NEWARK (Diya TV) — Imam Hassan Sharif was fatally shot outside Masjid Muhammad in Newark, New Jersey, early Wednesday morning by an unknown assailant. Authorities are offering $35,000 in rewards for information leading to an arrest.

The New Jersey Muslim community is in shock after the shooting. The incident occurred just after 6 a.m., leaving the respected imam critically wounded. Sharif later succumbed to his injuries at University Hospital in the afternoon.

Law enforcement officials, led by Essex County Prosecutor Ted Stephens, have launched an intensive investigation into the shooting. At a news conference, Stephens stated that Sharif was shot multiple times while in his vehicle, with no clear motive or suspect identified so far. The Essex County Sheriff’s Crime Stoppers Program is offering a $25,000 reward, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its New Jersey chapter are contributing an additional $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin emphasized that, despite the recent surge in bias incidents, there is no indication at this point that the shooting was motivated by bias or domestic terrorism. However, investigators are diligently pursuing all leads, and the heightened sense of fear within the community is palpable.

Imam Hassan Sharif was a well-known figure in Newark, actively involved in community activities and a familiar face at city events. Sharif, a former boxer who had served as a Transportation Security Officer at Newark Liberty International Airport since 2006, recently took on the role of resident imam at Masjid Muhammad.

The shooting has raised concerns about the safety of the Muslim community, especially given the increased number of bias incidents since the conflict between Israel and Hamas in October. CAIR reported a 172% increase in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian hate incidents over the last two months.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy expressed his condolences and reassured residents that the state would do everything in its power to ensure the safety of all residents, particularly those near houses of worship. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials have vowed to increase patrols at mosques and synagogues.