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Who is 'Mo' Dakhlalla?

 

Muhammad Dakhlalla

Muhammad Dakhlalla

 

 

Andrew Hazzard

 

 

STARKVILLE -- The man outside the mosque Tuesday shook his head in disbelief. 

 

The five-year attendee of the Starkville Islamic Center hadn't heard the news about Muhammad Dakhlalla, the 22-year-old Starkville native and son of the mosque's imam. 

 

"That brother ain't no terrorist," the man, who declined to give his name, said.  

 

Those who knew Dakhlalla best have also struggled to process the allegations against the friend they know as "Mo." 

 

His parents were "stunned" and "blindsided" by the news, according to their lawyer Dennis Harmon. 

 

Harmon said the family had no indication anything was going on until federal agents arrived at their home around noon Saturday. That's when Harmon, a Columbus-based lawyer who has known the family more than 15 years, was contacted.  

 

"I found out when the FBI came to their door and asked permission to search Mo's room, which they promptly granted," Harmon said.  

 

Dakhlalla's father, Oda Dakhlalla, is the imam at the Starkville mosque. His mother, Lisa Dakhalla, is well known in the community for her hummus and used to run Shahrazad's Middle Eastern restaurant. They are known and liked in Starkville.  

 

Mo attended Starkville High School. Former classmates there remember him as quiet, though friendly. After graduating in 2011, he attended Mississippi State University. School officials says he graduated from the university with a psychology degree in May. He had been accepted into grad school, but had not enrolled. 

 

Harmon said Mo met Jaelyn Young during her freshman year at MSU. He said they have know each other for nearly two years and had been married after a formal "nikkah" for a "matter of months." The criminal complaint against the couple indicates they wed June 6.  

 

"It was their equivalent of marriage," Harmon said.  

 

The marriage had not been certified in court.  

 

"I'm dismayed and shocked by the news," Michael Valentine, a family friend in Starkville, said. "I'm hoping it's not true, but if it is I'm sure the Justice Department will handle the case right."

 

 

 

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