The day after Omar Mateen entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., shooting and killing 49 while wounding 53 others, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said American Muslims needed to do more to root out Islamic radicals within their midst.
One Muslim, however, says that's exactly what he did.
Mohammed A. Malik, who says he attended the same mosque as Mateen, wrote in a first-person op-ed for The Washington Post that he turned the would-be mass murderer in to the FBI. He said Trump is wrong, Muslims do "do their part," and they "love America, too."
Malik said he met Mateen in 2006 at a social gathering at his brother-in-law's house. As a member of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce who mentored to many of the immigrant sons in the mosque, he also reached out to the young man, who he said was often reserved:
I saw Omar from time to time over the next decade, and we developed a relationship because most of the other Muslim kids in his age group went elsewhere for college, and he stayed behind. We mostly spoke over the phone or texted with one another a half-dozen times per year. We talked about the lack of social programs at the mosque, especially for teens and young adults like him. I often played pranks on him. Once, around 2009, I attached LED lights to the tires of his car, so when he drove the wheels glowed neon. He laughed when he figured it out a few days later.
Soon after Omar married and moved to his own home, he began to come to the mosque more often. Then he went on a religious trip to Saudi Arabia. There was nothing to indicate that he had a dark side, even when he and his first wife divorced.
But as news reports this week have made clear, Omar did have a dark outlook on life. Partly, he was upset at what he saw as racism in the United States – against Muslims and others. When he worked as a security guard at the St. Lucie County Courthouse, he told me visitors often made nasty or bigoted remarks to him about Islam. He overheard people saying ugly things about African Americans, too. Since Sept. 11, I've thought the only way to answer Islamophobia was to be polite and kind; the best way to counter all the negativity people were seeing on TV about Islam was by showing them the opposite. I urged Omar to volunteer and help people in need – Muslim or otherwise (charity is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always very worked up about this injustice.
After another young man in the mosque joined al-Qaida and blew up a government office in Syria, Malik said he came forward to FBI to tell them what he knew about the young man. He soon after learned that Mateen had also begun to self-radicalize, so he reported that to the FBI, as well.
He hadn't committed any acts of violence and wasn't planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn't, because he didn't fit the profile: He already had a second wife and a son. But it was something agents should keep their eyes on. I never heard from them about Omar again, but apparently they did their job: They looked into him and, finding nothing to go on, they closed the file.
Omar and I continued to have infrequent conversations over the next few years. I last saw him at a dinner at his father's house in January. We talked about the presidential election and debated our views of the candidates that were running – he liked Hillary Clinton and I liked Bernie Sanders. This banter continued through texts and phone calls for several months. My last conversation with Omar was by phone in mid-May. He called me while he was at the beach with his son to tell me about a vacation he'd taken with his father to Orlando the previous weekend. He'd been impressed by the local mosque.
What happened next is well-known. We're still in shock. We're totally against what he did, and we feel the deepest sadness for the victims and their families. If you don't agree with someone, you don't have the right to kill them.
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