Imam shot dead outside New Jersey mosque 

Imam shot dead outside New Jersey mosque 

New York (Agencies): Amid a recent surge in anti-Muslim bigotry, an Imam was shot dead outside a mosque in the US state of New Jersey, on Wednesday, the authorities said.

According to media reports, The Imam, Hassan Sharif — a 52-year-old African-American — was shot outside the Masjid Muhammad mosque in Newark, the most populous city in New Jersey.

The gunman is stated to be at large, and the motive for the killing was still unknown.

At Wednesday evening prayers, hundreds of mourners gathered for a vigil in honour of Imam Sharif.
Newark’s mayor Ras J. Baraka said that the authorities would “bring the perpetrator to justice, no matter how long it takes.”

“Imam Hassan Sharif stood with the people of this city, and we will stand with him and his family,” Baraka added.

The city’s Sheriff, Armando Fontoura, said that a $25,000 reward was being offered to anyone with information regarding the shooting.

As per the media reports, Imam Hassan Sharif served at the Newark mosque for three or four years and was recently appointed as resident Imam,

A former boxer, Imam Sharif worked as an officer for the Transportation Security Administration.

“Imam Hassan was a beacon of leadership and excellence,” the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), a prominent Washington-based Muslim advocacy group said in a statement.

“We are devastated at the news of his killing. We are praying for the Imam, his family and loved ones, and his congregation, and we ask everyone to do the same,” CAIR said.

“While the perpetrator’s motive remains unknown and irrespective of this specific incident, we advise all mosques to keep their doors open but remain cautious, especially given the recent spike in anti-Muslim bigotry.”

The attack on the Muslim leader sent shock waves through the community at a time when Islamophobia is on the rise across the country.

Imam Hassan Sharif was shot as he attended fajar prayers, the head of the Council of Imams in New Jersey, Wahy-ud Deen Shareef, said.

Matthew Platkin, New Jersey’s attorney general, said at a news conference on Wednesday afternoon that there was no indication that the shooting was motivated by bias or that it was an act of terrorism, but he acknowledged the heightened sense of anxiety and fear among New Jersey’s Muslim population.

“We also know that Imam Sharif is just the latest casualty in the senseless gun violence epidemic that plagues our state and our country,” he said.

“Tragedies like what we’ve experienced today, regardless of their motivation, should not happen.”

New Jersey Governor Philip D. Murphy acknowledged in a statement that an “increase of bias incidents and crimes” had many Muslims on edge and said Salahuddin Muhammad, a former New Jersey resident and member of Masjid Muhammad, drove from Philadelphia on Wednesday after he heard what had happened. He surveyed the scene with tears in his eyes.

“This is personal,” he said. “From Allah we come, and to Allah we return. The Imam is now on his way to paradise.”