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ASU Islamic community plans interfaith events after anti-Islamic incident at local mosque

The Islamic community of Tempe is rallying after an alleged trespass at a local mosque


ASU religion, public life and conflict senior Johnny Martin worships for the mid-afternoon Asr prayer at the Islamic Community Center of Tempe in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017.

The Muslim Students' Association at ASU and the Islamic Community Center of Tempe have organized several "interfaith love" events after two women were charged with felony burglary and a possible hate crime after they posted a video of themselves and their children opening the community center mosque's gate, taking pamphlets and flyers and insulting Islam. 

Two days after the event, the ICC held an interfaith "Love and Coffee" event inviting non-Muslims into the mosque and helping to educate them about the Islamic faith. According to Ahmad Al-Akoum, the interfaith and outreach director at ICC, there were over 200 people in attendance

Al-Akoum was emotional describing the event and the support the mosque has received from the community.

"We wanted to bring as much love in the face of the hate and bigotry, and it was overwhelming," Al-Akoum said. "It was a big, beautiful display of love and tolerance and understanding. I believe we got our message out."

Johnny Martin, a religious studies senior and founder of Sun Devils Are Better Together, is a white American Muslim who converted to the religion. He said the viewpoints of the women who attacked the mosque are familiar to him.

"I have family members who have the same Islamophobia that would compel someone to do something so drastic and disrespectful," Martin said. "This is something that terrorizes the Islamic community."

MSA is organizing an Islam Awareness Week that includes several interfaith events where non-Muslims can learn about the Islamic faith. MSA hopes the events will help destigmatize Islam. 

Martin believes events like these stimulate positive conversations between people of different faiths.

"It was great to see the interfaith solidarity and support," Martin said. "It's been an impetus for conversations that I've been having with family members, non-Muslims and other Muslims about how we can bridge the divide."

Zain Siddiqi, a junior political science major and the vice president of MSA, said the club has been tabling for Islam Awareness Week and have been pushing for religious tolerance on campus.

"It's very important," Siddiqi said. "Many political candidates use a negative viewpoint of Islam to ride the wave to success. To have a hatred for several minority groups is counterproductive to the progress of the country."

Police arrested Tahnee Gonzales, 32, and Elizabeth Dauenhauer, 51, in connection with the video. The women are facing felony burglary charges.

Despite the incident, Al-Akoum said he doesn't think Islamophobia is widespread in the U.S.

"The few people who are intolerant and hateful get their place in the media, and that's why everyone thinks America is an intolerant place," Al-Akoum said. "Love will defeat hate. Understanding will defeat bigotry and racism."

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