Sept. 18, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
The New York chapter of one of the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organizations has called on the NYPD to carry out a swift and comprehensive investigation into a violent attack on an imam outside a mosque in the Dutch Kills section of Long Island City earlier this month.
The Council of American-Islamic Relations New York (CAIR-NY) said that the NYPD needs to examine its response to the events leading up to the attack which saw Imam Idriz Budimlić, 42, of the Islamic Center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, sucker punched by a man outside the the Crescent Steet mosque on Sept. 8.
The punch was so strong that the imam fell to the ground and was knocked unconscious, causing multiple fractures to his face and nose, police said. The suspect remains at large, police said.
Citing a press release by the board of directors of the center, CAIR-NY said in a statement on Wednesday, Sept. 13, that the violent attack could possibly have been prevented had the police responded to a disturbance at the 37-46 Crescent St. mosque the night before the attack, during which the suspect allegedly forced his way into the house of worship and demanded to see the imam.
A cleaner and her husband who were inside the mosque at the time called the NYPD to report a disorderly male and the suspect eventually left, the board of directors said. However, the board of directors claims that the cops never responded to the scene.
“CAIR-NY urges the NYPD to conduct a thorough and swift investigation into the incident and address the lack of responsiveness to the initial call to report the first incident,” Afaf Nasher, the executive director of CAIR-NY said in a statement. “This horrifying act of violence reminds us of the critical need for our law enforcement agencies to demonstrate [an] unwavering commitment to protecting the safety and well-being of all our citizens, regardless of their religious or ethnic backgrounds.”
Nasher went on to say that this was not the first time such attacks on Islamic religious leaders have occurred.
“For far too long, incidents of this nature have gone unresolved, leading to fear, frustration, and a loss of faith in the systems that are supposed to protect us,” Nasher said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the imam and his family during this challenging time.”
The NYPD on Monday, Sept. 18, responded to the board of directors’ claims and said police arrived on the scene a few hours later, given that officers were tending to other calls at the time which were of a higher priority. Calls of disorderly persons are considered low priority, the NYPD said.
“The [114th] precinct was in backlog,” an NYPD spokesperson wrote in a statement to the Queens/LIC Post on Monday, Sept. 18. “Officers responded at 2:26 a.m. on Sept. 8 and determined the individual left the location and police were no longer needed.”
It is unclear why the imam was targeted in the alleged Sept. 8 attack.
Police told the Queens/LIC Post last week that the suspect entered the mosque at around 6:45 a.m. and got into a verbal dispute with the Imam about money. The victim escorted the alleged assailant out of the mosque before he turned around and slugged him in the face with a closed fist, cops said.
Senad Ahmetovic, a member of the board of directors at the Islamic Center of Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the Queens/LIC Post on Monday, Sept. 18 that the imam does not know the suspect.
Ahmetovic said the suspect was acting strange at the mosque and when the imam got him to leave, he then started asking the imam for money.
“He was angry and acting erratic and loud, he had some affixation to the imam,” Ahmetovic said. “None of us know him, he was never seen at the mosque before.”
Ahmetovic also said the suspect was seen on CCTV footage returning to the mosque two days after he allegedly punched the imam.
“We saw him on the security cameras, so he had the audacity to come back, apparently to retrieve his shoes that were left on the rack on the day of the attack,” Ahmetovic said. “He changed his appearance, and we notified the NYPD and gave them the security footage.
Police describe the suspect as a male with a dark complexion and a goatee. He is believed to be between 25 to 35 years old and was last seen wearing a white T-shirt and black shorts.
In the aftermath of the attack, the board of directors at the Islamic Center of Bosnia and Herzegovina said its members were fearful of taking their children to the mosque.
“Following this incident, many of the parents who enrolled their children in our weekend programs are reluctant to send their kids to the classes that just started at the mosque,” a Sept. 11 statement by the board reads. “We implore for better cooperation and response times, for more patrols to and around the masjid and for this individual to be apprehended and brought to justice.”