A man who shot up a Connecticut mosque has had a change of heart. Ted A. Hakey Jr. said he was afraid of his Muslim neighbors, and that fear led him to hatred.
That hatred was so intense that while he was drinking heavily one November night last year, he shot up a mosque next to his home.
But now Hakey has faced his fears of the perceived “other” and asked for forgiveness from members of Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque. He has apologized for the fear and pain he brought to them.
“I was drinking that night more than I probably should have been,” he said to over 50 members of the mosque, as well as guests who came out to the symposium titled “True Islam and the Extremists” at the mosque, to hear the moving testimony of reconciliation and forgiveness.
“As a neighbor, I did have fears, but fear is always when you don’t know something. The unknown is what you are always afraid of. I wish I had come knocked on your door, and if I spent five minutes with you, it would have made all the difference in the world. And I didn’t do that,” he said.
The mosque’s motto is “Love for all, hatred for none.”
It has now lived up to its name by forgiving Hakey as soon as he told them how sorry he is.
“We don’t just follow it, we follow it and practice it in all we do,” Wajid Danish Ahmed, youth director of the community said.
No one was injured in the shooting, as the mosque was unoccupied at the time of night.
Hakey said he never meant to hurt anyone.
He pleaded guilty in federal court back in February to intentional destruction of religious property. That’s a federal hate crime. He now faces eight to 14 months in prison when he is sentenced in May, but many in the community say it is unnecessary, as long as restitution is made, as they forgive him and no one was hurt.
Dr. Mohammed Qureshi, president of the Meriden mosque, explained that the community invited Hakey to a meeting several weeks ago.
They explained that it was “very emotional.”
“We all had tears, and words cannot express that,” Qureshi recalled. “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 said he was going through a “tough time,” when the shooting took place. Though he wished to make it clear that he was not trying to make an excuse for his behavior.
“It went against everything I stand for,” the former Marine said, before also apologizing to the Marine Corps. “After this happened, I begged the FBI to let me come over and apologize. I read in the papers where [mosque members] weren’t going to be afraid and keep worshipping. I feel God is very proud of your whole congregation for that. You all stood up and you came. I just ask for your forgiveness.”
Hakey said he felt “overwhelming kindness” from the community, and explained he could not have been more wrong about Muslims.
Sana Shah of Middletown, a member of the mosque, explained that it’s “all about forgiveness.
“God will forgive you,” she explained. “Reconciliation will bring peace and harmony. I felt compassion for him when he said he didn’t mean it. He has asked for forgiveness.”
The fear that led to this man’s anger was quickly dispelled by education and actual contact with his Muslim neighbors. Pass it on to let everyone know that when willing to see the truth, ignorance vanishes as shadows disappear when exposed to light!