Shooting death of Muslim imam and assistant blamed on divisive rhetoric of Donald Trump

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Photo via Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock (Licensed)

A sketch of the suspect was released on Sunday.

55-year-old Imam Maulama Akonjee and 65-year-old Thara Uddin were fatally shot on Saturday in the Ozone Park neighborhood of Queens. The imam and his friend were reportedly clad in religious garb and walking home from praying at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque when they were gunned down. Akonjee reportedly had $1,000 on his person, none of which was taken by the suspect.

Both were shot in the back of the head and succumbed to their injuries at Jamaica Hospital. Officials have spoken out about the incident and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is keeping an eye on the situation.

The incident has not been classified as a hate crime. Authorities claim that the initial investigation has given no reason for NYPD to believe Akonjee and Uddin were religiously targeted. Speaking with the New York Times, a law enforcement official stated that the shooting seemed premeditated.

“What it does seem is that it was planned, to some extent. “It looks more like a targeted shooting than anything else,” the official said.

Kobir Chowdhury who presides over the Masjid Al-Aman mosque in Brooklyn, has condemned the attack as a hate crime, as have many in the community and across the nation. Hours after the incident occurred, demonstrators rallied in support of Akonjee and Uddin. 

Many are pointing to the anti-Muslim sentiments of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as being a contributing factor to the shooting. Queens resident Khairul Islam explicitly blamed the candidate when speaking with the New York Daily News about the incident as well as wider instances of Islamophobia occurring nationwide.

“That’s not what America is about. We blame Donald Trump for this,” Islam said. 

The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press conference about the incident on Saturday. Executive Director Afaf Nasher praised Akonjee and Uddin for their involvement in the community, highlighting the massive loss that has shocked Ozone Park and beyond.

“Seven children are left as orphans for the imam and three children for his associate,” Nasher said. “Let's not forget the compassion that is needed at this moment.”

On Sunday morning, NYPD released a police sketch of the suspect, who has yet to be caught.

He has been described as an adult male with medium complexion. The suspect was reportedly wearing a dark blue shirt and shorts and carrying a handgun.

H/T New York Times

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