Targeted mosque and shooter speak out about recent spurs of violence

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MERIDENThe mosque shooting in Quebec, protests, and the immigration ban all hit close to home for a Meriden mosque.

The Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque has since befriended the man responsible for targeting it and shooting at it.

Ted Hakey was just released from jail Thursday after serving a six month sentence for shooting at the empty mosque with a rifle shortly after the Nov. 13, 2015 attacks in Paris.

Before serving time he came to the mosque with a peace-offering, flowers and an apology.

“It was after speaking to the members of the mosque and apologizing I realized how wrong I was on my views,” Hakey said. “I looked through everything I had posted for years and it was just embarrassing.”

The group’s outreach director Zahir Mannan called the shooting a blessing in disguise and a symbol of how coming together can bridge the gap between people.

“We do want to encourage not to protest, not to speak bad or rally against an individual or even party of people but to educate them,” Mannan said. “Six out of 10 Americans don’t know Muslim so that’s all it takes just meeting a Muslim, interacting with them.”

Hakey encourages people to knock on the door of mosques and get to know the Muslim people wishing he did the same.

“If I had just walked over one time and spoke to them this would have never have happened, my views would have been completely different,” he said. “I had no idea. I just believed all the things you hear on social media, all the negative things, I just didn’t have any education about Islam at all.”

While he was entering jail, Hakey said he was encouraged not to tell the Muslim inmates about the crime he committed but his relationship with the Baitul Aman Mosque inspired transparency.

“I was thinking if they knew anything about Islam, that's not how it works, so as soon as I got to my unit there was a whole bunch of Muslims I went straight to them, and I explained everything to them,” he said. “I first apologized to the people in my unit but then I went to the Imam and I went to the service.”

Hakey shared his experiences in jail with Mannan who visited him about twice a month.

The pair want to use their relationship as inspiration to encouraging conversation for others moving forward.

Mannan said recent violence toward mosques does not make them want to close their doors, but open them even more.

“Repel evil with what is good and your enemy will become your friend,” he said quoting the Quran.

Every Friday night at 8 p.m. the Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque opens its doors for, “Coffee, Cake and True Islam.” It’s a free event for the public to, “Ask questions, get answers and learn.”

Mosque leaders also released a statement: “The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community CT is thankful to Meriden City and Connecticut State Officials as well as our fellow Americans for extending undying support and solidarity in turbulent times. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community strives to uphold unity, peace, and justice for all alongside our leaders and compatriots by practicing and advancing our healing message “love for all, hatred for none” in wake of the rise in condemnable hate crimes. In this light, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has launched educational campaigns designed to dispel ignorance, prevent intolerance, bridge divides, and win hearts. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community has taken to the streets and neighborhoods around Connecticut providing a unifying opportunity for compatriots to “Meet a Muslim” and “Ask Anything”. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community invites the public to participate in “Coffee, Cake, and Conversation on True Islam” free and open to all every Friday night at 8 PM in Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque, and are also ready to come to your Houses of Worship, schools, offices and any other location to bring the community together as one city, one state and one nation indivisible under God.”