In these days of rage, the murder of a Muslim Imam and his assistant in the blue collar southereastern corner of Queens, New York City's most ethnically diverse borough, had many fearing the worst: that a racist inspired by the inflammatory rhetoric of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump had taken things into his own hands and commited the ultimate of hate crimes. However, police are still questioning the movtives of Oscar Morel, a 35-year-old Brooklyn man who was arrested yesterday and charged with the second-degree murder for the killing of imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant, Thara Uddin, 64, in broad daylight Saturday afternoon.
The killing stunned New York's Muslim community, especially those from the area around Ozone Park. Once a white working class enclave, the neighborhood is now home to a potpourri of different ethinc groups, including a wide array of immigrant groups from Latin America and South Asia, including the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. Imam Akonjee served at Al-Furqan Jame Masjid, a private home converted to a mosque. There has been some discussion as to whether tensions between the local Hispanic (Mr. Morel is Hispanic) and Bangladeshi polutaions was the motive for the murder.
New York Police Department detectives tracked down Morel Sunday after the black GMC TrailBlazer he fled the crime scene in was involved in a hit and run a couple blocks away. When confronted by officers, Morel rammed the detectives car with his SUV and tried to flee. In Morel's basement apartment police found a handgun matching the one used in the murder. For his part, Oscar Morel has said he was at the scene of the crime Saturday afternoon but insists he is innocent and didn't shoot anyone.
[Photo: Getty Images]