Asim Abdur Rashid, imam of Masjid Mujahideen on south 60th Street in West Philadelphia, said he was stunned Friday when his son called and said that someone near the mosque shot a police officer in the name of Islam.
"I said, 'What?' " Rashid recalled Sunday.
Friday afternoon, Rashid denounced the shooting and said he did not know the gunman, whom police identified as Edward Archer, 30, of Philadelphia and Yeadon.
A few hours later, members of the masjid set Rashid straight by citing Archer's Muslim name.
"We called him Abdul Shaheed . . . Abdul means 'servant,' and Shaheed means 'the witness,' " Rashid said. "He was a frequent member of the masjid. But I did not know him as Archer. And I did not recognize his picture. We don't call each other by the names we had before we converted to Islam."
In an interview Sunday, Rashid went on to explain Archer's role at the mosque:
"He was no companion of mine. He attended certain affairs that we had. He organized touch football teams in the community. That was the extent of it."
Typically, for the most important prayer of the week, said Rashid, Masjid Mujahideen gets 150 to 200 worshipers.
Rashid said he was interviewed Friday by the FBI in its effort to learn more about Archer's background and associates.
The investigation took on added urgency Saturday after a tipster told police that Archer is associated with three men who may share his "radical" beliefs and constitute a continuing threat to police.
"The mosque is a public place. People come and go. Whoever he hung with of his age group I wouldn't know," said Rashid.
"He was one of the younger guys," said Rashid, who is 64. "I don't allow foolish talk around the mosque. Whatever his opinions were, it was not something that permeated around the mosque."
Rashid said he told investigators all he knows: That Archer made the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, and at some point went to Egypt to study Arabic.
"He stayed there six months to a year, with his wife, and came back," said Rashid. He said the wife, whom he did not identify, is not a member of Masjid Mujahideen.
Does the imam care that the tipster, whose name investigators are withholding, said the imam "was lying" when he said [Archer] had no association" with his mosque?
"I care," said Rashid, "But people who listened to what I said know I was being as accurate as I could possibly be."