Authorities are investigating after a religious leader was attacked inside a prominent New Jersey mosque on Sunday.
An imam at the Omar Mosque in Paterson, about 15 miles north of Newark, was praying when the suspect, identified as 32-year-old Serif Zorba, stabbed him multiple times in the back, police said. NBC New York.
“While they were kneeling forward in prayer, this person pulled out a knife and lunged at the imam, stabbing him several times in the back,” Abdul Hamden, a spokesman for the mosque, told the outlet.
Congregants rushed the man and held him down until police arrived and took him into custody, NBC New York reported.
Zorba is now facing a series of charges, including attempted murder.
Any motive for the stabbing was not immediately clear until early Monday morning.
The attack occurred during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Police said Zorba had visited the mosque several times before to pray.
The Paterson Police Department and the Omar Mosque did not immediately respond to NBC News’ requests for comment.
Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh told reporters Sunday that the imam was recovering at a hospital after the incident.
“I wanted to let him know that we are not only praying for him, but that there will be additional protection around his mosque and other mosques,” he said in comments broadcast on NBC New York. «Additional police attention is automatic in a situation like this because, frankly, I feel like we might have lost this imam.»
Police officers and vehicles were parked outside the Omar Mosque for the rest of the day.
“This will make us come together stronger to go to the mosque more regularly, to make sure that we are here with our brothers and sisters in solidarity,” Hamden said.
In a separate incident in Los Angeles, authorities were searching for a suspect who allegedly used a permanent marker to write anti-Islamic words at a mosque and an Islamic cultural center on Sunday.
The Islamic Center of Southern California called the attack on its facility an «egregious act of vandalism against the center where innocent people gather for their daily religious practices.»
“This hate crime is a reminder that we must come together locally and internationally as a community against all forms of hate, bigotry and violence,” the center said in a statement urging anyone with information to come forward.