An imam was stabbed at a mosque in Paterson, New Jersey early Sunday morning. The assailants subdued the alleged assailant, identified as Sheriff Zorba.
A spokesman for the Omar Mosque said Imam Said Elnaqib, 65, was stabbed at least twice while kneeling during prayers around 5:30 a.m. The attack was captured on surveillance video, allegedly showing Zorba, 32, suddenly walking to the front of the room in the middle of prayers to stab the imam.
Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes said bystanders held the suspect until police officers arrived. Zorba was taken into custody on charges of attempted murder in the first degree, possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose in the third degree and unlawful possession of a weapon in the fourth degree.
Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office
Zorba pleaded not guilty during a virtual court appearance Monday. CBS New York He will be returned to court on Thursday, reports CBS New York.
Elnakib’s wounds were considered serious, but not life-threatening, officials said. Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh said he visited the imam at the hospital and said at a news conference Sunday that the police presence at Paterson mosques would be increased throughout Ramadan. Sayegh also said he was hopeful Elnakib would be released from the hospital by this week, CBS New York reported.
“You shouldn’t be afraid to pray,” he said. “You should feel safe praying anywhere in the city of Paterson.”
Officials have not yet shared a motive behind the attack.
“We expect this to be an isolated incident once the investigation is complete,” said Abdul Hamdan, a spokesman for the mosque, CBS New York reported. .
“While it is unclear what motivated the attacker, there is no justification for any kind of violence, especially at a holy site,” Councilman Al Abdel-Aziz wrote on Facebook.