(NewsReady.com) – Islamophobia has increased in the wake of the war between Israel and Hamas. An attack on an imam in New Jersey has raised questions about the possibility of a hate crime. Law enforcement has more questions than answers right now.
On January 3, Imam Hassan Sharif was sitting in his vehicle in the parking lot of the Masjid Muhammad Mosque at about 6:15 a.m. in Newark. PIX 11 reported that Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé said someone shot the imam while he was in his car. The first responders took Sharif to the hospital in critical condition. Sadly, doctors were unable to save his life, and he died from his injuries later that afternoon.
Theodore Stephens, acting Essex County prosecutor, spoke to the press after the shooting and said the imam, who was described by some as a “pillar of the community,” was shot more than once. Very little was known about the crime. Officers do not yet have a motive or a suspect.
Matthew Platkin, the state attorney general, issued a statement saying that the shooting comes at a time when “bias incidents against members of the Muslim community are on the rise,” and he’s aware that the shooting would “heighten fears and concerns” across the state. He said law enforcement was going to investigate every lead.
Governor Phil Murphy (D) issued a statement on X, formerly Twitter, before the imam died and said that he was praying for him. He reiterated that authorities didn’t know why the person shot the religious leader. He told the public that law enforcement would update them as they learned more about the crime. The governor also promised the Muslim community that he would do everything possible to keep them safe.
My prayers are with Imam Hassan Sharif, who was the victim of a shooting earlier this morning outside the Masjid Muhammad Mosque in Newark.
Anyone with information relevant to this shooting is urged to contact the Newark Police Department at 1-877-NWK TIPS. pic.twitter.com/3YWijvt7vl
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) January 3, 2024
The victim was part of the mosque’s safe surrender program, where people who are wanted by law enforcement can turn themselves in. He also worked as a transportation security officer at Newark Liberty International Airport for nearly 20 years, starting his job in 2006.
The shooter was seen running from the scene, wearing all black. Crime Stoppers is offering a $25,000 reward. Anyone with information can contact the Newark Police Department at 1-877-695-8477.
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