A Muslim community is in mourning following the fatal shooting of a revered Queens imam, Maulama Akonjee, and his friend and assistant Thara Uddin over the weekend. While walking home from Saturday prayers at the mosque, a man approached Akonjee and Uddin from behind and fired point-blank at the pair in the back of the head, according to officials who spoke to the New York Daily News.
The cold-blooded attack has left Muslims on high alert as officials conduct their investigation. Akonjee was a highly respected figure in the community for the past two years since moving to Queens from Bangladesh.
At a press conference on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the alarm among the Bangladeshi Muslim community served by the mosque. Akonjee and Uddin were wearing religious garb during the attack, sparking fears that the duo was targeted because they were Muslim.
But as a testament to the city's spirit of solidarity, New Yorkers from all across the boroughs have taken it upon themselves to show the aggrieved Muslim community that they have their backs.
On Twitter, many expressed their solidarity with the hashtag #IllWalkWithYou, offering to accompany their Muslim neighbors and friends to and from the mosque — as well as to the voting booths.
That many have also pledged to vote against politicians who incite hatred for minority communities is telling. Local resident Khairul Islam told the Daily News that recent political rhetoric was responsible for what many in the community are suspecting is a hate crime.
"That's not what America is about," Islam told the newspaper.
Indeed, presidential candidate Donald Trump's inflammatory remarks about banning Muslims from entering the country, his ongoing feud with a Muslim Gold Star family — who his New York campaign co-chair Carl Paladino accused of "supporting the ISIS type of attitude against America" — and his divisive rhetoric about immigrants seems to have emboldened people across the country to openly express racism and xenophobia.
But the pushback has been resounding — in the media, the polls, and especially on the internet, as evidenced by the scores of people in New York and beyond standing up for their Muslim cohorts with this hashtag.
Cover image via Eugenio Marongiu / Shutterstock.com