam Geller (who was the headliner at the Garland protest) and others within the Islamophobia Industry are compensating groups like these to show up and stir up hateful rhetoric during these fringe events.

It is hard to ignore the growing correlation between the anti-Islam movement and the pervasive gun-culture here in the U.S. Don’t believe me?  The NRA just held a session claiming that ISIS has seized control of U.S cities at their convention last week. During a visit to Arizona a few months back – Pamela Geller mentioned in a blog post for attendees to bring weapons in case any protesters showed up to the venue – as this is an open-carry state.

These activists are using the exercise of the 2nd Amendment as a shield for their hateful display – but there is a flip side to all of this.  We only have to look at the case of Chapel Hill shooter, Craig Hicks – who did not necessarily share the same right-wing viewpoints as the protestors, at first glance.  He was however, very much immersed in the world of guns – as evidenced by his frequent social media postings and from the cache seized from his home.  He also held anti-Islam views, which may have very well contributed to the eventual triple murder he committed.

From amongst the crowds at these protests, the social media pages that glorify the actions of these haters – all it takes is one unhinged individual to decide to “take matters into their own hands.”  The constant inundation of anti-Islam rhetoric that seeps through media outlets, such as Fox News has proven to negatively shape the perception of Islam and Muslims to its viewers.  A case-study in this effect would be Randolph Linn – who attempted to torch a mosque in Ohio.  After he was arrested, he claimed that all he knew of Islam – was through watching Fox News.  If the overlap between gun-culture and Islamophobia continue to persist – it is inevitable that more crimes like Chapel Hill may take place.

Bracing For More Protests

Tempe Mosque-goers are now bracing for the next round of protests that will show up outside the mosque.  This combination of fear and frustration is understandably making the congregation uneasy, at a place where they are supposed to feel most at home.  With very little assurance of help from local police – it looks as though there is a very poor understanding by law enforcement as to the pervasive nature of Islamophobia in modern society.  There has been a massive outpouring of support from the interfaith community in the Phoenix area – which is a step in the right direction.  Local Muslims hope that this will usher in a meaningful dialogue of just how deeply the phenomenon of Islamophobia impacts our community, and how we can overcome the hate.

This post first appeared on Imraan Siddiqi’s website Stop Islamophobia Now!

Imraan Siddiqi
About Imraan Siddiqi

Imraan Siddiqi is a writer, activist and Executive Director of CAIR-Arizona.  He has been published in a wide variety of outlets on the subject of Islamophobia and American Muslims.  He is also editor of the website HateHurts.net – a project to track Islamophobia and its fallout on multiple communities.  You can follow him on Twitter @imraansiddiqi

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21 Responses

  1. Boomer
    Boomer
    April 17, 2015, 2:51 pm

    Sad, disturbing. But the good news is the interfaith support. Hopefully it will prevail.

  2. just
    just
    April 17, 2015, 3:36 pm

    Thanks, Imraan. I’ve been following you and Dan Cohen on this (and other) despicable turn of events.

    Interfaith support is helpful, but until and unless the government at the local, state, and federal level start to take this seriously and recognize their responsibility in inciting Islamophobia, I fear that it will continue to grow.

    My guess is that Foxman and his inaptly named ADL hasn’t bothered to comment, except to further exacerbate and contribute to Islamophobia.

  3. James North
    James North
    April 17, 2015, 10:23 pm

    Just imagine if a group of fanatics calling themselves Muslims showed up regularly outside a synagogue or a church, desecrated a Torah or a Bible, and screamed at worshippers. How much publicity would such an event get? So why do I have to come to Mondoweiss to read about Muslims on the receiving end?

  4. RoHa
    RoHa
    April 18, 2015, 12:33 am

    We expect this sort of thing in a land of loonies and morons, but we are getting it right here in sunny, semi-sane, Australia as well!

    http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/toowoomba-mosque-set-on-fire-for-second-time-20150416-1mmxam.html

  5. eljay
    eljay
    April 18, 2015, 8:15 am

    Imagine stepping out of your house of worship and seeing a group of screaming, belligerent hecklers ripping apart your holy book – spitting on and stomping on the pages. Imagine being shouted down, and told your faith is a lie by a group of people flashing gaudy, hate-filled signs and matching tee-shirts. This has become the reality for worshippers at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe. … It is also unclear on whether or not Steven or any of the other street-preachers were carrying weapons outside the Tempe mosque. He does appear to be wearing some sort of pouch on the right side of the belt, which could plausibly house a weapon – and this wouldn’t be the first time weapons were brandished at an anti-Islam protest.

    The “ripping apart your holy book” isn’t such a big deal (unless it’s a valuable copy and/or stolen property), but screaming, belligerent half-wits with (or even without) guns definitely call for the cops to get in there, restore law and order and hold the hate-filled morons accountable for any and all crimes they commit.

  6. OneThatGotAway
    OneThatGotAway
    April 18, 2015, 11:17 am

    If any of those hate-mongers show up outside my home or place of worship, I will filibuster their hypocrisy in the face with a bull horn. And dare they cross on my property. That is how you deal with these hateful morons.

  7. DavidDaoud
    DavidDaoud
    April 18, 2015, 1:09 pm

    I am a Canadian citizen who has spent the last 6 years, without interruption, living contentedly among Muslims in Morocco. In fact, I live directly across the street from a large and busy mosque.

    Middle of June I will be traveling to visit my children and new grandchild in Vancouver, with a stopover in Montreal. After having read this article, I became curious about the state of Islamophobia in Canada and found this:
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/news/islamophobia-is-a-looming-threat-1.3006906

    I will be sure to keep my eyes and ears wide open during the two weeks I will be there.

  8. OyVey00
    OyVey00
    April 18, 2015, 1:23 pm

    Okay, so a bunch of muslims just threw a dozen christians over board of their ship and let them drown. This kind of stuff happens all the time lately. And then you wonder why people don’t like you guys.

    Your anger shouldn’t be directed at those street preachers, but at your fellow believers who give muslims a bad reputation instead.

    • OneThatGotAway
      OneThatGotAway
      April 18, 2015, 10:10 pm

      Their anger should be directed at BOTH of them; because they are both terrorists. Better yet, how about these Christian terrorist go have it out with the Muslim terrorists and both cancel each other out. Neither group follow God’s way but use his name to project their racism and bigotry, while ignoring the Bible and the Quran to help your brother in kindness and love.

    • eljay
      eljay
      April 18, 2015, 10:59 pm

      || OyVey00: Okay, so a bunch of muslims just threw a dozen christians over board of their ship and let them drown. This kind of stuff happens all the time lately. And then you wonder why people don’t like you guys. ||

      Holding law-abiding Muslim Americans in Arizona responsible for the actions of some Muslims – in this case, Muslim African migrants in the Mediterranean – is no better than JeffB’s anti-Semitic assertion that all Jews are responsible for actions of some Jews.

      • OyVey00
        OyVey00
        April 19, 2015, 3:26 am

        I never said they’re responsible. But if they really want to reduce Islamophobia, then stopping bad behavior among muslims is the way to go, both in their community and abroad.

        It’s the same for Jews of course. Rising antisemitism is directly linked with bad behavior of Jews – in this case Israel’s. Just as bad behavior of muslims is directly linked with rising Islamophobia.

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 19, 2015, 9:18 am

        || OyVey00: I never said they’re responsible. But if they really want to reduce Islamophobia, then stopping bad behavior among muslims is the way to go … ||

        If law-abiding Muslim Americans in Arizona are not responsible for the actions of Muslim African migrants:
        – why are non-Muslim Americans entitled to fear and/or hate them unless they stop the bad behaviour of Muslims elsewhere in the world; and,
        – how are Muslim Americans in Arizona they supposed to stop Muslims elsewhere in the world from doing bad things?

        (How, exactly, were they supposed to stop those Muslim African migrants from throwing Christian African migrants overboard into the Mediterranean?)

        || It’s the same for Jews of course. Rising antisemitism is directly linked with bad behavior of Jews – in this case Israel’s. ||

        If anything, the bad behaviour of Israeli Jews should trigger reactions against Israelis or Zio-supremacists, not against random Jewish citizens of countries around the world.

      • OyVey00
        OyVey00
        April 20, 2015, 12:18 pm

        Everyone is entitled to fear or hate anyone. And this is the crux of the problem. Being liked by people is not a basic right. So if you want to stop people from hating you, then the common sense response would be to suck up to them. I.e. to show them you mean no harm and to distance yourself from people who do want to harm them.

        But instead, people like the author complain about Islamophobia on the internet and simply demand that people like them. Is it really a wonder that this does not exactly improve their relations?

        how are Muslim Americans in Arizona they supposed to stop Muslims elsewhere in the world from doing bad things?

        Good question. Considering most of them are recent immigrants, maybe they could use their assets to fund moderate mosques in their home countries.

        Or even break away from mainstream Islam and found some kind of reform Islam, analog to those of Judaism and Christianity.

        If anything, the bad behaviour of Israeli Jews should trigger reactions against Israelis or Zio-supremacists, not against random Jewish citizens of countries around the world.

        I don’t disagree, but as long as Jews collectively support Israel, they’re just asking for repercussions.

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 20, 2015, 9:16 pm

        || OyVey00: … Considering most of them are recent immigrants, maybe they could use their assets to fund moderate mosques in their home countries. Or even break away from mainstream Islam and found some kind of reform Islam, analog to those of Judaism and Christianity. ||

        Islamophobic Joe Six-Pack isn’t going to give two sh*ts that Mooslims in Amurrika fund moderate mosques “back where they came from” or founded some other type of Islam. If it were as simple as that, you wouldn’t be making the assertion I quoted below.

        || OyVey00: … as long as Jews collectively support Israel, they’re just asking for repercussions. ||

        Thing is, Jews don’t collectively support Israel.

      • OyVey00
        OyVey00
        April 21, 2015, 11:38 am

        Islamophobic Joe Six-Pack isn’t going to give two sh*ts that Mooslims in Amurrika fund moderate mosques “back where they came from” or founded some other type of Islam. If it were as simple as that, you wouldn’t be making the assertion I quoted below.

        Ok but they’re going to magically transform into muslim lovers if you just cry loud enough about Islamophobia, or how should I take this?

        Thing is, Jews don’t collectively support Israel.

        Please. All kinds of studies show that diaspora Jews overwhelmingly support Israel. Besides, can you even name one influential Jewish organization that is explicitly anti-zionist?

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 22, 2015, 7:39 am

        || OyVey00: Ok but they’re going to magically transform into muslim lovers if you just cry loud enough about Islamophobia, or how should I take this? ||

        I don’t know how they’re going to transform, but the point is that, contrary to your assertion, Muslims in American are not responsible for the actions of Muslims elsewhere in the world.

        || Please. All kinds of studies show that diaspora Jews overwhelmingly support Israel. ||

        1. Overwhelming support is not unanimous support.
        2. It’s interesting that you are agreeing with JeffB that all Jews are responsible for the actions of some Jews. I, on the other hand, cannot accept that Jewish people in, say, a Jewish grocery store in Paris are legitimate targets for murder because of the actions of a supremacist “Jewish State”.

        (Similarly, I can’t accept that Muslims in Arizona deserve to be killed or otherwise abused because Muslims elsewhere in the world are committing criminal acts.)

        || Besides, can you even name one influential Jewish organization that is explicitly anti-zionist? ||

        Can you name one influential Jewish organization that has been authorized by every Jewish person in the world to speak on his/her behalf?

      • OyVey00
        OyVey00
        April 22, 2015, 11:14 am

        I don’t know how they’re going to transform, but the point is that, contrary to your assertion, Muslims in American are not responsible for the actions of Muslims elsewhere in the world.

        I already said they’re not responsible. So what? Life is unfair, so you better get used to it.

        The point is, that crying about Islamophobia and policing people with thought crime laws is not going to make these Muslims any friends. Quite to the contrary, even if Islamophobia would be policed as rigidly as anti-semitism, then people might keep their mouth shut, but behind the surface they’d hate them even more for messing with their right to free speech. This is what’s currently happening with Jews after all.

        1. Overwhelming support is not unanimous support.

        Semantics.

        2. It’s interesting that you are agreeing with JeffB that all Jews are responsible for the actions of some Jews. I, on the other hand, cannot accept that Jewish people in, say, a Jewish grocery store in Paris are legitimate targets for murder because of the actions of a supremacist “Jewish State”.

        No. What you don’t seem to understand is that I’m not making a moral judgment, I’m simply stating what will happen. No matter what you and I think about it, Jews WILL get targeted because of zionist policies. End of story. So if they want to protect themselves, they’d better do something to make muslims stop hating them. Like abandoning zionism and denouncing Israel.

      • eljay
        eljay
        April 22, 2015, 12:07 pm

        || OyVey00: I already said they’re not responsible. ||

        So…they’re not responsible, but it’s their burden to do something about the thing they’re not responsible for. Okay.

        || No. What you don’t seem to understand is that I’m not making a moral judgment, I’m simply stating what will happen. No matter what you and I think about it, Jews WILL get targeted because of zionist policies. End of story. ||

        I agree that “the average Jew” is being targeted because of Zionist policies. I think that’s unjust and immoral. And I blame the perpetrators, not the victims.

        || So if they want to protect themselves, they’d better do something to make muslims stop hating them. Like abandoning zionism and denouncing Israel. ||

        Uh-huh. And if they aren’t Zionist and don’t support Israel but they get killed anyway, then what? Will you suggest that Jews stop being Jews in order to make Muslims stop hating them? When, in your opinion, does criminal behaviour become the fault of the criminal instead of the fault of the victim?

  9. Pamela Olson
    Pamela Olson
    April 19, 2015, 7:08 am

    According to that guy’s t-shirt, Mohammed murdered rapists.

    #GrammarFail

    #GeneralLifeFail

    • Curatica
      Curatica
      April 20, 2015, 10:10 pm

      Indeed, a missing comma could make someone look like a fool. Or, in this case, even more foolish than he would look had the comma been in its place.

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