US Muslims have held protests in New York to denounce the fatal shooting of a mosque imam and his associate on Saturday.
The two were walking home from afternoon prayers at a mosque in the New York City borough of Queens, when a gunman opened fire, shooting both in the head.
Imam Alala Uddin Akongi, a revered religious leader who came to the city from Bangladesh about two years ago, was pronounced dead at the scene.
His assistant, 64-year-old Thara Uddin, was critically injured and succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
Muslim protesters gathered at the scene of the murder later in the day, calling the killings a hate crime, and demanding justice.
The protesters blamed the murder on the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the US perpetuated by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
The demonstrators were chanting, “This is Donald Trump’s fault,” and “Muslims hate crime.”
“That’s not what America is about,” Khairul Islam, 33, a local resident told the Daily News. “We blame Donald Trump for this. Trump and his drama has created Islamophobia.”
“For those in leadership like Trump and Mr. Giuliani, and other members of other institutions that project Islam and Muslims as the enemy, this is the end result of their wickedness,” another Imam, whose name was not known, said at the gathering.
Trump has called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims” entering the United States. He has also proposed a database to track Muslims across the country and said that the US would have “absolutely no choice” but to close down mosques.
Meanwhile, a representative of the Council on American–Islamic Relations has called the killings “an assassination.”
Police, however, have said there is no evidence suggesting the two were killed because of their faith. The shooter is at large.