Hundreds remembered a Queens imam and his friend at a funeral prayer service Monday as police questioned a potential suspect in the weekend shooting.
Traditional Islamic services for imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and his assistant Thara Uddin, 64, drew a large crowd to a parking area near where the men were killed after Saturday prayers at the Al-Furqan Jame Mosque in the Ozone Park section of Queens.
Many held signs that read "Stop Hate Crimes" and "Muslim Lives Matter" and chanted for justice.
Speaker after speaker at the funeral implored law enforcement to investigate the murders as a hate crime and step up efforts to protect sections of the city like Ozone Park where many Muslims live and work.
"We want justice," Badrul Kahn, founder of the Al-Furqan mosque and its chief adviser, shouted to the crowd in the service's opening speech. "We want justice," responded the mourners, most of them men dressed in Islamic garb.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, addressing the funeral, promised that the city would bolster the police presence in the neighborhood even though the motive behind the killings was still unclear.
"We're not going to listen to those voices who try to divide us. We will stand up to them each and every time," he said. "We will make sure that whoever did this is brought to justice, I can guarantee you that."
The city, he said, is better and stronger because of the Muslim communities.
"I want you to know we are all mourning with you," de Blasio said, adding that the two victims "were examples of goodness and righteousness."
Police were questioning a possible suspect on Tuesday, who had been picked up for an unrelated crime.
Asif Ahmed, 26, said he attends prayers at the mosque. He said he was "really happy" the mayor was attending the funeral.
"It's a small community, just shocked that it happened," he said. "It's great to see everyone coming together."
As for the man in custody, Ahmed said, "Hopefully it's the guy. We don't need that kind of hatred in our neighborhood."