Attack on worshipers in a New Jersey mosque is being investigated as a bias incident

Attack on worshipers in a New Jersey mosque is being investigated as a bias incident

Investigators in Passaic County, New Jersey are investigating an incident in which two individuals entered a mosque during a prayer service on Monday and began throwing rocks at worshipers, according to a press release from the Passaic County Prosecutor’s office.

The investigation into the potential bias incident is active and ongoing, according to the prosecutor’s office.

No one at the Islamic Congregation of North Jersey (ICNJ), also known as Masjid Abu Bakr, was struck during the ordeal and no injuries were reported, officials said.

Burhan Uddin, who serves on the board of ICNJ, says two people were hit in the leg, but didn’t require medical attention.

The ICNJ was founded in 2014 and has a mostly Bangladeshi congregation, Uddin told NBC News.

Describing the incident to NBC News, Uddin, who rushed to the mosque on Monday after receiving a call about the incident, says two people entered the mosque while one held open the door.

“They came in ahead of the sunset prayer around 8:40pm and were pretending that they were coming in to pray,” Uddin, who called the Passaic Sheriff’s Office upon learning about the incident, told NBC News. “If you look at the video, one of them can be seen even pretending to take his shoes off.”

But they weren’t there to pray, he said. Video shared with NBC News shows the two individuals, who were masked, enter the mosque two separate times.

The first time they enter, the men look around and one of them motions as if to take off his shoes. Just as it looks like they’re both going to leave, one of them comes back in and appears to throw something towards the congregation gathered to pray.

Another video shows them re-enter the mosque and both appear to throw something towards the congregation.

“People are really scared and everybody’s worried,” said Uddin. “This time it’s a rock, next time you never know, it might be a knife or bullet.”

This is the second time the ICNJ has been attacked in eight months, according to Uddin.

In December, a man entered the mosque and pushed the assistant imam, who was making the call to prayer over a loudspeaker at the time, Uddin said.

“He was yelling at the imam, telling him the call to prayer doesn’t belong in this country and that we don’t belong in this country,” he said.

Uddin filed a report with the Passaic County Sheriff’s office following the event. Calls to the Passaic County Sheriff and prosecutor’s office regarding this incident were not returned.

“Since it’s happening often now, what will happen next?” Uddin said. “Now we’re trying to see if we can hire a security officer, which will be costly. We’re even looking into closing our doors and making it so only people with a special code can enter the mosque.”

According to the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the case of ICNJ is not an isolated incident. They’ve documented nearly 100 cases of alleged biases in 2022 so far.

“Houses of worship are intended to be places of spiritual refuge,” said CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut. Disturbing incidents like these rob them and their congregants of the tranquility that they are seeking.”

Maksut added that the advocacy group is seeing “a trend of New Jersey mosques installing bullet-proof windows” and “locking their doors during prayer.”

“This is not conducive to our growth or development as a community,” he said. “We continue to call on local officials to support community-based organizations as they seek to protect themselves through the hiring of private security.”

Mirna Alsharif is a breaking news reporter for NBC News based in New York City.

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