The mosque where Orlando gunman Omar Mateen worshipped is a small, unassuming building where about 200 regularly attend. It is the former worship center to at least two Islamic terrorists, but the imam insists they didn’t become radicalized there.
Sunday, Omar Mateen single-handedly massacred 49 people and wounded another 53, in the worst mass shooting attack in U.S. history. He was the second terrorist to come forth from the Fort Pierce Islamic Center in Fort Pierce, Florida.
In 2014, another former worshiper of the same mosque, Moner-Muhammad Abu Salha carried out a suicide bombing mission in Syria. Daily Mail reports that Salha is believed to be one of the first Americans to go overseas and carry out such an act. Prior to joining the jihad in Syria, Salha lived in Vero Beach, Florida, and attended Fort Pierce Islamic Center.
While carrying out his slaughter at the nightclub Sunday, Mateen called 911 three times. In the calls, he pledged loyalty to the leader of ISIS, but he also claimed solidarity with Salha, who died as a suicide bomber in Syria for Al-Nursa Front, according to FBI Director James Comey.
The Fort Pierce Imam Syed Shafeeq Rahman said his mosque is not radicalized, and that he has spoken against ISIS.
“The mosque did not radicalize him,” Rahman said. “If something radicalized him, it might be the Internet.”
Rahman said he has known Mateen since he was a young boy, when his family moved there from New York, saying he was energetic as a boy, but quiet as an adult, hardly every staying to socialize after attending prayers, unlike the rest of his family. His parents, three sisters and brothers-in-law all attend the same mosque.
Since the attack, Rahman has called the police for extra protection, as the mosque is receiving threats, and neighbors have started a petition to close it.
Rahman also admitted that the FBI had come to the mosque asking questions during their prior investigations, and he had complied with authorities.