A 32 year old man has been charged with attempted murder after an imam was stabbed yesterday in a mosque in New Jersey, USA.
The attack took place during fajr prayers at the Omar Mosque in Paterson. The suspect, identified as Serif Zorba, is alleged to have stabbed Imam Abdel Elnakib, 65, multiple times in the back.
“As they kneeled forward in the prayer, this person pulled out a knife and lunged at the imam, stabbing him multiple times in the back,” Abdul Hamden, a spokesperson for the mosque, said.
“This will make us join with each other in a stronger fashion to even attend the mosque more regularly, to make sure we’re here with our brothers and sisters in solidarity,” he added.
A video shows the congregation rushing the man and holding him down until police arrived and took him into custody.
Any motive in the stabbing was not immediately clear as of early Monday morning, although police said Zorba had visited the mosque several times before to pray.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said the imam was recovering at a hospital following the incident.
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“I did want to let him know that not only are we praying for him, but there will be extra protection around his mosque and other mosques,” he said. “Extra police attention is automatic in a situation like this because, quite frankly, I feel like we could’ve lost this imam.”
The attack took place just a day after the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for a probe of a vandalism incident at Dr. Hani Awadallah School in South Paterson.
Someone used “an unknown dark substance” to blot out the “Allah” portion of the school name, CAIR said.
“While the circumstances surrounding the incident remain unknown, the smearing of the word ‘Allah’ in Dr. Awadallah’s name is apparently intentional, with the remainder of the sign left untouched, making an immediate hate crime investigation into this incident necessary,” said CAIR.
The organisation said there were 152 complaints about anti-Muslim incidents in New Jersey in 2022, the highest number since the tracking of such statistics began.
“Over the years, our records have shown that complaints increase around and during Ramadan, in part because Muslims are more visible and take up more space – physically and metaphorically,” CAIR said. “This upward trend of complaints of anti-Muslim incidents is wholly unacceptable.”