Source: The New York Times
Imam Alauddin Akonjee delivered his weekly sermon on Friday in his quietly powerful manner, drawing, as usual, nearly 200 people to a two-story house-turned-mosque in Ozone Park, Queens. He spoke in Bengali, his native language.
His message to the mosque, Al-Furqan Jame Masjid: Islam should be a force of peace in the face of discrimination. In his melodic voice, he spoke of how the oppressed should gain strength from God and one another, according to worshipers.
The next day, Mr. Akonjee, 55, who immigrated to New York in 2011 from Bangladesh, was shot from behind as he was returning home from afternoon prayers with his assistant, Thara Miah, 64. Both men died.
As Mr. Akonjee’s relatives in Queens grieved on Sunday, it was clear that the imam had left a legacy as a scholarly peacemaker whose devotion to both Islam and his family rippled across two communities in two countries.
“I would say my father was the best father in the world,” his oldest son, Fayez Uddin Akonjee, 28, said in an interview in Bengali from northeastern Bangladesh on Sunday night. “He was a very good person; he did not have any enemy. I will not get back my father any more. I want justice. I want that my father’s killers should get the death penalty.”
Of the imam’s seven children, Fayez was the only one not living in New York; he said he had been too old to qualify for a family visa several years ago. One of his sisters, Jannatun Naim Akonjee, had come to New York for a marriage her father had arranged.
A couple of years later, she sponsored her father to come to the United States. And a year after that, Mr. Akonjee brought his wife, four sons and one other daughter to Ozone Park.
Al-Furqan Jame Masjid was his second imam post in Queens, and he was quickly embraced there.
“He was our leader,” Sayed Ahmed, 35, said outside the mosque on Sunday. “He taught us how to worship, how to think, how to live. Our community lost its heart. The imam moved here for the same reasons we all did — he wanted a better future for his children. He wanted education, he wanted peace.”