The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest Muslim advocacy organization in the United States, announced Sunday it is offering a US$10,000 reward for information about the man behind the shootings on Saturday of a New York imam and his associate amid, a development that comes amid outcry from the city's Muslim community over the authorities’ reluctance to call the deadly incident a hate crime.
“We hope the offer of a reward will lead to the arrest and conviction of the individual who perpetrated this heinous crime,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said in a press release. “Once an arrest is made, we expect that the motive of the shooter can be determined.”
The victims, identified as Imam Maulana Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, were wearing religious garb at the time they were murdered just blocks from their mosque, police said. Police found them bleeding in the street and took them to a hospital where they were pronounced dead.
The group said Awad will participate in a news conference Monday where CAIR will provide information about the shootings and officially announce the reward.
“CAIR will participate in the community news conference in conjunction with New York’s Majlis Ashura (Islamic Leadership Council), which will announce an effort to assist the families of the victims,” the press statement said.
Also on Sunday, police released a sketch of the suspect and video surveillance of the shootings.
"While we do not yet know the motivation for the murders of Maulama Akonjee and Thara Uddin, we do know that our Muslim communities are in the perpetual crosshairs of bigotry," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. "Rest assured that our NYPD will bring this killer to justice."
The shooting appeared to be the deadliest attack against local Muslim leaders in recent years, Ibrahim Hooper, national communications director for CAIR, told Reuters on Sunday.
A report by CAIR and the University of California at Berkeley released in June said the number of recorded incidents in which mosques were targeted jumped to 78 in 2015, the most since the body began tracking them in 2009.
The incident comes amid a presidential election characterized by Islamophobic rhetoric from Republican nominee Donald Trump, who has called to ban Muslims from entering the United States.
Trump also came under fire last month over attacks he made against the parents of a Muslim U.S. soldier who was killed during combat in Iraq.