Community members pray outside the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Ozone Park after imam Maulama Akonjee and friend Thara Uddin were killed in the Queens borough of New York City.
(photo credit: KENA BETANCUR / AFP)
NEW YORK – The Anti-Defamation League expressed solidarity with the Muslim community on Sunday after a lone gunman killed an imam and his assistant as they walked in Queens, New York City.
The double murder took place on Saturday following afternoon prayers at a mosque in the Ozone Park neighborhood.
According to police, the gunman approached the men from behind and shot both in the head at close range. No arrests have been made.
While the motive for the shooting was not immediately known and no evidence has been uncovered that the two men were targeted because of their faith, some in the Muslim community have spoken out against Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump, blaming him for creating an atmosphere of Islamophobia.
The victims, identified as Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were both wearing religious garb when they were killed, police said.
The ADL said it is shocked and horrified at the murder.
ADL New York Regional Director Evan R. Bernstein urged the NYPD to investigate it as a possible hate crime.
“Unfortunately, such incidents have the potential to make communities feel unsafe and vulnerable,” he said. “However, the Muslim community should know that Greater New York stands united with them during this extremely difficult time.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group known by the acronym CAIR, said Uddin was an associate of the imam.
“These were two very beloved people,” Afaf Nasher, executive director of the New York chapter of CAIR, said. “There is a deep sense of mourning and an overwhelming cry for justice to be served.
“We are calling for all people, of all faiths, to rally with compassion and with a sense of vigilance so that justice can be served,” Nasher said. “You can’t go up to a person and shoot them in the head and not be motivated by hatred.”
The shooter was seen fleeing the scene with a gun in his hand, police said.Reuters contributed to this report.