Local mosque cancels Eid celebrations, devastating suspect’s father

The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga (ISGC), where reportedly the suspect in the fatal shootings of four Marines in Tennessee worshipped, canceled all activities to celebrate Eid – the father of the suspect tells ISGC president he’s devastated.

CHATTANOOGA, TENNESSEE, UNITED STATES (JULY 17, 2015) (REUTERS) – The Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, where the New York Times says the suspect in the fatal shootings of four Marines in Tennessee and his family worshipped, canceled all activities to celebrate Eid on Friday (July 17) marking the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, according to its website, and a note taped to mosque door.

“We condemn this act in the strongest possible terms as one of cowardice and hate,” Bassam Issa, the society’s president, said in a statement.

Mohammed Youssuf Abdulazeez, 24, who the FBI identified as the shooter, died on Thursday after he killed the Marines and wounded three other people in a rampage at two military facilities in Chattanooga.

“We’re shocked. We’re overwhelmed with sadness. This is no time for festive activities,” Issa told Reuters News. “We asked the community, what do you feel? And we got the indication that they said we are not celebrating.”

Issa said Abdulazeez’s father called him once after the shooting rampage to apologized for his son’s actions.

“He is as shocked as we are. He was in the dark on what his son has done. He’s very devastated,” says Issa. “He actually apologized for what his son did to the community at large and to the Muslim community.”

Abdulazeez, who grew up in a Chattanooga suburb and studied engineering at a local university, is believed to have traveled to the Middle East, where his family has roots, between April and November 2014, according to one of the sources, who was not authorized to speak on the record.

His father, Youssuf Abdulazeez, who attended Texas A&M University and comes from Nablus, on the West Bank, according to his Facebook page, appears to be a high achiever. He worked since at least 2005 as a soil engineering specialist for Chattanooga city’s public work’s department, according to public records. A 2005 city resolution authorized the father as an unarmed policeman as part of his work.

The suspect appears to have been following in his father’s footsteps, at least in terms of his occupational pursuits. According to a resume believed to have been posted online by Abdulazeez, he attended high school in a Chattanooga suburb and graduated from the University of Tennessee in 2012 with an engineering degree. His work experience includes an internship with the Tennessee Valley Authority, a regional power utility.

Years ago, the father came under investigation by a Joint Terrorism Task Force for possible connections to a militant group, the second source said, but he was cleared of any association with terrorism or wrongdoing. It is possible but not certain that the probe resulted in the father’s name being placed on a terrorist watch list, according to that source.

Abdulazeez, who was raised as a Muslim, was scheduled to appear in court on a charge of driving under the influence in July, according to media reports.

He was arrested in April after his car was seen weaving between lanes. The arrest report said Abdulazeez smelled of alcohol and marijuana and was unsteady on his feet.

The SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks extremist groups, said Abdulazeez blogged on Monday “life is short and bitter” and that Muslims should not miss an opportunity to “submit to Allah.” Reuters could not independently verify the postings.

Law enforcement officials have said they are investigating whether Abdulazeez was inspired by Islamic State or similar militant groups. Islamic State had threatened to step up violence in the holy fasting month of Ramadan, which ends on Friday evening.

A community gathering will take place at 5:30 p.m. (2230 GMT) on Friday at Olivet Baptist Church in Chattanooga. The Islamic Society said on its website that it was “vital, crucial and essential” that all Muslims in the area attend the event.