In light of the recent killing of Imam Maulana Akonjee and Thara Miah in Queens, New York, we have gathered the voices of various faith leaders to express comfort and solidarity.
Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church
The absurd and tragic slaying of Imam Maulama Akonjee brings fear to the hearts and minds of all New Yorkers, no matter our faith or our borough or our political affiliation. The fear radiates and causes my Muslim friends deeper anxiety than they already had. Given the current climate of political rhetoric that polarizes and then polarizes some more, this kind of violent tragedy comes as no surprise. As historians of genocide understand way too well, you have to intervene early, not late, with polarizing, insulting, debasing language about any so-called "other." Intervening late is too late. It brings the murderers out and lets them imagine they have moral justification. We can only pray that this latest incident of severe anti-muslim attack is unrelated to the rhetoric. Our hearts can dare to hope. Our minds however must look at cold data with cold common sense. The rhetoric has heated up. And now a good religious leader lays dead in the street. What if a priest were murdered by a shot to the head up close? Or a minister? Or a rabbi? We would be equally horrified. Reminiscences of the horror in a Charleston come to mind.
We may never know what caused a good man and a great Imam to be shot in the back. We may never know what caused a good man like Tharra Uddin to die such an unlikely and dramatic death, while walking home from worship and work. But we do know that they are gone from this earth. We can only say "sorry" so much. We have to stop the divisive and hateful rhetoric, way too much of it which is done in the name of so-called religion. True religion loves. It does not hate.
Yael L. Shy, Esq, Senior Director, Global Spiritual Life at NYU
My stomach dropped when I read the headline: “Imam and Assistant, Killed.” I thought about my dear friend and colleague, Imam Khalid Latif, NYU’s Muslim chaplain. I thought about his amazing wife and children, and the wife and children left behind when Imam Akonjee and Thara Uddin were shot and killed.
I thought about my Muslim and Sikh students at NYU. I thought about how much additional fear and harassment they have had to endure during this election season, just for wearing their articles of faith or having brown or black skin.
I saw the news of the shooting just as Tisha B’Av, the Jewish day of mourning for the destruction of the temples, was about to start. Being pregnant, I couldn’t fast as usual, but I grieved. I grieved for the centuries of history when my people were the targets of violence. I grieved for my Muslim family targeted today. I grieved for the loved ones of Imam Akonjee and Thara Uddin. I grieved for the brokenness of the world into which my baby will arrive.
And I prayed. I prayed that we would overcome the sickness of division, white supremacy and violence in this world. I prayed for the courage to use my voice, and any power I have, to make that a reality.
Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at New York Theological Seminary
When Muslim leaders are targeted, all faith leaders are targeted. I was heart-broken when I learned of the murders of Imam Maulama Akonjee and his assistant Thara Uddin who were walking home after prayers on Saturday afternoon in Ozone Park, New York City. A father of three, Imam Akonjee has faithfully pastored the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque serving the Bangladeshi community of Ozone Park for two years. As an evangelical Christian pastor and theologian, I’m deeply concerned about the Islamophobia in America. Muslims and Christians are fellow travelers on the ancient paths of Abrahamic monotheism. When Muslims are murdered like Imam Akonjee and Mr. Uddin we feel their loss as if they were our own brothers. I extend my prayers and heart-felt condolences to the families of Imam Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin. As Christians, it’s vital that we open ourselves to listen to, learn from, and collaborate for the common good with our Muslim sisters and brothers. To this end, the Micah Institute at New York Theological Seminary is reaching out to the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in Ozone Park to build bridges of hospitality, healing and hope. Together we can build a better world that reflects the shalom/salaam of our one God.
Originally published on Aug 15, 2016 by Odyssey Networks in On Scripture.