MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) – The Meriden mosque that was hit by bullets in November is welcoming the public inside. The accused shooter will be in court Monday facing federal hate crime charges, and the leaders of the mosque are inviting him to visit, too.
The new year began with early morning prayers at the Baitul Aman mosque on Main Street in Meriden. The faithful thanked Allah for the blessings of last year, while just inches away, bullet holes remain from a November shooting. The next door neighbor, Ted Hakey, Jr., admits shooting off two guns in his yard. He’s now facing federal hate crime charges. The members of the mosque are returning that hate with understanding.
“If we had, perhaps, done a better job of reaching out, we would have, or we could have, potentially, changed his viewpoint,” said Hamid Malik, the Regional Imam of the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam practiced at Baitul Aman.
In response, they are doing more than ever to open their doors and spread their message that Islam is about peace. Their other neighbors have responded in kind.
“Everybody kind of reaches out, they want to show their support,” said Mosque President Mohammed Qureshi. “The love that we have received, we wouldn’t have known about it if this incident wouldn’t have happened.”
Ted Hakey Jr. told investigators he wasn’t trying to hit the mosque when he was shooting off guns in his yard that night in November. Investigators have a couple of problems with that explanation. For one thing, there are numerous Facebook posts where he writes things like “I hate Islam,” wonders when he can go “Weapons free” against Islam, and says he’s in a “target rich environment” for shooting Muslims.
The other problem with Hakey’s story of accidentally hitting the mosque is that he’s a former Marine and competitive sharpshooter. The mosque is up a steep hill from his house, and his bullets went right into the prayer room of the mosque, some right where the Imam would have been standing. Fortunately the mosque was empty that night. The faithful here view the shooting as an act of terrorism, and here is their message to the shooter:
“I would actually want to invite him to come to our mosque, get to know us,” said Wajid Danish Ahmed, the Mosque’s Public Relations Director. “Get to see what we do and that we are a peaceful and loving people.”
In fact everyone is invited to 1:30 Friday afternoon prayers, every week.
“Come and join us together in further the cause of peace,” Qureshi said.
Until then, the prayers for peace will continue, right next to the bullet holes. In New Haven Federal Court on Monday, Hakey’s lawyer will lay out his case for his client to be allowed out of lockup on bond. Prosecutors already argued Hakey was too dangerous to the community.