MERIDEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The last nine months have been an eye-opening experience for Ted Hakey, Jr. to say the least.
“I always thought after this happened that I’d be public enemy number one forever,” said Hakey. “It just turned around and didn’t stay that way at all.”
“I pull in my driveway and look over and think oh yeah, the mosque. I feel like I need to do something about this. I want to fire shots. I don’t want to hit the mosque,” said Hakey.
But several bullets did hit the Ahmadiyya Mosque on Main Street. Hakey says he didn’t realize until the day after when one of his friends saw it on the news and then called him.
“Immediately when it happened we were prayerful. We turned to prayers and patience,” said Zahir Muhammad Mannan, spokesperson and Holy Quarn education director for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community Connecticut Chapter. In fact, Mannan tells News 8 that two months after the shooting the Khalifa of Islam instructed followers in a Friday sermon to forgive. That peace-loving guidance was instrumental to help everyone move forward. Mannan adds that the Messiah teaches to respond by the Holy Quran, which calls for a forgiving and repentant heart.
Hakey was eventually arrested and charged with the crime. Both sides would eventually come together and meet-face-to-face. For Hakey, it was a chance to apologize. For the Muslim community, it was a chance for them to teach Hakey about true Islam, not the extremism that people often see on television during terror attacks. They also put to rest many misconceptions and fears by expressing their Ahmadiyya message of ‘Love for all. Hatred for none.’
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“When I realized just how wrong I was, this is the farthest from extremism as you can get,” said Hakey. “You realize what the community is all about. I was embarrassed.”
At one point, Hakey came to the mosque and asked for forgiveness from the whole congregation, which was accepted. Since then a bond was formed. This past weekend Hakey traveled to Pennsylvania to speak at the 68th Annual Jalsa Salana convention. He spoke in front of thousands of American-Muslims. Joining him were the neighbors he once viewed as enemies who’ve now become his friends.
“The learning, the training, the dedication that he put toward this. You don’t see that everyday,” said Jeffry B. Cohen, Hakey’s attorney.
The Ahmadiyya Mosque understanding the positive in all of this.
“It can prevent violence, it can prevent future divide among Muslims,” said Mannan.
The mosque asked that Hakey serve no jail time, given the transformation he’s gone through in recent months. However, Hakey will soon serve a six month sentence behind bars. The Muslim community respecting that decision and the legal process.
“You can read anything, you can see anything, but it’s not going to work until you knock on the door, sit down and actually have a conversation,” said Hakey. “Then you will realize they are people just like us, they do the same things we do. They want the same things we do.”