More than 1,000 mourners gathered at the Islamic Center of New Mexico on Friday afternoon for the funerals of two Muslim men who were ambushed and shot to death in the past week and a half.
Police have said they are investigating whether the same person — or persons — is responsible for their deaths and that of another Muslim man, 62-year-old Mohammad Ahmadi, who was killed in November behind the halal market he and his brother owned.
Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was killed on Monday less than a block from his apartment in a neighborhood south of the University of New Mexico and Aftab Hussein, 41, was killed on July 26 on Rhode Island NE, near Wyoming and Copper.
The crowd — mostly, but not entirely, Muslim — filled the mosque for the reading of the Friday prayer and the funeral prayer. Several police cars were parked nearby. An Albuquerque Police Department spokesman said community leaders had requested their presence as a precaution. APD is also increasing its presence at all mosques in the city for the foreseeable future.
Imam Mahmoud Eldenawi spoke in Arabic, reciting from the Quran, about life and death, and the recent homicides.
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“All of us, not only Muslim, all other communities, they were shocked and saddened by such type of death to those people that are innocent — they did nothing,” Eldenawi said. “But this evil guy who committed this crime, he doesn’t have any kind of religion, doesn’t have any kind of sympathy, passion, mercy at all.”
Meanwhile, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, based in Washington, D.C., announced it is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.
“If a bias-motive is determined, state and federal authorities should apply appropriate hate crime charges,” said Nihad Awad, national executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
After news reports on the incidents began circulating, the Anti-Defamation League’s Mountain States Region also called for prosecutors to pursue hate charges.
The league cited FBI statistics that found religion-based hate crimes reached an historically high level in 2020 — the most recent year for which statistics are available. It said Muslims were the group that experienced the second-highest number of hate crimes across the country.
“It is abhorrent that anyone would be attacked simply because of who they are, and we express our deep concern and support to the Muslim community of New Mexico,” said Regional Director Scott Levin. “We thank members of law enforcement for investigating and taking the matter seriously, and we strongly encourage prosecutors to pursue hate crime charges if the evidence shows that the murders were committed because of the victims’ Muslim identity.”
Tips: Police ask anyone with information about the case to contact Crime Stoppers at 843-STOP.
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