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Saturday, May 18, 2024

Prominent Imam stabbed while leading prayers in a US city

The Imam, Sayed Elnakib, was beginning the fajr prayers at the Omar Mosque in South Paterson when the assailant — a person named Serif Zorba — stabbed him twice at around 5:30 a.m. local time, (2:30 a.m. PST), the reports said.

A prominent Imam was stabbed in the back while leading prayers at a mosque in Paterson, a city in the US state of New Jersey, on Sunday, according to media reports.

The Imam, Sayed Elnakib, was beginning the fajr prayers at the Omar Mosque in South Paterson when the assailant — a person named Serif Zorba — stabbed him twice at around 5:30 a.m. local time, (2:30 a.m. PST), the reports said.

The attacker was quickly restrained by other worshippers at the mosque.

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Imam Elnakib, 65, was taken to nearby St. Joseph’s Medical Center where he was listed in serious but stable condition.

About 200 people were at the mosque, when the prayers began.

Authorities said the attacker was not a member of the mosque but had prayed there before, according to a New Jersey TV station.

The mosque will increase security but remain open, a spokesman for the mosque said.

Zorba, the alleged assailant, was later charged with first-degree attempted murder and two weapons offences. He was scheduled to make a first appearance in court on Monday afternoon, according to the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office.

The City’s Mayor, Andre Sayegh, told reporters that he visited the Imam in the hospital and appreciated “the immediate apprehension of his assailant.”

Councilman Al Abdelaziz, who represents the neighborhood in which the attack happened, said that the community must “come together to support one another and denounce all forms of hate and violence.”

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“While it is unclear what motivated the attacker, there is no justification for violence of any kind, especially in a sacred space,” Abdelaziz said.

Authorities believe the Imam’s attack was an isolated attack and not a hate crime.

The stabbing comes the day after the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for a hate crime investigation into vandalism targeting the Dr. Hani Awadallah public school in Paterson, according to a press release.

The word “Allah” in Dr. Hani Awadallah’s name on the sign in front of the school was defaced with an unknown dark substance.

“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,” CAIR Executive Director for New Jersey Selaedin Maksut said.

“This incident is one of many throughout New Jersey. In 2022, we’ve recorded the highest number of complaints of anti-Muslim prejudices, at 152. 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.”

Paterson is reportedly one of the largest Muslim communities in the state of New Jersey, which has more Muslims per capita than any other state in the nation.