September 30th, 2011
05:33 PM ET
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Falls Church, Virginia (CNN)– Worshippers hurried by a host of cameras and reporters on their way to Friday prayers at the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center. Many of those who stopped to ask about the gaggle of media found out for the first time American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who once stood in their pulpit, had been killed Friday by a CIA drone strike in Yemen.
“I think he should have gotten a proper burial as a Muslim, but as a human being I don’t think he was right for his mentality and his morality,” said Jouwad Syed, who recently started attending the Dar Al Hijrah Islamic Center.
“In a way, we’re not glad that he’s dead. At the same token, it’s helpful. We’re trying to clear our name. There’s crazy people everywhere you go in different religions. He’s just one of the few and he definitely doesn’t represent what Islam is all about,” Syed said.
Al-Awlaki was the imam at Al-Hijarh from January 2001 until 2002, when he left the United States for London before eventually resettling in Yemen. While he was in the States he preached to and interacted with three of the September 11, 2001, hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report, but he publicly condemned the attack afterward.
“While employed at Dar Al-Hijrah, he was known for his interfaith outreach, civic engagement, and tolerance in the Northern Virginia community,” Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, the current leader of the mosque said in a written statement. “However, after Mr. Al-Awlaki’s departure in 2002, he was arrested by Yemeni authorities and allegedly tortured. It was then that Al-Awlaki began preaching violence.”
His ability to speak English and communicate the positions of al-Queda drew al-Awlaki the nickname “the bin Laden of the Internet.”
“Al-Awlaki will no longer spread his hate speech over the Internet to Muslim youth provoking them to engage in violence against Americans. We reiterate that as an American faith community we do not accept violence nor extremism and recommit ourselves to our message living our faith in peace, tolerance, and the promotion of the public good,” Abdul-Malik continued.
“Some one that’s not in line with Islam; you gotta break away from them,” said Monsoor Rashid, who works for the Army National Guard as a civilian contractor and was on his way into the mosque for noonday prayers.
“Actions of some folks who go to this mosque don’t represent what the mosque is all about. I live in the area, born and raised in America. We don’t obviously feel the same way he did or any of the other terrorists,” Rashid said.
While the mosque has condemned the actions and statements of al-Awlaki, who helped recruit a Nigerian man who tried to blow up a plane in Detroit in 2009 using an underwear bomb, they also expressed their displeasure with manner of his killing.
“We must also add that in previous statements we have rejected the use of extrajudicial assassination of any human being and especially an American citizen which includes Al-Awlaki. We reiterate our commitment to 'due process under law' and justice and are concerned that the alleged drone attack sends the wrong message to law abiding people around the world,” Abdul-Malik’s statement read.
“I would have preferred that he had suffered life in prison. If he’s dead, he’s dead. He didn’t really get to suffer,” Syed said.
Arsalan Iftikhar, the managing editor of the Crescent Post and author of Islamic Pacifism said, “There might be people who might not have fully agreed with the methodology used but I think there are very few people in the Muslim community who are going to lose any sleep at all over the death of Anwar al-Awlaki. If anything he was a stain on the community, both here domestically and globally.”
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.