Men of Faith, Murdered By Hate

On Saturday 13th August, Imam Maulama Akojee and his 64 year old assistant Thara Uddin were brutally shot and murdered at point blank range in the New York borough of Queens. Imam Akojee, religious leader at the al-Furqan Jame Mosque and his assistant were said to be walking home from the Mosque following afternoon prayers when the gunman came at them from behind and shot them both without saying a word. Both victims were dressed in traditional Islamic clothing.

There is an ongoing police investigation into the motive for the murder, which is said to be unknown at this time, but the congregation of the Mosque and the wider Muslim community in the US believe this to be an Islamophobic hate crime.

The murder sparked outrage and an outpouring of emotion from the local Muslim community in Queens who came out to protest and demonstrate, demanding justice for the crime. Local mosque-goers were shocked at the murder of an Imam that was described as someone who “would not hurt a fly” and someone who “you would watch come down the street bringing peace”.

Leaders of the Muslim community in the US, including some of the more prominent Imams and Scholars shared in the grief on social media.

Imam Khalid Latif, Muslim chaplain at New York University and the NYPD wrote an op-ed following the murder in which he commented on the genuine anxiety being felt by the Muslim community in New York and the escalation of Islamophobic sentiments in recent months.

Another New York based Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of Cordoba House wrote a statement expressing his sadness over the death of Imam Akojee and Thara Uddin in which he said,

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends, and community of Imam Akonjee and his assistant, Thara Uddin, who was 64 years old. As an American Imam in a pluralistic and great nation, I call upon people of all faiths to work together to spread peace, tolerance, and understanding within our communities.

Dallas based Imam, Omar Suleiman wrote,

The murder of a priest in France and now an Imam in ‪#‎Queens‬ should really make you think about what type of environment extremists have created. Imam Alauddin Akonjee was a quiet, peaceful man with a family and community that loved him. Whatever comes out of this, know that Trump and white supremacists have fueled an environment where a man who looks like this would automatically be hated and eventually targeted. For many Americans, had they not read any text and just seen the image of the Imam on the news, they would assume he’s some secret Al Qaeda operative because that’s what they’ve been programmed to think when they see a person dressed in “Muslim garb.” Of course you won’t have to worry about seeing this image on the website of FOX news, because they’re too busy covering the “Muslims” they want America to see.

Shaykh Yasir Qadhi expressed his sadness and shock over the murder with a post on his Facebook page that read,

To Allah we belong and to Him we shall return!

An Imam in New York, along with his friend, were shot in the back of the head at point blank range today, in broad daylight, after exiting the masjid and walking home. Both of them died of their wounds. May Allah accept their shahada and grant patience to their families!

Although it is too early to definitively claim this was a hate crime, sadly it wouldn’t be surprising if it were. Given the current climate across this country, and the rhetoric of many Republican politicians,in particular Trump, it is only a matter of time before the situation gets from bad to worse.

I pray that the perpetrator of this dastardly deed is brought to justice.

Imam Akojee Thara Uddin Father Jacques Hamel

‘Men of Faith, Murdered by Hate’ – Imam Akojee, Thara Uddin and Father Jacques Hamel

The murder of Imam Akojee and his assistant comes only a few weeks after the murder of Father Jacques Hamel who was brutally murdered in his church by Daesh supporters. The rising tide of hatred we are witnessing in communities across the world, culminating in the murder of innocent people and genuine, peaceful people of faith is a very real reminder of the consequences of hate and bigotry. Whether it is the perverted understanding of religion or hate filled political rhetoric by certain politicians that is fueling these sentiments and encouraging people to commit such atrocities, the dangers of targeted attack on specific communities is becoming all too real and familiar.

As a Muslim community, it is important that we remain vigilant to the potential risks and threats that exist and ensure that we are best prepared to deal with them. We must be committed to protecting the welfare of our community by ensuring the safety and security of our institutions, building positive working relationships with local authorities and crime agencies and by being prepared to act quickly, effectively and responsibly in the aftermath of an attack.

We continue to pray for the families of Imam Akojee and Thara Uddin at this difficult time and for the families of those who have lost loved one in atrocities across the world.

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