The Chattanooga mosque where suspected killer Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez attended is paying tribute to the five Marines killed in Thursday’s attack, cancelling a celebration scheduled for the end of Ramadan and instead planning a communitywide tribute meant to stretch across faiths.
Abdulazeez is accused of opening fire on Marines on Thursday, killing four across two separate shootings. A fifth person died on Friday of injuries suffered during the shooting.
The killer was identified as a Kuwaiti national, and while investigators are still parsing out the motives, the leader of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga said the focus is on healing the community, the New York Times reported.
Dr. Azhar S. Sheikh, a founding member of the center’s board, said Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez and his family had attended the Chattanooga mosque. He noted that Mohammod had stopped attending in recent months, adding that he never saw signs of extremism.
Sheikh noted that the Chattanooga mosque does not teach the violent ideology as some of the more extremist Muslim mosques.
“We certainly do not want to be part of that demented ideology,” he said. “That is not the message we preach here. What people do on the Internet or the World Wide Web or in their own homes, we can’t control that.”
There are some clues as to where Abdulazeez may have grown his radical views. The 24-year-old took an extended trip to Jordan and other parts of the Middle East last year, though Reuters noted that the nature of the trip is still unclear.
The mosque was in mourning this week for the Marines killed in the shooting and canceled its Eid al-Fitr celebration, which marks the end of Ramadan. The event draws up to 1,000 people, but Sheikh said it wasn’t right to be celebrating anything this year.
“We have canceled out of respect and remembrance for our fallen Marines,” he said.
Within Chattanooga, the mosque has a reputation of trying to build bridges to other faiths and reaching out to the community. The mosque’s president, Bassam Issa, told the New York Times that members are also active in the community.
“The fact is that this city has been exemplary,” he said. “We have interfaith relations with a lot of churches. We have great communication with law enforcement.”
But other friends at the Chattanooga mosque said they believed Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez was once like the other members, with some at the mosque remembering him as a well-rounded young man who showed no signs of becoming a radical.
[Picture by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]