“We just want to show them that we love them.”
As a police escort led the funeral procession for Marine Staff Sgt. David Wyatt to the Chattanooga National Cemetery, people in the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga mosque bowed their heads in prayer.
And as thousands lined the streets of Chattanooga to wave American flags, hold signs and salute as the hearse passed them by, a small group of non-Muslims lined the back wall of the prayer room of the mosque to offer support for the local Islamic community. On July 16, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez, 24, from a local Muslim family, fatally shot four Marines at a Navy/Marine operations center and mortally wounded a Navy sailor.
The guests who joined local Muslims for prayers were mainly Baptists, with at least one Presbyterian. They came with their children in tow.
"We just want to show them that we love them," said a Baptist man who asked not to be named.
Three mothers brought their children to show them not to fear what they didn't understand. Their little girls wrapped their hair in bright plaid and flowered scarves as a sign of respect before entering the women's prayer room. The men worship in a separate room, but all can see the imam at the front of the congregation.
"I know we have some visitors today," said the imam, Abdul Baasit.
He didn't mention the shooting during his khutbah, or Islamic sermon. But after offering a reminder for the community to walk humbly with Allah and remember that evil deeds will not go unpunished, he said, "So I wanted to explain some of the basics of Islam."
Babies wailed and forgotten cellphones chimed as Baasit explained who Allah was and what role Jesus has in Islam as an honored prophet.
At the end, a Muslim woman shook hands with the Baptist women and patted the little girls' heads, thanking them for coming. Several of the visitors, who asked that their church not be identified because not everyone was in agreement with them visiting, said they were struck by how similar the service was to the Christian messages they are used to hearing.
The service ended and people began filing out as announcements began.
First there was a reminder about a youth program the center is having.
Then members were asked to give donations for the families of the shooting victims.
Contact Joy Lukachick Smith at jsmith@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6659. Contact Evan Hoopfer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6731.