“Today, we are all Bangladeshi,” said Pakistani activist Shahid Khan, outside the Makki Mosque on Coney Island Avenue on Monday night. Kensington and Midwood community members gathered here to mourn two Muslim men who were killed by a gunman in Queens on Saturday, while walking home from afternoon prayers.
Bangladeshi Imam Alauddin Akonjee, 55, and his assistant Thara Miah, 64, were shot in the head in broad daylight on August 13, reported The New York Times. On Monday, police arrested Oscar Morel of East Flatbush, a suspect who is being charged with two counts of murder. While some are declaring this a hate crime fueled by islamophobia spewing from the Trump campaign, police investigators have yet to determine the criminal’s motive, reports the New York Daily News.
Akonjee was a peaceful and well-loved Imam, according to the Daily. And the deaths of both men deeply affected Muslim communities in Kensington and Midwood.
“There’s a lot of sadness. And some people here are afraid. Somebody could come and start shooting here, I could be dead, too,” said Javed Khan, chairman of the Pan American Merchants Association of Coney Island Avenue.
Yesterday, neighbors traveled to Queens for the funeral of Akonjee and Miah, came home for evening prayers at the Makki Mosque, then filed out onto Coney Island Avenue with signs declaring “Muslim Lives Matter” “Stop Hate Crimes” and simply, “Peace.”
“As human beings, it’s not right to kill anybody — not about color, race or religion. I have four kids, two were raised here and are becoming doctors, and this is their country. In every country and every religion, some people are sick. It’s a very sad thing,” said Javed Khan.
“This violence was an act of desperation. We need to be careful in the future. We need security. I think we need a mechanism for Muslim and non-Muslims to connect on an individual level, to build one Brooklyn,” activist Shahid Khan told us.
“There’s a big community here in ‘Little Pakistan’ and ‘Little Bangladesh, but some immigrants have less education, less awareness, they are undocumented, so they are hesitant to even attend parents meetings. They are intimidated by barriers — language, cultural, religious,” said Khan.
Many community leaders stood in solidarity with neighbors on Coney Island Avenue last night, including Pastor Gilford Montrose from the office of Brooklyn Boro President Eric Adams, Robert Carroll candidate for Assembly District 44, Council Member Mathieu Eugene, Moshin Zaheer from a Kensington-based Urdu language newspaper, Makkid Mosque’s Imam, 70th precinct officers, and many others.
“Those who are responsible for this heinous crime must be brought to justice. We are Muslims, not ISIS. In sha’ allah, they will find the killer,” said Montrose to the crowd.
The local Imam ended the gathering with a brief prayer for universal forgiveness and tolerance, extending his open palms skyward.
Recounting the tragic and sudden deaths of the men in Queens, Kensington resident Mohammad M. Rahaman said, “It’s very sad and it’s a shame, when people who are zealous do these things. We are all Americans.”