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Orlando Imam: Mateens Were ‘More Aligned with America Than Us’

The imam of the Islamic Center of Fort Pierce, where the Orlando terrorist prayed, has said that Omar Mateen had been “very aggressive” as a child, but his family “was very pro-American, that they were maybe more aligned with American [sic] than us.”

The odd statement raises new questions about how Mateen became radicalized. The Fort Pierce mosque is the same one that the first American suicide bomber in Syria, Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha, had attended. That connection, along with some of Mateen’s own statements, had raised flags for the FBI, which investigated Mateen but dropped inquiries for lack of evidence.

Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman told the UK Telegraph that he believed Mateen had outgrown his youthful aggression as he became an adult. He thought Mateen’s job as a security guard and interest in the police meant he had moved in the opposite direction, both ideologically and temperamentally, and believed that Mateen could help improve security in the community.

When he was a kid at the Mosque he used to run here and run there and make a lot of problems. Since he was adult, we don’t have any problem with him in the mosque. He just comes quietly, prays, and leaves … He was quiet in the mosque which was good. Because of the muscular thing and the rumours here and there that he was very aggressive,” Imam Rahman said.

The imam also denied that the mosque taught extremism: “This is nothing that the Mosque is teaching them … They get it from the Internet. “It is not written in the religion that you go and kill 50 people in the middle of the night. So if he blames religion for it, he has to explain it — where do you get it from? … For the two percent [of Muslims] that are radical, their proportion is increasing because of the Internet and the reactions to these things,” Imam Rahman told the Telegraph.

Recent opinion surveys in the Muslim world indicate support for Islamic State reaching as high as 20% in some countries.

As of Tuesday morning, the mosque’s website was down, but the congregation’s Facebook site featured a message in reaction to the killings in Orlando:

We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community of Fort Pierce joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new e-book, Leadership Secrets of the Kings and Prophets: What the Bible’s Struggles Teach Us About Today, is on sale through Amazon Kindle Direct. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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