Just beyond a massive strip mall, with its Best Buy and Hobby Lobby, Abdul Baasit, the imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga, found himself preaching on Friday about a nightmare.

It was Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, normally a time of gift-giving and carnival celebration. But the party that had been planned was canceled: A man who had attended prayer services at the center's mosque killed four Marines on Thursday. And Mr. Baasit, 48, was trying to help Chattanooga's Muslim faithful cope with their grief over the deaths, and their fear of reprisal.

"You do not want what is not right to be associated with Islam," Mr. Baasit, a native of Ghana, said in lilting, heavily accented English. "And yet it is happening."

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