ELIZABETH - Muslim faith leaders are denouncing recent bombings that authorities say were planned by a man from Elizabeth, while acknowledging that his father was prominent in their community.
Ahmad Rahami was arrested Monday by Linden police in connection with the attacks, and some religious leaders from Elizabeth say they have known his family for years.
Imams and other leaders tell News 12 that Rahami's father served as a board member at the Muslim Community Center of Union County.
Mohammad Rahami and his family attended Dar-Ul-Islam mosque since they first moved to the area in the 1990s, according to the leader there.
"I know he...is very well respected in the community because of his charitable work," Imam Ali Jaaber says of the elder Rahami. "He is a devout Muslim. That I know because most of the time, any affiliations we had with him were based on either worship or working in some Islamic project or some Islamic organization."
He says that the elder Rahami did charity work and prayed on a near-daily basis at the community center.
"They seemed to be very balanced," Jaaber says of the Rahamis. "They had a successful business. It never closed down."
The Rahamis own a fried chicken restaurant in Elizabeth, but elders in the Muslim community say they did not know the suspect as well as they knew his father.
"We are all shocked why this happened," says Nawaz Sheikh, president of the community center. "I am looking forward to talking to him. I hope he's OK. I hope his family is OK. We can all pray for each other."
And although Mohammad Rahami is coming under intense public scrutiny due to the arrest of his son, several imams say they doubt the father had any terrorist leanings.
"We've never experienced any radicalization," Jaaber says.
On the other hand, Sheikh says that because the Rahamis were so well-known in their community, people quickly identified Ahmad Rahami from wanted posters.
"We shared with the rest of the community," Sheikh says. "We did our job."
Other leaders are worrying about backlash against the Muslim community.
"There has been a lot of negative talk on social media on Muslims in America — as if the actions of a single person like this reflect on the entire community," says James Sues, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR New Jersey has condemned the attacks.