An imam died Wednesday after being shot outside a mosque in Newark, New Jersey, officials told Fox News Digital.
The religious leader, identified as Imam Hassan Sharif by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, was struck at the Masjid Muhammad-Newark mosque at South Orange Avenue and Camden Street at around 6:15 a.m., according to a spokesperson for the Newark Police Department.
He was transported to University Hospital and is in critical condition at the time of this report.
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RLS Media, citing local sources, reported that the imam was preparing to engage in the Fajr prayer, the first of the five daily prayers in Islam, when the attack occurred.
A shooter approached him and opened fire. It is unclear if anyone was inside the mosque at the time of the shooting.
A motive for the shooting is unknown. It is not known if this was a targeted attack and if there were any prior altercations beforehand. The incident is being investigated by Newark police.
Hassan Sharif was taken to a hospital in critical condition, but died at around 2:20 p.m., Robert Florida, spokesperson for the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, told Fox News Digital.
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Fox News reached out to the FBI in New Jersey, who said they are currently not involved in the case.
New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said he is aware of the shooting and his office is working with the Newark Police Department and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office to help identify the person, or persons, responsible.
“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,” Platkin said.
“This investigation is ongoing, but at this time we do not have any information suggesting the crime was motivated by bias. Every possible angle will, of course, be explored, and every lead will be fully investigated to bring the perpetrator or perpetrators to justice.”
Murphy offered his prayers for Sharif.
“At a time when the Muslim community is concerned by an increase of bias incidents and crimes, I want to assure the Muslim community and people of all faiths that we will do everything in our power to keep all residents safe, especially in or near our houses of worship,” Murphy posted on X.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said it was shocked to learn of the shooting.
“At this time, we do not have information on the perpetrator’s motive,” Dina Sayedahmed, a spokesperson for CAIR-NJ, said in a statement.
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Sayedahmed said that the imam is a “beacon of leadership in his community” and they “are praying for his full and speedy recovery.”
“We ask others to do the same,” Sayedahmed said. “As always, and irrespective of this specific incident, we advise all mosques to keep their doors open but remain cautious especially given the recent spike in anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Wednesday’s shooting follows the stabbing of the imam of a New Jersey mosque in May as he led his congregation in prayer.
Acting Essex County Prosecutor Theodore Stephen said: “Every lead will be investigated to bring the perpetrator to justice.”
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