Abdul Aziz might have been any harassed businessman, standing behind the counter of this Georgetown jewelry shop yesterday morning, opening mail, answering the phone and filling out a Riggs Bank deposit slip, preparing for business as usual.
Except that Aziz hadn't had much sleep the night before. His father-in-law, Hamaas Abdul Khaalis, was the leader of the Hanafi Muslim men who held scores of persons hostage here for almost two days.
Wednesday evening, in a chilling scene at the Hanafi house on 16th Street NW, flanked by a guard armed with a sword, Aziz himself had predicted to reporters that his father-in-law would chop the heads off the hostages and throw them into the streets if his demands were not met. Aziz then declared his support for Khaalis.
Yeesterday, however, Aziz politely told a long-haired customer in blue jeans who was leading a doberman on a leash, "No pets, please."
Wearing a brown corduroy sports jacket, goldrimmed glasses and a disarming smile, Aziz said he felt "too sleepy to be articulate" about the events that had preceded his father-in-law's peaceful surrender of the hostages early yesterday morning.
But he talked about them anyway, up to a point, his conversation veering casually from the rhetoric of the Islamic cause to the pop slang of an entrepreneur who has earrings to sell.
"Do I look like a terrorist?" he chuckled, and shook his head.
"The main point is that the Muslim ambassadors listened to Hamaas," Aziz said. "The ambassadors didn't really influence his decision (ti release the hostages and surrender). They just gave support. He (Khaalis) had already made up his mind. And he has always been a man of his word."
The ambassadors of Egypt, Iran and Pakistan, who helped negotiate the release of the hostages during the early hours of Thursday morning, "told Hamaas they were glad somebody was finally standing up for Islam," Aziz said.
Asked if he is prejudiced against the Jewish poeople, Aziz said, "Ridiculous. I don't hate anybody." THen he thought for a minute and added, "I don't hate anybody, but Islam has open and declared enemies. You can check that out."
He said he didn't want to say anything that would jeopardize his father-in-lwa's legal position. "Of course I'm worried about him," he said.
He said Khaalis had "gone out for a drive this morning. He wanted to get out for a while.
"Somebody asked me, dedn't I feel nervous, being here this morning," Aziz said. "I told them I feel the same. I feel the same about people, the dame about respect for people."
He said that there are a lot of people around the world who have respect for his father-in-law, though the public may not realize it. "Some people feel he is the Khalifa (leader)."
Aziz paused to finish up his bank slip. "Hey, what's the date today?" he asked a friend who was busy polishing the display casws with Windex.
"THe 11th? Already?" Aziz shook his head. He had missed two days of business, his shop closed, during his father-in-law's campaign of terror. THe mail had piled up. Bills to be paid.
The shop, called "Aram," is located at 1226 Wisconsin Ave. MW, in a mall featuring several hip bouteques.
The merchandise in Aziz's shop includes handcrafted silver and gold jewelry and archeological "objets d'art" from the Middle East, some identified with small handwritten notes: "Eye of Horus; 18th Dynasty, Egypt. Blue Patience, $1,100.00."
His father-in-law "set the whole thing up," Aziz said. "People cime here from all over the world, and sometimes they tell me I have the finest shop in Geirgetown."
Of the qntiques in the display cases, he said, "they huilt things to last in those days, just as the truth is something that has lasted since the beginning."
He answered the phone and told whoever was on the other end of the line: "If you want to support me, man, come over here and buy some earrings."
He refused to talk specifically about his feelings concerning the use of terrorism in the service of his cause, or about the involvement of innocent people, of about his own background.
Aziz expressed concern that his presence at shop not be widely publicized. "I don't want a lot of publicity. I have a family to support, and I just want to go about my business now."