Kathleen “Amina” Deady stood in front of a pastry counter in Riverside, California, holding a key fob and wearing a veil across her face.
Only her eyes peeked through the veil. In Islam, it is called a niqab, though the man standing in front of Deady at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Friday had other words for it.
“Is this Halloween or something?” he asked Deady, leaning in toward her and scowling as she began to record on her phone.
Behind the counter, two baristas looked up with concern.
“Why did you say that?” Deady asked the man, still quiet and cheerful in her tone.
“Why wouldn’t I?” the man replied, and looked back toward the register.
Deady asked him again: “Why would you say that?”
“Because I want to.”
“Why? What’s wrong with me?”
“You tell me what’s wrong with you.”
“Do you know I’m a Muslim?” she asked.
The man looked back at her. “Yeah, I do.”
It was around this point that other customers scattered around the coffee shop took notice. Barry Landau, a self-described regular, would later tell KTLA that he had often noticed Deady in the shop – usually reading.
“Books about cardiology and such,” Landau said. He figured Deady was studying to be a doctor, but on Friday, he told the station, he paid more attention to the man in a T-shirt yelling at her.
“It upset me,” Landau recalled. “Any time you see people explicitly hating people, it’s shocking.”
Deady, however, stood her ground and continued to record.
“What’s your problem with me?” she asked the man, who has not been publicly identified.
“I don’t like it, how’s that?” the man replied, snapping his head close to the camera and gritting his teeth. “I don’t like your religion. It says to kill me, and I don’t want to be killed by you. How’s that?”
“Have you read the Koran?” Deady asked.
“I’ve read enough of it to know,” the man replied. He was holding a $10 bill out to baristas behind the counter, but no one took it.
Now the conversation was flowing along the lines of many others that have taken place in the United States, in an age of rising anti-Muslim rhetoric.
The man’s comment partially echoed the words of President Donald Trump, who as a candidate once said without evidence, “Islam hates us.”
When Deady asked the man why he thought she wanted to kill him, he didn’t reply. He might have been referring to a Koran verse that is often distorted by those who insist Islam wants a war on unbelievers.
The man was ignoring (or unaware of) verses that explicitly forbid murder – such as “if any one killed a person, it would be as if he killed the whole mankind,” as a Muslim language arts teacher once explained in The Washington Post.
Deady, whom The Post was not able to interview before publication, then asked the man: “Are you a Christian?”
He was silent for a moment.
Still, no one behind the counter would take his money.
“Absolutely,” he finally said.
“Let’s talk about your Bible,” Deady said. “Do you know in your Bible, Jesus says to bring the people who don’t believe, to kill them?”
She may have been referring to a parable in the Book of Luke, in which case it is was a nobleman – not Jesus – who said, “Those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them, bring them here and kill them in front of me.”
In any case, the vast majority of Christians, like the vast majority of Muslims, do not cite their faith to justify murder.
But it was far too late for reconciliation at the Coffee Bean by now.
The man shoved a hand in Deady’s camera lens. He didn’t want to talk. She began to yell, “You are committing hate speech!”
A barista reached across the pastry counter and tried to physically separate the two, to not much effect.
Across the room, Landau recalled to KTLA, a “radical Christian” woman with whom he was acquainted began to scream at Deady. So Landau chose a side, and was heard in the video screaming and cursing at the man: “Get out of here! Get out of here! . . . Racist!”
The man began to swear, too, and two workers behind the counter appeared to be consulting with each other before Deady’s camera briefly cut off. A sort of interlude.
“The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® is fully committed to ensuring the wellness and safety of its customers, team members and business,” the chain later wrote to Newsweek, after Deady’s video had gone viral.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination of any kind, and have the right to refuse service to any person who makes customers or team members feel endangered in any way.”
This statement went some way toward explaining the final scene in Deady’s video.
She turned her camera back after several minutes had apparently passed – as the man once again stood before the cash register, now holding a small takeout container in his hand.
“Who’s the manager here?” he asked.
“I’m the supervisor on duty,” said a woman behind the counter.
She gave the man her name, and smiled uncertainly as Deady asked from behind the camera:
“Why are you not serving him?”
The supervisor tugged distractedly at a plastic glove on her hand.
“Because he’s disrupting a public space,” she replied, and glanced up to watch the man storm out the front door.
“And being really racist,” the supervisor added, when he was gone.
There was no more yelling now. In her video, which would be viewed by 2 million people on Twitter and make news across the United States in coming days, Deady nodded at the supervisor.
“Thank you,” she said, and panned the camera once more around the Coffee Bean, where everyone seemed to have returned to their own business.