Investigators in Passaic County, New Jersey are investigating an incident in which two people entered a mosque during a prayer service on Monday and began throwing rocks at worshippers, according to a news release. from the Passaic County District Attorney’s Office.
The investigation into the potential bias incident is active and ongoing, according to the prosecutor’s office.
No one at the Islamic Congregation of North Jersey (ICNJ), also known as Masjid Abu Bakr, was struck during the ordeal and no injuries were reported, officials said.
Burhan Uddin, who sits on the ICNJ board, said two people were hit in the leg but did not need medical attention.
The ICNJ was founded in 2014 and has a mostly Bangladeshi congregation, Uddin told NBC News.
Describing the incident to NBC News, Uddin, who rushed to the mosque on Monday after receiving a call about the incident, said two people entered the mosque while one held the door open.
“They arrived before sunset prayer around 8:40 p.m. and pretended they were coming to pray,” Uddin, who called the Passaic sheriff’s office after learning of the incident, told NBC News. “If you watch the video, you can even see one of them pretending to take his shoes off.”
But they weren’t there to pray, he said. A video shared with NBC News shows the two individuals, who were masked, entering the mosque twice.
The first time they enter, the men look around and one of them gestures to take off his shoes. Just as it looks like they are both going to leave, one of them returns and appears to be throwing something towards the congregation gathered to pray.
Another video shows them entering the mosque and both appear to be throwing something at the congregation.
“People are really scared and everyone is worried,” Uddin said. “This time it’s a rock, next time you never know it might be a knife or a bullet.”
This is the second time the ICNJ has been attacked in eight months, according to Uddin.
In December, a man entered the mosque and pushed the imam’s assistant, who was calling for prayers over a loudspeaker at the time, Uddin said.
“He was shouting at the imam, telling him that the call to prayer does not belong to this country and we do not belong to this country,” he said.
Uddin filed a report with the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office after the event. Calls to the Passaic County Sheriff and District Attorney’s Office regarding this incident have not been returned.
“Since it happens often now, what will happen next?” Uddin said. “Now we are trying to see if we can hire a security guard, which will be expensive. We are even considering closing our doors and ensuring that only people with a special code can enter the mosque.”
According to the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the ICNJ case is not an isolated incident. So far, they have documented almost 100 cases of alleged bias in 2022.
“Houses of worship are meant to be places of spiritual refuge,” said CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut. “Disturbing incidents like these rob them and their followers of the peace they seek.”
Maksut added that the advocacy group sees “a trend of New Jersey mosques installing bulletproof windows” and “locking their doors during prayer.”
“It’s not conducive to our growth or our development as a community,” he said. “We continue to call on local authorities to support community organizations as they seek to protect themselves by hiring private security guards.”