FINGERS are being pointed at Donald Trump’s inflammatory anti-Muslim rhetoric in the aftermath of a shooting in the New York district of Queens which resulted in the death of a Muslim Imam and his assistant, who were walking home from afternoon prayers at Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in the Ozone Park neighbourhood on Saturday, August 13.
The cleric, named as 55-year-old Maulana Akonjee, and his 64-year-old colleague Thara Uddin were shot in the head at close range at around 1.50pm, after being approached from behind by a single gunman wearing a dark polo shirt and shorts, according to witnesses.
Akonjee moved to the Big Apple from Bangladesh two years ago, and as yet there is no clear motive for the attack, although a group of around 100 Muslims gathered at the scene to mourn, and could be heard to chant “we want justice.”
“There’s nothing in the preliminary investigation to indicate that they were targeted because of their faith,” said deputy inspector Henry Sautner of the New York police department.
Police also said the suspect, who was seen to flee carrying a handgun, has a “medium complexion,” and a sketch has been released although no arrests have been made.
“He would not hurt a fly,” Imam Akonjee’s nephew Rahi Majid, told the New York Daily News. “You would watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings.”
Millat Uddin told CBS New York “We feel really insecure and unsafe in a moment like this.
“It’s really threatening to us, threatening to our future, threatening to our mobility in our neighbourhood, and we’re looking for the justice.”
“These were two very beloved people. These were community leaders,” Afaf Nasher, of the New York chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told Reuters. “There is a deep sense of mourning and an overwhelming cry for justice to be served.”
In 2015 the New York Times reported that hate crimes against US Muslims had tripled since the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino.