Though I haven’t explored the depths of Queens as far as Ozone Park, I am aware of this diverse neighborhood along the A line that borders Brooklyn–it could be a twin of my own neighborhood in the Bronx in terms of demographic.
Teeming with Bangladeshi immigrants, many of who left behind a wealth of life experiences and memories in their mother country for the sake of pursuing their hopes and dreams in a vastly different environment. A story told and retold many a time. A story that I play a role in, having lived the first year of my life in the city of Dhaka before my parents made the move to the United States.
Which is why, upon learning the story of 55-year-old Maulama Akonjeea nd his 64-year-old friend Thara Uddin being shot point-blank in the head to death by an unknown assailant following afternoon prayers at the local mosque in Ozone Park, thrills of fear tremored across countless Muslim communities citywide.
Mr. Akonjee and Mr. Uddin may as well have been one of the many friendly, devout uncles I grew up with, learning the wonders of Islam at their side. Though I cannot call myself a particularly religious person, word of all peril occurring in this world in the name of Islam and the slander of the religion these days sings a different tune than the one I was taught.
My mother, my grandmother, even my high school tutor in Jackson Heights were among some of the individuals who taught me how a concept as hotly contested and zealously protected as religion can be a wonderful thing, so long as the observer appreciates their beliefs for the its goodness and focuses solely on that. I experienced none of the negativity that is framed on our televisions and newspapers daily when it came to Islam.
But in the eyes of a killer, strife, struggle and passion are meaningless. It doesn’t matter how desperately one swam to reach the shore; never mind family and friends, loved ones and life. In a matter of seconds, this killer–hardly any leads on tracking him as of yet–made all that disappear. Forget the word of any God, because according to this man, he gets to call the shots and decide who lives and who dies.
Sincerely hoping against hope that the families and communities affected will persevere, and do not allow terror to shape their own lives.