As droves of Muslims arrived for prayer Friday morning at the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, they spoke with each other about the death one of their former Imams, Anwar al-Awlaki. al-Awlaki, an American-born radical Muslim cleric, was killed in an airstrike Friday in Yemen. He was an Imam at the Islamic center in 2001.
“He’s dead now,” said Wadi Lahrim, a member of the Islamic center. “He’s not here anymore.”
From 2001 to 2002, al-Awlaki served as an Imam at the center, according to a release from Imam Johari Abdul-Malik, director of outreach for the Falls Church-based Islamic center. In the release, he said al-Awlaki was known for his interfaith outreach, civic engagement and tolerance in the Northern Virginia community. According to the American Forces Press Service, al-Awlaki was the leader of al-Qaida in Yemen. According to the Washington Post, al-Awlaki was killed in an airstrike involving unmanned drones. According to the Washington Post, al-Awlaki was believed to have played a role in creating the online-only magazine, whose first issue in July 2010 included an article titled “Making a bomb in the kitchen of your mom.” Abdul-Malik said al-Awlaki was arrested by Yemeni authorities in 2002 and was allegedly tortured while in custody. He said it was then that al-Awlaki started preaching violence.
As hundreds of Muslims left the Islamic center Friday, they spoke of al-Awlaki’s violent influence on impressionable American-Muslims. They said he taught violence through audio tapes recorded in English.
In his statement, Imam Abdul-Malik said al-Awlaki encouraged impressionable American-Muslims to attack their own country. Imam Abdul-Malik said: “al-Awlaki will no longer spread his hate speech over the internet to Muslim youth provoking them to engage in violence against Americans.”
Ez Eldin Diab said he has attended prayer at the center and other area mosques since 1987. He said he never met al-Awlaki personally but knew of him through other people. Diab, a native of Cairo, Egypt and now a resident of Washington, D.C., compared al-Awlaki to Adolf Hitler. He said both men spewed hatred and convinced others to hate.
“I don’t approve of anyone who is against human beings,” Diab said. “Don’t put his beliefs on Islam, there are people everywhere in all religions that have hatred in them.”
Harun Jackson, of Prince George’s County, Md., said Islam teaches him not to speak ill about other Muslims and he would not speak ill of al-Awlaki. He said he didn’t know al-Awlaki personally, but knew of him through recordings. He said al-Awlaki had a strong emphasis on Islam in his recordings and preached for Muslims to love other Muslims.
“He spoke about being dedicated to Islam,” Jackson said. “For that, I agree with him but I do not agree with his stance on violence.”
According to the Washington Post, al-Awlaki was born in New Mexico to Yemeni parents and has been implicated in helping motivate several attacks on U.S. soil.
Lahrim, of Falls Church said now that al-Awlaki is dead, there are many things to ponder. He said there are many questions that may never be answered about the cleric’s decisions.
“We should be asking why he picked the people he picked to teach violence to,” Lahrim said.
Click here to read Imam Johari Abdul-Malik’s full statement.