A New Jersey imam was shot multiple times and killed outside his mosque Wednesday, and authorities continue to search for the shooter, officials said.
Imam Hassan Sharif was in his vehicle when he was shot more than once near the Masjid-Muhammad Mosque in Newark, Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stephens said at a news conference.
Authorities are still searching for a shooter, but there’s no evidence indicating the shooting was motivated by an anti-Muslim bias, Attorney General Matt Platkin said.
Despite that, Platkin said law enforcement has stepped up outreach to houses of worship, particularly Jewish and Muslim ones, since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.
“I know that in light of global events and with a rise in bias directed at many communities we’re experiencing across our state — particularly the Muslim community — there are many in New Jersey right now who are feeling a heightened sense of fear or anxiety at the news of this slaying,” Platkin said.
Many details about the shooting were not immediately available, but Stephens said Sharif was shot more than once at about 6 a.m. outside the mosque while in his vehicle. He was taken to a nearby hospital but died in the afternoon.
Sharif had been a resident imam at the mosque for five years, Newark Public Safety Director Fritz Fragé said. He remembered the imam as a leader in the interfaith community who worked to keep the city safe.
“We share your pain and we promise to utilize the full resources of those here and those who are continuing to partner with us to we make sure that this heinous crime is solved,” he said.
The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, said it is gathering information and urged people to contact local police.
“We are deeply concerned about this incident and pray for the speedy recovery of the imam,” CAIR-NJ spokesperson Dina Sayedahmed said in a statement.