(LibertySociety.com) – The January 3 shooting of a New Jersey imam has only increased fears among the Muslim community, which has been on edge since the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel. Imam Hassan Sharif was preparing for his morning Fajr prayer, the first Islamic prayer that Muslims say daily. An unidentified person approached and shot him around 6:15 a.m. outside the Masjid Muhammad-Newark mosque. He died eight hours later at University Hospital. According to Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore N. Stephens II, it did not appear that Sharif was “a victim of a biased crime” or that the shooting was an act of terrorism. An official from the Newark Police Department said that Sharif was shot more than one time, but no other details were given.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin reiterated the prosecutor’s assessment but said that his office was working with local authorities and the prosecutor’s office to identify the killer. The Newark Police Department is heading up the investigation, and no federal involvement has been requested. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy expressed his condolences and offered prayers for Sharif in a post on X, formerly Twitter. He reassured the “Muslim community and people of all faiths” that the protection of residents at houses of worship was a top priority in the state.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the state released a statement after learning of Sharif’s death. The organization acknowledged that a motive had not yet been established. Sharif was previously held at gunpoint on August 8 last year. He posted about the incident on Facebook, writing that a gunman approached him from behind after he exited his vehicle and was heading inside the mosque to offer Fajr. He was successful in fending off his assailant by wrangling the gun from his hand. He then pulled the trigger to shoot the man, but the weapon did not fire. Sharif will be remembered by the community, especially for his active involvement in helping keep the city safe.
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