After thousands of Jordanians took to the streets of their capital yesterday to protest hotel bombings that killed 59 people there, Muslims gathered in Falls Church last night to offer condolences to two local families that lost at least 17 relatives in the attacks.
As men filed in to the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center for evening prayers, many embraced Allam Hwail and Allam Al-Alami, Palestinian Jordanians who have known each other for years. It wasn't until yesterday that they realized that they both were related to the families that had gathered Wednesday at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman for a wedding.
Relatives had traveled from Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, France and the Netherlands Antilles to attend the wedding. But as guests were entering the ballroom, a suicide bomber detonated explosives in the crowd.
"My second cousin . . . my dad's first cousin," said Allam Hwail, 37, reeling off some of the relatives who were killed -- including an uncle, the father of the groom.
Addressing more than 200 worshipers last night at the Falls Church mosque, Sheikh Shaker Elsayed said: "Brother Al-Alami and Brother Hwail lost 17 members of their family through . . . this senseless act -- people who did nothing but go about celebrating the wedding of their son and daughter."
Hwail, a furniture store manager who lives in Vienna with his wife and daughter, said he recognized his sister Iman, 39, on al-Jazeera on Wednesday and saw that she had facial wounds. Later, he learned that she had a serious neck injury.
"She's still alive, but she's in the hospital," he said. "They called me today and said she just opened her eyes. She talked to my mom."
"My sister, I love her," he said. "I love her to death, and if something happened to her, I'd be really . . . " He went silent and began to sob.
Allam Al-Alami, 43, said a first cousin, the father of the bride, had been killed, along with three other relatives. "In terms of cousins, we were close," he said. "Every summer, we meet, we see family, we exchange e-mails."
Al-Alami, a civil engineer and father of three who lives in the Dunn Loring section of Fairfax County, said the bombing had been a shock."My cell phone didn't stop ringing," he said. "People are saying, 'We were surfing [channels], and we heard this is an Alami wedding. Is there any relation?' and I said, 'Unfortunately, yes.' "
Al-Alami said he and Hwail met years ago at Friday prayers at the mosque and sometimes play volleyball or go to Starbucks together. When they learned they had both suffered family losses, they decided to accept condolences from the community together.
Holding a photograph of his sister, Hwail pointed at the scarf on her head. "She is wearing hijab," he said. "So many were wearing hijab [at the wedding]. I don't know how, whoever did it, how he felt when he saw kids and families there."
Addressing men from Africa, the Middle East and beyond, some with knit caps and beards, Elsayed said Islam does not condone the killing of innocents.
"It is like killing the entire humanity," he said.
After prayers, the Jordanian ambassador to the United States, Karim Kawar, arrived to offer condolences. Calling the attack "barbaric and subhuman," he said the bomber had "turned a wedding and celebration of life into a bloodbath."
Hwail said Muslims in this country echo the sentiments of Jordanians who are protesting the attacks. "Hopefully," he said, "God will take revenge on the people who would do something like this."
He added: "Terrorists, they don't discriminate between Muslims and non-Muslims. If you're not with them, you're against them."
Iman Hwail was injured in the wedding bombing.