NEW YORK – In response to the violent death of a local imam, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark has said he is “deeply distressed by the loss of a “revered faith and community leader.”

Imam Hassan Sharif of the Masjid Muhammed Mosque in Newark died Jan. 3 after he was shot multiple times outside of the mosque that morning. Sharif was transported to University Hospital in critical condition, but succumbed to his injuries in the early afternoon.

“I join with the people of Newark and surrounding communities deeply distressed by the tragic loss of Imam Hassan Sharif of Masjid Muhammed Mosque,” Tobin said in a Jan. 4 statement. “Imam Sharif was a revered faith and community leader in our city who spoke out against violence in our streets and neighborhoods.”

According to local authorities, the shooting occurred just after 6:00 a.m., with Sharif incurring multiple bullet wounds to his abdomen and left arm. He was found by police who reported to the scene, and promptly transported to the hospital.

A suspect or motive for the shooting has not been determined at this point. Authorities have said there is no evidence so far that suggests the shooting was a hate crime.

Sharif had been a transportation officer at Newark Liberty International Airport since 2006. He had been imam at the mosque for five years, and was remembered as a community leader.

“I share the grief of all who mourn the death of this faithful leader and join my prayers with those of his family and friends and our sisters and brothers in the Muslim community,” Tobin said. “May the God of peace grace our hearts and minds and make His home in our city.”

In a Jan. 3 statement, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka condemned the violence, and said that “Sharif stood with the people of this city, and we will stand with him and his family.

“I mourn the death of Imam Hassan Sharif and know any expression of condolence and comfort for his family and loved ones is inadequate. Our hearts are broken,” Baraka said.

“As a city, we mourn so much today, but we must refuse to mourn our capacity to love each other and to embody our ideals for tolerance and understanding, acceptance, and equality,” Baraka continued. “We must continue to build a Newark that serves as a safe refuge for all – and where justice is served to those who act out in violence.”

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