By Colby Itkowitz
Ted Hakey, a former Marine, knelt in prayer, his forehead on the floor, beside his Muslim neighbors inside their Connecticut mosque last Saturday. The enormity of that gesture was lost on no one.
It was only several months earlier, on the night of the terror attacks in Paris, when Hakey, 48, went to a local bar and downed 10 drinks. In the early morning, he went home, drank some more and loaded his 9mm handgun and an M14 rifle. He went into his yard and fired rounds at the side of the mosque next door.
His Facebook page was laden with vile anti-Muslim hate speech. Text messages with friends, obtained by law enforcement, showed the same. In one post, he noted living next to a mosque and keeping watch on them with “binos” (presumably, binoculars). In another, he wrote, “Is Muslim season open yet? I’m in a target rich environment.”
But rather than hate him back, Dr. Mohammed Qureshi, president of the Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque, wished he had been a better neighbor by making an effort to get to know Hakey and his wife. Perhaps then, he reasoned, Hakey would not have harbored so much anger.
So, five months after Hakey’s bullets were found inside near the prayer area, Qureshi invited him to an event at the mosque, titled “True Islam and the Extremists.” When the Hakeys arrived, the congregants welcomed them without judgment. Hakey tearfully apologized for the pain he caused them.
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