The Chattanooga mosque where Mohammod Youssuf Abdulazeez, the gunman accused of killing four Marines Thursday, had begun to attend Friday prayers in recent months cancelled celebrations for Eid al-Fitr, the Islamic holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, in response to the fatal shooting. Instead, the mosque urged Muslims to attend a gathering at a local church Friday to honor the victims.
“All Eid celebration activities including Eid Prayer has [sic] been canceled in light of the tragedy,” reads a scrolling banner across the top of the website for the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, which includes the mosque as well as a cultural center. “We condemn this act in the strongest possible terms as one of cowardice and hate. At the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, we don't see our community center as a 'Muslim' community; we are Chattanoogans first, and we see ourselves as part of the larger community of Tennesseans grieving today's act.”
The mosque urged Muslims in the Chattanooga area to attend a “non-religious gathering in remembrance of the victims” Friday evening at a Baptist church in Chattanooga. “It is vital, crucial, and essential that ALL Muslims…attend this event to express our con-solidarity, unity, empathy, and compassion,” and to “united with our neighbors during these tragic times,” the website read.
The mosque was in mourning Thursday night for the four Marines killed in the shooting, the New York Times reported. Dr. Azhar S. Sheikh, a member of the center’s board, said Eid celebrations had been canceled to honor them, as it would have been wrong to hold the Eid celebrations, which 1,000 people ordinarily attend.
"We are tremendously saddened by today's shooting in our home town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Our hearts are with the families of the brave Marines who died today and with the police officer and two bystanders who were shot and injured in this cowardly act,” Bassam Issa, president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, said in a statement posted to the Islamic Society’s website.
Sheikh told the New York Times that Abdulazeez, the accused gunman who also died Thursday, had not shown signs of extremism during his time at the mosque. On its website, the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga describes itself as practicing and promoting Islam in a comprehensive and balanced way.
“We strive to embody the ‘middle path’ to which our scriptures call us, a path of moderation, free of extremism, and representative of the Islamic vision of a healthy community,” it says.