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Man who reported Omar Mateen to the FBI mourns lives destroyed

Mohammed Malik, a Muslim, was reading the Bible of all things the other day.

There was a passage in Matthew 6:16 about not making a big show of fasting, as its benefits are to be between a believer and God. The rewards of fasting this way, Malik said in his Port St. Lucie home an hour before he broke his Ramadan fast Wednesday, are infinite — even compared to the tenfold increase his Islamic faith ascribes to every good deed.

Bad deeds, on the other hand, stand alone with no multiplier, Malik said.

A doleful expression crossed his face and the lesson in spiritual mathematics took a dark turn as he contemplated the legacy of Omar Mateen, the young man he tried to take under his wing years before Mateen killed 49 people and wounded dozens more June 12 at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub.

“It’s going to be a bad one, a very bad one, he will not be remembered well,” Malik said. “I’m sure that there are more lives destroyed because of this that we don’t know about yet.”

Malik, whose family emigrated to America from Pakistan in 1979, wrote an opinion piece published Monday in The Washington Post and the Treasure Coast newspapers. In it, he took credit for telling the FBI to watch Mateen. His tip came in 2014, when Malik said Mateen made alarming statements after one-time fellow mosque member Moner Abu-Salha’s suicide bomb attack in Syria.

Malik, who also had conversations with Abu-Salha, said he shared his story for two reasons. Coming forward, he said, proved presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wrong about his claims that other Muslims knew Mateen was “bad” and failed to tell authorities.

But he also came forward, he said, to show others a view of Islam that belies the image spread by the actions of Mateen and other terrorists.

In Mateen’s case especially, Malik said, it all seemed so confusing. Reports he has read since June 12 have the 29-year-old pledging allegiance to ISIS, al-Qaida and Hezbollah — all groups with principles that contradict one another.

And in conversations with Mateen, Malik said the security guard seemed most upset at local racism against Muslims and other minority groups, making it inexplicable that he would drive more than 90 minutes to deliver his deadly statement.

No, there was nothing to indicate Mateen was gay, homophobic, or had any opinion on homosexuality at all, Malik said. On the contrary, the most awkward aspect of their years-long friendship was that Mateen had a bad habit of texting Malik sexually explicit comments about women — so much so that Malik suspected that both Mateen’s first marriage to Sitora Yusufiy in 2009 and his second to Noor Salman were made primarily to satisfy his sexual appetite.

Even speaking in general about those text messages made Malik blush in an interview with a female reporter, just as the messages unnerved him at the time.

“It was about as uncomfortable as talking about it with you now,” he said. “In our culture, even among men, we don’t speak about such things. I just took it as immaturity.”

It’s the same feeling Malik had about Mateen’s temper flare-up years ago, when the imam admonished Mateen about wearing sweatpants that showed his backside when he bent over for prayer. Others had complained to the imam about the display, Malik said, but Mateen was livid at the correction.

“He came up to me and said ‘Can you believe this guy said that to me?’ I told him that he (the imam) was just trying to help him,” Malik said.

Now he surmises that the explosive anger may have been a symptom of steroid use. Steroids may explain reports that Mateen beat his wives as well, he said, although Malik’s also conceded: “I hate to say this, but he wasn’t the brightest guy.”

As for what led Malik to give Mateen’s name to the FBI, he said he became alarmed when he told Mateen that Abu-Salha had followed the teachings of Anwar al-Awlaki, only to have Mateen inform him that he had watched the radical Muslim cleric’s videos as well and found them to be “very powerful.”

“Once someone tells you something like that, you don’t need to hear anything else they say after that,” Malik said, calling the statement a “red flag.”

Malik said he doesn’t believe Mateen ever knew who turned him in. He remained in intermittent contact with Mateen until they last saw one another in January at a dinner.

Then came the attacks, considered the most lethal by a single gunman in modern U.S. history. It came as no surprise to Malik that Mateen’s family had to go to as far south as Miami to find a cemetery willing to bury his remains. The Port St. Lucie News Tribune reported Wednesday that Mateen was buried at the Muslim Cemetery of South Florida in Hialeah Gardens.

By Wednesday, Malik’s opinion piece had drawn nearly 4,000 comments on The Washington Post website and about a dozen on the Treasure Coast. The response, he said, disheartened him about racism seen in some of the local comments and encouraged him about the more positive views captured on The Post’s site.

He has asked every reporter who has interviewed him since then to encourage readers to visit their local Islamic center around sunset, when they will be greeted with a meal and warm conversation.

“Redemptive? I wouldn’t say it’s that,” he said of the commentary. “I would just say it’s a step in the right direction.”

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