Sat. 7:28 p.m.: Chattanooga Muslims mourning, anxious after shootings
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – As the death toll rose to five, a handful of governors ordered National Guardsmen to take up arms in response to the brazen attacks on two Tennessee military sites.
In Chattanooga, a city that prides itself on strong ties between people of different faiths, some Muslims feared the community’s perception of them had changed after the shooting rampage Thursday. A 24-year-old man and fellow Muslim killed four Marines and wounded three others, including Randall Smith, a sailor from northwest Ohio, who died today from his wounds.
Mohsin Ali, a member of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, said he hoped the local community didn’t dissolve into turmoil the way others have in the region over the building of mosques and other matters. Peaceful coexistence has largely prevailed here.
“We, our kids, feel 100 percent American and Chattanoogan,” said the Pakistani-born Ali, who is a child psychiatrist. “Now they are wondering if that is how people still look at them.”
Valencia Brewer, the wife of a Baptist minister, knows how she’ll try to see Muslims as the days after the horrific shooting turn to weeks.
“I think the way you have to look at it is this was an individual person. You can’t point at all Muslims because of this,” she said.
Ali and Brewer were among more than 1,000 people who attended a memorial service Friday night at a Baptist church for the victims. Ali, one of the speakers, railed against alleged shooter Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez as a “murderer” who committed a “cowardly and cruel” act.
“He shot our Marines and our police officers, shattered the peace of our city, frightened our children,” Ali said. “He destroyed the lives of his whole family. He did his best to spread hatred and division. Disgraceful. And we will not let that endure.”
As FBI agents served a warrant on the Abdulazeez home Thursday, two women wearing Islamic head coverings were seen being led away in handcuffs. But FBI agent Jason Pack said today that no arrests have been made in the case.
Authorities are looking into the shooting as a terrorism investigation and whether Abdulazeez was inspired or directed by any terrorist investigation. They still don’t know what motived Abdulazeez.
The president of the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga said Abdulazeez’s father told him he felt blindsided and did not see any recent changes in his son.
“He told me that he had never seen it coming, and did not see any signs from his son that he would be that way and do something like that,” Bassam Issa said.
Meanwhile, governors in at least a half-dozen states ordered Guardsmen to be armed, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott moved his state’s Guard recruiters from storefronts in urban areas to armories.