Friends call imam slaying a hate crime; cops say no motive
15 August 2016, 15:00
New York - The daylight slaying of a mosque leader and his
associate set off fear and anguish on Sunday among Bangladeshi Muslims in a New
York City neighbourhood, with some saying the killings appear to be an
anti-Muslim hate crime. But police said there is no evidence so far to support
hunted for the gunman who killed Imam Maulama
Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, near the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in
Queens as they left afternoon prayers on Saturday in their traditional
religious attire. Both men were shot in the head.
was a hate crime. One hundred percent, there's no doubt about it," said
Monir Chowdhury, who worshipped daily with the two men.
he had moved to the community because of its large Bangladeshi immigrant
population, but in recent months has been harassed by people shouting
incident, a man called him "Osama" as he walked to the mosque with
his 3-year-old son. With the killer still on the loose, Chowdhury decided it
would be best to drive to prayer services.
lot of neighbours said, 'Hey, don't take your kid with you’," he said. "People, they just hate us."
released a sketch early on Sunday of a dark-haired, bearded man wearing
glasses. Police said witnesses described the shooter as a man with a medium
complexion. A person who lives near the shooting scene showed The Associated
Press and other media organisations a
video that showed a man walking up behind the imam and his associate, shooting
the men in the head and then walking off. Police said they were reviewing the
No motive established
said they have not established a motive for
the attack. On Saturday, Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner said there was
"nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were
targeted because of their faith." Akonjee was carrying about $1 000 in
cash that was not taken during the shooting, police said. Akonjee's son said it
wasn't uncommon for his father to carry that amount of money.
Sunday, neighbours in the Ozone Park section were sceptical of what police had
found so far.
scared now to walk in the street," said Gousuddin Khan, who worships at
the mosque. "Every time we get trouble, we get promises from elected
officials, but after they finish that, we don't get any kind of justice."
Khan said there needs to be
more police officers patrolling the area. On Sunday afternoon, several officers
were stationed outside the mosque.
said he has felt the mood in the neighbourhood change drastically in the last
few months and accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump of
spreading anti-Muslim rhetoric.
neighbourhood is getting crazy because of this election and Trump. He hates
Muslims," he said. "I love this neighbourhood and now I'm
campaign said in a statement that it was "highly irresponsible" to
blame a political candidate for the violent attacks.
A cowardly act
statement Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said that
"when religious leaders are targeted, we all bear the pain those in Ozone
Park feel most personally today."
State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Shahriar Alam, said the shooting
was a "cowardly act on peace-loving people." The U.S. Ambassador to
Bangladesh, Marcia Bernicat, said Akonjee "stood for peace."
Uddin just couldn't believe it was true, shaking as he heard the news that his
brother, Thara, a devout Muslim, had been gunned down. He said he was still
planning a funeral on Sunday evening.
son, Naim Akonjee, 21, said his father first worked as an imam in the Bronx
before working at two mosques in Queens and put his family first.
always wants peace," he said of his father through tears. "Why did
they kill my father?"