After speaking with Omar, I contacted the FBI again to let them know that Omar had been watching Awlaki’s tapes. He hadn’t committed any acts of violence and wasn’t planning any, as far as I knew. And I thought he probably wouldn’t, because he didn’t 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 apparently they 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 father’s house in January. We talked about the presidential election and debated our views of the candidates that were running – 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 he’d taken with his father to Orlando the previous weekend. He’d been impressed by the local mosque.
What happened next is well-known. We’re still in shock. We’re totally against what he did, and we feel the deepest sadness for the victims and their families. If you don’t agree with someone, you don’t have the right to kill them. We are taught to be kind to all of God’s creation. Islam is very strict about killing: Even in war – to say nothing of peace – you cannot harm women, children, the elderly, the sick, clergymen, or even plants. You can’t mutilate dead bodies. You can’t destroy buildings, especially churches or temples. You can’t force anyone to accept Islam. “If anyone slew one person, it would be as if he killed the whole of humanity,” 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 don’t agree with every government policy (I think there’s too much money in politics, for instance), but I’m 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 – a place where getting a job is about what you know, not who you know. It’s 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.