This week I told you about the Muslim family kicked off a flight for unexplained reasons — HERE — and I told you about the twelve-year-old Muslim by called a terrorist by his teacher — HERE — but now let’s talk, not about some folks doing wrong by Muslims, but about a group of Muslims doing something we should all be doing:
Hours after those terrorist attacks in Paris last fall, Ted Hakey Jr. was getting drunk; he was positive that Muslims were out to kill “us” all and so Hakey — a retired Marine — went off.
Early that morning he grabbed one of his high-powered rifles, pointed it out the window at the Baitul Aman “House of Peace” mosque and fired at the building leaving holes in the walls where, a few hours earlier, worshippers sat reading the Quran in peace.
Hakey was quickly arrested and charged with intentional destruction of religious property — a federal Hate Crime — but officials at the Baitul Aman instead asked that Hakey be forgiven; Baitul Aman outreach director Zahir Muhammad Mannan was stunned to learn the shooter was a neighbor, but rather than see him jailed they decided to see what they could do to be closer to their neighbors in the future.
“When we heard that it was our neighbor, we said, ‘Where did we go wrong, not reaching out to our neighbors properly?’” — Zahir Muhammad Mannan
And though hate crime victims are usually kept separated from the perpetrator, a few months later Mannan and others got a chance to ask Hakey themselves after the judge in the case granted him the unusual concession of allowing him to visit with mosque officials to apologize. Baitul Aman outreach director Zahir Muhammad Mannan:
“[Hakey] was tearing up. He actually cried and said ‘I hope you can forgive me I hope God can forgive me.’ It was a very emotional meeting. It brought us to tears.”
Mannan and other representatives responded to Hakey’s apology with offers of forgiveness, explaining that their focus on absolution — not retribution or resentment — comes from their Muslim faith. And although some Quranic verses emphasize something quite like the Christian Bible idea of an ‘eye for an eye,’ forgiveness is always the superior option in Islam.
“[The Quran] says that if your forgiveness brings about reformation in the person, then forgiveness is better. Reconciliation is better.”
And so Mannan asked Ted Hakey, left, to deliver his apology at the mosque during a scheduled event called “True Islam,” part of a nationwide campaign launched by the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. True Islam seeks to combat both rising Islamophobia and rising extremism by forging interfaith dialogue.
Hakey accepted and met with Mannan and 50 other mosque members over the weekend to apologize:
“I was drinking that night more than I probably should have been. As a neighbor, I did have fears, but fear is always when you don't know something. The unknown is what you are always afraid of. I wish I had come knocked on your door, and if I spent five minutes with you, it would have made all the difference in the world. And I didn't do that.”
And when Hakey finished speaking both he and his wife were embraced by several in attendance; and when the group gathered to pray at the close of the event, they offered to let Hakey step outside, but he declined, and instead stood alongside the very Muslims in the very mosque he’d fired on months prior.
All that has been done to Muslims in this country, going as far back as the days after 9/11; all the shame and hatred and vitriol we, and those people seeking to govern this country, have inflicted on these people of faith, and when the show is on the other foot, they forgive.
Of course, while the forgiveness is a beautiful thing, Ted Hakey still faces over a year in jail; he pleaded guilty to firing on the mosque in February. But when he comes out he’ll have a whole new community there t support him, not fear him; Mannan says the mosque would offer Hakey whatever support they could, guided by their faith and their motto — “love for all and hatred for none.”
Words to live by, for all of us.