Anwar al-Awlaki killed: Mixed reaction at Falls Church mosque
- Ezeldin Diab, of Washington, talks about Anwar al-Awlaki as he leaves morning prayers at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Friday. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Jouwad Syed, of Alexandria, Va., recently moved to the area and only recently began attending the mosque. He said he was initially leery of joining because of the reputation and links to al-Awlaki. But he had also heard positive things about the mosque's outreach and charitable programs.
"We're not glad he's dead, but at the same time, it's helpful" because the links to al-Awlaki got in the way of the mosque's outreach efforts.
Indeed, the mosque endures some level of hostility from the general public. On Friday morning, as a crowd started to gather outside the mosque before midday services, a bicyclist rode by and shouted, "Yeah, they got your little buddy, didn't they?" then spit on the ground before pedaling off.
Several worshippers who were critical of the U.S. airstrike would not provide their names. One man said he had known al-Awlaki to be peaceful and believed he had been unjustly targeted.
The mosque's outreach director, Johari Abdul-Malik, previously denounced al-Awlaki's proclamations from Yemen.
"He had an allure. He was charming," Abdul-Malik told reporters in 2009, shortly after the Fort Hood shootings that al-Awlaki praised. "To go from that individual to the person that is projecting these words from Yemen is a shock."
"I don't think we read him wrong. I think something happened to him."
The Sept. 11 hijackers who worshipped at Dar al-Hijrah, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, met al-Awlaki earlier in San Diego, where he was imam at al-Ribat al-Islami mosque.
Most of the mosque's worshippers are students and recent immigrants, so few of them knew al-Awlaki, said Magdy Hefnawy, the mosque's president. He said he understood why the United States sought to kill or capture him.
"This is our home here and we don't need anyone coming in here and harming this country," said Hefnawy, a native of Egypt. "We condemn everything he did because this is not the way of Islam. We are peaceful people."
Edgar Hopida, a spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, attended al-Awlaki's classes at al-Ribat and said nothing he heard prepared him for the violent rhetoric the cleric went on to preach from Yemen. But he opposes the way the U.S. responded.
"Our main concern is with the fact that our government committed an extrajudicial killing on one of its own citizens without due process," Hopida said. "... He was just marked for assassination, which is against our foundation as Americans."
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