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Imam who protested against gun violence fatally shot in Newark
- Web Desk
- Jan 04, 2024
NEW JERSEY: Police are searching for a gunman who fatally shot an imam, Hassan Sharif, outside his mosque in Newark, New Jersey, on Wednesday, foreign media reported.
The incident has heightened fears in the Muslim community amid increased tension in the US since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
The shooting, which does not appear to have been motivated by bias, occurred around 6:15 AM at South Orange Avenue and Camden Street, Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé said.
Hassan Sharif was an imam at Masjid Muhammad-Newark. He was hospitalized in critical condition. He died from his injuries around 2:20 PM, law enforcement sources said.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephens told reporters on Wednesday afternoon that Sharif was shot more than once.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said in a statement, “At a time when bias incidents against members of the Muslim community are on the rise, we know that this act of gun violence will heighten fears and concerns in our State.”
He added that “every possible angle will, of course, be explored and every lead will be fully investigated.”
New Jersey is home to 320,000 Muslim Americans, Platkin said.
The shooter, who was wearing all black, was seen running from the scene of the gunfire, authorities said. No other details about the shooter were available Wednesday afternoon. Essex County Crime Stoppers is offering a $25,000 reward for anyone with information about the shooting, the sheriff said.
Sharif had been a transportation security officer at Newark Liberty International Airport since 2006.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of his passing and send our condolences to his family, friends and co-workers,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement to NBC New York.
Many people described Sharif as a pillar in the community. Public Safety Director Fragé said that he was a part of the city’s safe surrender program and that the mosque was one of the safe houses where fugitives turned themselves in. He had been an imam at the mosque for five years.
He was also listed as an advisory board member from 2022 to 2023 for the mosque’s Social Services and Health Wellness program. “He was a community advocate who protested against gun violence continuously,” Fragé told reporters. “He supported the city in all of his efforts in helping to keep our city safe. It is with deep loss that the city will mourn his absence.”
The shooting comes months after an imam at the Omar Mosque in Paterson, about 15 miles north of Newark, was stabbed while leading prayers.