“Incredibly terrified. Panicked. Some people want to leave the state until this case is over. Some people have left the state,” said Ahmad Assed, president of the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
“Businesses are closing…early. Students won’t leave their homes,” he said.
“It prevents people from coming to the mosque to perform their services, their prayers. So in all aspects of daily life that we are accustomed or accustomed to following, it impacts in every way possible.”
Friday night, Naeem Hussain, 25, was found dead by Albuquerque police. He became the third Muslim killed in the city in two weeks and the fourth since November.
Hours before his death, Hussain – who has just become a US citizen – attended the funerals of two of the other shooting victims. The young man expressed concern about the recent shootings, said Tahir Gauba, spokesman for the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
These three men – Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Aftab Hussein, 41, and Mohammad Ahmadi, 62 – were all “ambushed without warning, shot and killed”, said Kyle Hartsock, deputy commander of the Criminal Investigation Division of the Albuquerque Police Department. .
All four victims were Muslim and of South Asian descent, investigators said.
“They are afraid to go to school”
Although police did not classify the four murders as hate crimes, “in my opinion, it is clear that they are motivated by hate,” Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said Monday.
“They’re obviously targeting Muslim men, and they’re happening right here in our own refugee community,” Keller told CNN.
“We know that people in our community, especially in the Muslim community, are afraid even to leave their homes, especially at night. They are afraid to pray. They are afraid to go to school,” said the mayor.
Albuquerque is not only “in a place of mourning right now, but also in a place of outrage,” Keller said. But the community is determined to help.
“We have mobilized all resources to now have a police presence in all our mosques during prayer times,” the mayor said. “We even do meal deliveries for families who are afraid to leave their homes to get food.”
Assed, the mosque’s president, said he is now one of many Muslims in New Mexico who struggle with fear on a daily basis.
“I get in the car and look every way I can. I look in my side mirror. I look out the back. I look for any signs of anything out of the ordinary,” he said. declared. said.
“At the end of the day, we have no alternative.”
A new American citizen who fled religious persecution is killed in America
Naeem Hussain emigrated as a refugee from Pakistan in 2016 – fleeing persecution as a Shia Muslim – and became a US citizen last month, according to his brother-in-law, Ehsan Shahalami.
“He was the most generous, kind, generous, patient, down-to-earth person I have ever met,” Shahalami said. “He was very hardworking. He shared everything he did with his family back home.”
The young man, who opened his own trucking business this year, intended to bring his wife over from Pakistan and buy property in Virginia, Shahalami said.
“He had a lot of dreams and he made some of them come true,” Shahalami said. “His others were interrupted by this heinous act.”
On the day he was killed, Hussain attended the funerals of two other Muslim men recently killed in the city, said Tahir Gauba, director of public affairs for the Islamic Center of New Mexico.
Hussain went to the mosque for lunch after the funeral and approached Gauba to ask if he had any more information about the shooting, Gauba told CNN.
“He stopped to say ‘Hey, what’s going on?’ He was worried. I told him to be careful,” Gauba said.
“We thought after these two young men were buried (Friday) we would have the shutdown and move on and let law enforcement investigate,” Gauba said. “Waking up on Saturday morning after his death, the whole community feels helpless. There’s a lot of fear. … It’s driving everyone crazy.”
After their killings, police began investigating whether the November 7 murder of Mohammad Ahmadi, a Muslim from Afghanistan, was connected.
“The fear is so strong”
The Islamic Center of New Mexico is painfully familiar with violence against Muslims in the community.
Fortunately, no one was in the mosque at the time of the fire, Assed said.
But now the center, where around 700 to 800 Muslims congregate on Fridays, is warning residents to be careful.
“We urge everyone to take precautions and be aware of your surroundings, including being careful not to be followed in your home and avoiding walking alone at night,” the Islamic Center of New Mexico posted on Facebook. “This is especially true for our members living in the southeast part of town where these killings took place.”
After Hussain’s killing on Friday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she would send additional police to Albuquerque.
The city is also increasing police presence at mosques, Muslim-affiliated schools and the University of New Mexico, officials said.
“We’ve heard from the community that the fear is so strong, even things like grocery shopping and getting meals for certain people in certain areas of the city are concerning,” Keller said during a weekend briefing, adding that the city is helping provide meals for those affected by the killings.
Albuquerque has always felt like a welcoming community for Muslims, even after 9/11, Gauba said. “It’s the first time we’ve felt this kind of atmosphere,” he said. “We are scared.”
CNN’s Raja Razek contributed to this report.