Hundreds of people have attended a funeral service for two Muslim community leaders who were slain in New York City, calling for an immediate end to surging hate crimes against religious minorities in the US.
Some 1,000 people, including NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, gathered together on Monday to remember Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee and his assistant Thara Uddin, two days after a gunman killed them near a mosque in Queens, called the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid.
De Blasio, a democrat, said at the memorial that Muslims make New York better and stronger. He praised the slain leaders for their services and promised more protection for the city’s Muslim community.
“They were examples of goodness and righteousness. They were examples of peace and understanding. We will take their example and build upon it,” the mayor said of Akonjee and Thara Uddin.
Many people have criticized de Blasio for his late response to Saturday's attack. He took more than 24 hours to release a statement on the incident. In fact, the Monday speech was his first public reaction to the deadly assault.
After the mayor, Akonjee’s son and several other speakers took the stage and condemned the crime while some members of the audience chanted “Justice,” while calling for an end to hate crimes against Muslim communities in the US.
"He always wants peace," Naim Akonjee, 21, said of his father. “Why did they kill my father?”
After the ceremony, which was held in a municipal parking lot six blocks away from the crime scene, part of the crowd marched to the spot where Akonjee and Thara Uddin were killed.
Suspect in custody
Earlier on Monday, authorities said they had detained a man in relation to the attack, hoping that his arrest would help them identify a vehicle seen fleeing the scene of the shooting.
Later on, police charged 35-year-old Oscar Morel, from Brooklyn, with second-degree murder and criminal possession of a weapon.
Morel was first arrested on Sunday for hitting a bicyclist 10 minutes after Saturday's shooting. But his charges were elevated after an inspection of his home returned a revolver and clothes similar to the ones being worn by the gunman in a surveillance video.
It is not yet clear what motives were behind the daytime shooting. However, police has described the attack as an apparent hate crime.