This man was invited to meet with mosque members after committing a hate crime towards them and it proved to be a day of acceptance and understanding.
Ted Hakey admittedly used to be a man filled with hatred and fear of Muslim people, so when he was intoxicated on the night of the Paris attacks in November 2015 and happened to live next-door to a mosque, it’s no surprise that he decided to shoot at it out of anger.
Of course, there is so much wrong with his logic at the time and these particular Muslim community members, along with millions around the world, were not to blame for the terrorist attacks in Paris. However, Hakey’s intoxicated decision was not based on logic and, fortunately for him, no one was present at the time that he opened fire on the mosque.
After Baitul Aman Mosque learned that the shooter was their own neighbor, they decided to attempt to bridge the divide between them and Hakey by inviting him openly to meet them and their members. Hakey, regretful of what he had done and surprised by this offering of love and peace, accepted the invitation.
Dr. Mohammed Qureshi from the mosque described the interaction, saying,
“I’ve never had anything like this. It was very emotional. He came in tears, he was quivering. I could feel it in his heart and his eyes that he meant what he said. It’s a rare moment when you see someone with so much hate for you come and apologize.”
When Hakey addressed the community members at the mosque, he said, “I read in the paper where you said you weren’t going to be afraid and you were gonna keep worshipping. And I feel that God is very proud of your whole congregation for that because you had no idea of the danger. And I just ask for your forgiveness.”
Hakey’s remarks seemed genuine and filled with openness and acceptance, which is a far cry from his Facebook status at one time that read,
“Is Muslim season open yet? I’m in a target rich environment.”
On the night of the shooting, Hakey had too much to drink, went into his backyard, and shot at the mosque with both his handgun and rifle. At first he told police that he was shooting at a woodpile and never meant to hit the mosque. The evidence was stacked against him, however, as he is a competitive sharpshooter and had at one point even posted on Facebook that the next time there’s a terrorist attack, people should pick five mosques and shoot everybody.
The man eventually pled guilty and accepted the invitation from the mosque, which allegedly changed his life. He told community members, “I wish that I had come and knocked on your door. If I had spent five minutes with you, it would have been all the difference in the world. I didn’t do that.”
Going forward, Qureshi said, “We will be better neighbors and what was said that day made a huge difference to us. We greeted and we hugged just like a Muslim neighbor. We know why he did what he did — because he never heard our message. We now see it in his heart and we see it in his eyes.”
Hakey hasn’t been sentenced yet, but his guilty plea means that he’ll spend several months or years in jail for the hate crime he has been charged with. Members of the mosque are advocating for him to be given a shorter sentence.
Reverend Norm Erlendson, a minister of the Third Congregational Church of Middletown, attended the event in which Hakey met with the Muslim mosque members and said there will be no peace on Earth until there is peace among religions.
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