The mosque where Chattanooga gunman Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez worshipped before killing four Marines is mourning the victims of Thursday’s shooting.
Abdulazeez’s act came the day before the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month commemorating the first revelation of the Q’uran to the Prophet Muhammad. Ramadan is traditionally a time for prayer, charitable giving, and abstaining from fighting. As such, Muslim community leaders immediately condemned the attack as a perversion of the spirit of the holiday.
Ramadan is marked by fasting from dawn until sunset. On the last day of the month, Muslims around the world celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of Breaking the Fast. The feast is a time for Muslim families to come together and can be described as somewhat akin to year-end holiday celebrations in American and Christian culture such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Abdulazeez’s mosque, The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, was set to have their feast today, which normally draws over 1,000.
But Dr. Azhar Sheikh, a member of the mosque’s board, said that the Society opted to cancel its festivities this year “out of respect and remembrance for our fallen Marines.”
Though Abdulazeez’s potential links to terrorist groups have not been ruled out, Dr. Sheikh explained that the mosque rejected such approaches to Islam:
“The bellicose interpretations of jihad, he said, were not preached at the mosque, and he said that parents were sensitive to the way that the Islamic State and other radical groups had used the Internet to entice and recruit young American and European Muslims to violent causes.
“We certainly do not want to be part of that demented ideology,” he said. “That is not the message we preach here. What people do on the Internet or the World Wide Web or in their own homes, we can’t control that.”
The actions of both the mosque and Muslim leaders in Chattanooga represent a larger trend of American Muslims reaching out to their communities in the wake of tragedies.
This comes shortly after a coalition of Muslim groups in the US recently raised nearly $100,000 to rebuild black churches burned down in the wake of the Charleston shootings.
When commentators paint American Muslims with a broad brush, we should remember these stand-up actions. We did not jump to paint Dylan Roof as a symbol of Christians, let’s not do that disservice to Muslims in Chattanooga.