Sadhana: Coalition of Progressive Hindus joins the entire New York City Muslim community in mourning the loss of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin. The Imam and his assistant were fatally shot in broad daylight on a busy street as they were leaving their house of worship, Al-Furqan Jame masjid, after Imam Akonjee had delivered prayers on Saturday afternoon in a neighborhood very close to our hearts, Ozone Park, NY. Local residents believe that this was a targeted crime.
Imam Akonjee, 55, moved to NYC from Bangladesh just two years ago and served the large Bangaleshi community in Ozone Park. The neighborhood is home to individuals of many faiths who have been able to co-exist peacefully. Imam Akonjee was described by his nephew as an agent of peace: "You should watch him come down the street and watch the peace he brings." Thara Uddin, 64, was described as a family man. Both Imam Akonjee and Thara Uddin were fathers and together leave behind seven children.
During a national climate where anti-Muslim rhetoric and Islamophobia is being promoted, this tragedy instills fear and vulnerability among peace-loving people. While the shooting has not yet been deemed a hate crime, it is evident that the Muslim American community has been the subject of increased hatred. A June 2016 report issued by CAIR and the University of California at Berkeley indicated that the number of recorded incidents in which mosques were targeted rose to 78 in 2015, which is the highest number since the entities began tracking these crimes in 2009. We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters and once more proclaim that #WeAreOne, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam.
If you have any information which can help police bring justice to this heinous crime, please contact the NYPD. The police have released a sketch of the suspected gunman.