The gunfire that ended Ouadii Souliman’s life sent fear ricocheting across the Muslim society that worships in Arabic at Al Aqsa Mosque on the gentrifying border between Northern Liberties and Fishtown.
The brutality shocked congregants. The seeming incongruity of Souliman’s fate grips them still.
“This guy was innocent. He’s not an animal. You can’t kill him like this. It’s not right,” said Algerian-born Ismail Bouzid, making a sandwich last week in his shop across the street.
Gunned down at the mosque door two Sundays ago as he awaited the dawn call to prayer, Moroccan-born Souliman, 33, left behind a wife, 30-year-old Asmae, who had arrived in the United States only one week earlier to be with him.
Married in Morocco in 2006, the couple lived apart while Souliman arranged for his bride to join him. He came to America in 2000 after winning a visa in the immigrant green-card lottery. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen two years ago.
But now, instead of starting life with him in a new land, Asmae had to escort his shroud-covered body back to Morocco for burial.
Worshippers said they were moved to tears when they saw news footage of Asmae’s hands, still stained with henna from her celebratory send-off to America.
Beyond the poignancy of the circumstances, Souliman’s death had congregants worried as well: Was his killing an act of hatred against Islam?
“When something like this happens in front of a mosque, it gives you a question mark,” said Hassan Loudini, who worships sometimes at Al Aqsa.
“Imagine if a Jew was killed in front of a synagogue in Morocco, or a Christian is killed in front of a church,” he said. “You would wonder if there is a connection.”
Other worshipers speculated that Souliman was targeted because of something he might have witnessed.
Police say they considered those possibilities. But after arresting one 19-year-old man within a day of the killing and issuing a warrant for a second suspect, they concluded that the killing was an attempt to rob the victim that turned deadly.
Philadelphia Homicide Division Capt. Michael Costello said Souliman’s death was “tied to a string of robberies that happened that night.” (MORE)