Security camera footage shows a gunman approached the two Bangladeshi-born men from behind after they left midday prayer services at the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque, then shot them in the back of their heads. Police reported $1,000 in cash Akonjee was carrying was not touched by the assailant.
As word spread of the killings, a crowd gathered at the site.
Members of the congregation came together outside the mosque the next day, along with neighborhood residents and others from across the metropolitan area to express outrage at the killings and show solidarity with the Bangladeshi community.
Socialist Workers Party New York organizer Norton Sandler talked with people there and distributed a statement — “Stop Attacks on Muslims and Mosques!” — issued by Jacob Perasso, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from New York.
“This was not a robbery,” Nazim Uddin told the Militant. “It’s been worse lately with more harassment and threats. People come through the neighborhood and shout from their cars at the older people wearing traditional clothes. They call them ‘towel heads’ or ‘Taliban.’ Sometimes people spit on them.”
“They shot Imam Akonjee and Thara Uddin like they were animals,” said Millat Uddin, who regularly attends the mosque and is active in the Ozone Park community. “We have a community here with all kinds of people living together — different races, different nationalities. They are trying to mess up the peace in this community.”
More than 1,000 people turned out for the Aug. 15 funeral of the two men.
Some in the crowd carried signs that read “Muslim Lives Matter” and “We Want Justice.”
Jewel Chowdhury, a leader of the Jalalabad Association, a Bangladeshi community group, spoke for the families. He criticized the New York City police department for giving “mixed messages” and “creating confusion” in the community — referring to claims by some cops that there is no reason to believe the two were killed because they are Muslims, that it could be because of an alleged “Muslim-Latino” dispute.
The “crime” of the two men was that they “were immigrants, minorities, and indeed Muslims,” Chowdhury, told the crowd.
Police filed murder charges Aug. 15 against 35-year-old Oscar Morel in connection with the killing.
This is the latest and most deadly attack on Muslims in New York. Taxi driver Nur Nabi was stabbed as he left his mosque in the Parkchester area of the Bronx in August 2013. Last December Sarker Haque was beaten in his store in Astoria, Queens, by a man saying he would “kill Muslims.”
In January two young men screaming “ISIS! ISIS!” beat Mujibur Rahman, a Bangladeshi-born man, as he walked his niece home from school in the Parkchester area. Mohammed Atique Ashraf, wearing a white prayer cap as he walked to a Parkchester mosque, was attacked June 18. At a protest against the attack on Ashraf, community activist Mohammed Mujumder told News12 The Bronx that there had been six similar incidents since December.
Seth Galinsky contributed to this article
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