NJ imam stabbed during prayer, attackers overpowered by parishioners

An imam was stabbed to death at a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey on Sunday while leading his congregation to prayer. The attacker was quickly overpowered by believers, according to local authorities.

Police responded to the attack at the Omar Mosque in South Paterson around 5:37 a.m. local time on Sunday. Upon arrival, they found that a 32-year-old man had already been arrested, Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said in a news release.

The suspect, identified as Serif Zorba, was arrested and charged with first-degree attempted murder and weapons charges. He is expected to appear in court on Monday afternoon, Valdes added.

Imam Sayed Elnakib, 65, was rushed to St. Joseph’s University Medical Center.

Mayor André Sayegh, who visited Elnakib in hospital on Sunday afternoon, said the imam’s condition was stable, although he had “suffered some serious wounds”.

At a news conference on Sunday, Sayegh said there would be an increased police presence at mosques across the city to keep people safe during the remaining days of Ramadan. “You shouldn’t be afraid to pray, you should feel safe when you pray,” Sayegh added.

Over 200 people were inside the mosque at the time of the attack, Abdul Hamdan, a spokesman for the mosque, told CNN.

The Passaic County Attorney’s Office did not provide details about the possible motive for the attack, telling NPR that the investigation is still ongoing.

“While it is unclear what motivated the attacker, there is no justification for violence of any kind, especially in a sacred space,” wrote Councilor Al Abdel-Aziz, who represents the area where the incident took place, on Facebook.

The attack comes weeks into Ramadan, a month of fasting and prayer that is the holiest time of the year in Islamic tradition.

CAIR calls for an investigation into another incident in Paterson

The incident also came a day after the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations opened a hate crime investigation into another incident at Dr. Hani Awadallah had requested in Paterson.

Dina Sayedahmed, a spokeswoman for the chapter, told NPR that the group learned on Friday that the word “Allah” in Dr. Hani Awadallah’s name was defaced with an unknown dark substance. The word “Allah” in Arabic refers to “God”.

The group said it registered 152 complaints related to anti-Muslim prejudice in 2022.

Paterson is home to one of the highest percentage Muslim populations in the United States, with Muslims estimated to make up around 25,000 to 30,000 of the city’s more than 150,000 residents.

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Dustin Huang

Dustin Huang is a 24ssports U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Dustin Huang joined 24ssports in 2021 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: dustinhuang@24ssports.com.

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