Omar Mateen To The FBI. Trump Is Wrong That Muslims
Donít Do Our Part.
We love America, too, and we're horrified by what
our neighbor did.
By Mohammed A. Malik
Malik, a man who knew Omar Mateen for
over 10 years, explains his decision to
report him to the FBI in 2014 and why
Donald Trump is wrong about Muslims not
cooperating with authorities. (Adriana
Usero/The Washington Post)
- Donald Trump believes American Muslims are hiding
something. ďThey know whatís going on. They know
that [Omar Mateen] was bad,Ē he
said after the Orlando massacre. ďThey have to
cooperate with law enforcement and turn in the
people who they know are bad. Ö But you know what?
They didnít turn them in. And you know what? We had
death and destruction.Ē
a common idea in the United States. Itís also a
lie. First, Muslims like me canít see into the
hearts of other worshipers. (Do you know the hidden
depths of everyone in your community?)
Second, Trump is wrong that we donít speak up when
I know this firsthand: I was the one who told the
FBI about Omar Mateen.
I met Omar for the first time in 2006 at an
meal at my brother-in-lawís house. As the women,
including his mother and sisters, chatted in the
living room, I sat with the men on the patio and got
to know him and his father. Omar broke his Ramadan
fast with a protein shake. He was quiet ó then and
always ó and let his dad do the talking.
Iíd seen them before at the oldest mosque in the
area, the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce. We have a
lot of immigrants in our community. They grew up in
other countries, often with different sensibilities.
A few donít understand American culture, and they
struggle to connect with their American-born or
I came here from Pakistan in 1979 when I was 6
years old, grew up in Queens (like Omar) and Fort
Lauderdale, went through the American education
system, and assimilated well. So I was able to make
better inroads with young people in our community,
including that introverted teenager I met at the
iftar. I tried to stay in touch with the younger
generation, acting as a mentor when I could.
his speech after the Orlando mass
shooting, Republican presidential
candidate Donald Trump said that Muslims
"have to cooperate with law enforcement
and turn in the people who they know are
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
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.
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 Ė 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, Iíve 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 Ė Muslim or otherwise (charity
is a pillar of Islam). He agreed, but was always
very worked up about this injustice.
the summer of 2014, something traumatic happened for
our community. A boy from our local mosque, Moner
Mohammad Abu-Salha, was 22 when he became the first
American-born suicide bomber, driving a truck full
of explosives into a government office in Syria.
Heíd traveled there and joined a group affiliated
the previous year. We had all known Moner; he
was jovial and easygoing, the opposite of Omar.
According to a posthumous video released that
summer, he had clearly self-radicalized Ė and had
also done so
by listening to the lectures of Anwar al-Awlaki,
the charismatic Yemen-based imam who helped
radicalize several Muslims, including the Fort Hood
shooter. Everyone in the area was shocked and upset.
We hate violence and were horrified that one of our
number could have killed so many. (After an earlier
training mission to Syria, heíd tried to recruit a
few Florida friends to the cause. They
told the FBI about him.)
after Monerís attack, news reports said that
American officials didnít know anything about him; I
read that they were looking for people to give them
some background. So I called the FBI and offered to
tell investigators a bit about the young man. It
wasnít much Ė we hadnít been close Ė but Iím an
American Muslim, and I wanted to do my part. I
didnít want another act like that to happen. I
didnít want more innocent people to die. Agents
asked me if there were any other local kids who
might resort to violence in the name of Islam. No
names sprang to mind.
talk with the FBI, I spoke to people in the Islamic
community, including Omar, about Monerís attack. I
wondered how he could have radicalized. Both Omar
and I attended the same mosque as Moner, and the
imam never taught hate or radicalism. Thatís when
Omar told me he had been watching videos of Awlaki,
too, which immediately raised red flags for me. He
told me the videos were very powerful.
speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let
them know that Omar had been watching Awlakiís
tapes. He hadnít committed any acts of violence and
wasnít planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought
he probably wouldnít, because he didnít 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
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
fatherís house in January. We talked about the
presidential election and debated our views of the
candidates that were running Ė 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 heíd taken
with his father to Orlando the previous weekend.
Heíd been impressed by the local mosque.
happened next is well-known. Weíre still in shock.
Weíre totally against what he did, and we feel the
deepest sadness for the victims and their families.
If you donít agree with someone, you donít have the
right to kill them. We are taught to be kind to all
of Godís creation. Islam is very strict about
killing: Even in war Ė to say nothing of
peace Ė you cannot harm women, children, the
elderly, the sick, clergymen, or even plants. You
canít mutilate dead bodies. You canít destroy
buildings, especially churches or temples. You canít
force anyone to accept Islam. ďIf anyone slew one
person, it would be as if he killed the whole of
humanity,Ē says the Koran.
I had told
the FBI about Omar because my community, and Muslims
generally, have nothing to hide. I love this
country, like most Muslims that I know. I donít
agree with every government policy (I think thereís
too much money in politics, for instance), but Iím
proud to be an American. I vote. I volunteer. I
teach my children to treat all people kindly. Our
families came here because it is full of opportunity
Ė a place where getting a job is about what you
know, not who you know. Itís a better country to
raise children than someplace where the electricity
is out for 18 hours a day, where politicians are
totally corrupt, or where the leader is a dictator.
so much suspicion of Islam here. The local paper
published an unsigned editorial called ďLeave
our peaceful Muslim neighbors alone,Ē and
the comments were full of hateful lies Ė that
the Boston bombers had visited the area, that the
Sept. 11 bombers came from here, that we were a
hotbed of violent ideology. None of this is true.
Donald Trump didnít create these attitudes, but he
plays on them and amplifies them.
I am not
the first American Muslim to report on someone;
people who do that simply donít like to announce
themselves in to the media. For my part, Iím not
looking for personal accolades. Iím just tired of
negative rhetoric and ignorant comments about my
faith. Trumpís assertions about our community Ė that
we have the ability to help our country but have
simply declined to do so Ė are tragic, ugly and
note: A federal law enforcement official confirmed
the authorís cooperation to The Washington Post.]