By Luqman Patino –
Dean Saxton, a controversial street preacher, tore out and spat on pages from the Qur’an in front of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe on April 10. Saxton yelled, “This book is filled with hate. This book is filled with ridiculous lies,” as worshipers looked on. After Saxton’s demonstration, onlookers joined in picking up pieces of the Qur’an that Saxton had thrown in the street.
The week after Saxton’s demonstration, the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, the Arizona Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and a coalition of interfaith leaders held an event to discuss the recurring demonstrations, their motivation and how the community could move forward peacefully.
The group released a statement saying, “Amid the horrific and offensive event that happened outside the Islamic Community Center of Tempe on Friday April 10th, we as the faith community would like to express our complete concern and solidarity with our brothers and sisters in faith. The incident included men carrying hateful signs yelling at people attending the mosque, ripping the Qur’an, throwing it on the ground and spitting on it. This incident is against all that we believe in, and we make this statement as followers of different faiths, each lifting up the sacredness of our scriptures and the holiness of our faith communities.”
Representatives from several different faiths filled the mosque. Ahmad Shqeirat, the Imam of the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, began by commenting on the recent event. “As people of tolerance, people of peace, people of understanding, and inclusion, we are against those who preach hatred, prejudice and negativity, whether in front of a mosque, church, synagogue or any house of worship,” said Shqeirat.
Many representatives from the Christian faith spoke of how Saxton’s hateful views are not representative of Christianity. One in particular, Dale Langmade, had arrived at the mosque earlier in the afternoon hoping to confront Saxton. Saxton was not present the day of the event. “If you’re acting this way and bring out this kind of hatred, you’re not representing Jesus, you’re going straight to hell,” said Langmade.
Chris Gonzalez, a pastor of the local Missio Dei Evangelical Church, condemned Saxton’s views. “On the behalf of Evangelical Christians in Tempe, we do want to live in peace, justice and respect with our Muslim friends,” said Gonzalez.
The Islamic Community Center of Tempe encouraged community members to ignore and not to engage Saxton.