CAIRO – An American citizen who once shot his neighboring mosque in Meriden, Connecticut, has visited his Muslim neighbors’ house of worship, offering apology and opening a new page of relations to bridge gaps.
“I was drinking that night more than I probably should have been,” Ted A. Hakey Jr. told more than 50 members and guests who attended a symposium titled “True Islam and the Extremists” at “House of Peace” Mosque, Hartford Courant reported.
“As a neighbor, I did have fears, but fear is always when you don’t know something. The unknown is what you are always afraid of. I wish I had come knocked on your door, and if I spent five minutes with you, it would have made all the difference in the world. And I didn’t do that.
“Going forward,” he added, “I want to help you bridge that gap and help someone else not make the same mistake I did. … Everything happens for a reason and I believe some good will come out of this.”
Back in November 2015, a heavy drunk Hakey picked up one of his guns and fired several shots at the mosque next to his home.
No one was injured in the incident as the mosque was empty at that time.
Hakey pleaded guilty in federal court in February to intentional destruction of religious property, a federal hate crime. Hakey faces eight to 14 months in prison when sentenced in May.
Facing his fears, he visited the mosque asking for forgiveness which was granted immediately with open hearts.
“We all had tears, and words cannot express that,” Dr. Mohammed Qureshi, president of the Meriden mosque, said.
“We will be better neighbors and what was said that day made a huge difference to us. We greeted and we hugged just like a Muslim neighbor. We know why he did what he did — because he never heard our message. We now see it in his heart and we see it in his eyes.”
Attending the event, Rev. Norm Erlendson, a minister the Third Congregational Church of Middletown, said there will be no peace on Earth until there is peace among religions.
“My faith teaches me the beauty of reconciliation and forgiveness,” Erlendson said.
“We saw a great, beautiful example of that today.”