It's an odd couple that only came together when the apps were closed and the conversation flowed.
Former Marine, Ted Hakey Jr., is close friends with local mosque leader, Zahir Mannan. Hakey says his friendship with Mannan is so tight he tells him secrets he won’t even discuss with some of his other closest friends.
But these two definitely weren’t always this close. In fact, before they’d met, and just a day after the Paris attacks, an intoxicated Hakey shot 30 bullets into the mosque Mannan belonged to in Meriden, CT. Luckily, it was the middle of the night and no one was in the mosque.
Before his sentencing, he asked to meet the mosque leaders to apologize. Their willingness to meet him without negative judgment and their willingness to listen completely shifted Hakey’s perspective on this community he, up until then, knew almost nothing about.
— Wajid Danish Ahmed (@CTMuslims4Peace) July 31, 2016
Mannan visited Hakey every other week in prison and even gifted Hakey his grandfather’s Quran. Now released, Hakey enjoys reading about Islam and having discussions with Mannan about it.
Every week the mosque invites the public in for coffee, cake, and conversation. Hakey encourages his community to join in. “I feel that I owe them just to get it out there so that people don’t make the same mistake that I did,” Hakey told NBC Connecticut.
This story gets us all wondering: Can we avoid the negative starts and head straight to the friendships in the future?
Hakey said his negative view of Islam stemmed from social media. Each day he was exposed to anti-Muslim rhetoric and, regrettably, a lot of it stuck. One of many ways we can help shift this is to make sure social media is full of positive stories about people of all backgrounds. And if a local venue or religious space offers up their version of ‘coffee, cake, and conversation’ – go.
Step one – hit share. Cheers.