PATERSON — A city resident seen on video cursing about the public call to prayer at a local mosque is facing charges for an incident being investigated as a possible bias crime.

Edward Wright, 57, was arrested Feb. 22, stemming from the encounter at the Islamic Congregation of North Jersey two months earlier, according to the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office as first reported by NorthJersey.com.

Video posted to YouTube by the New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, shows surveillance footage of the man entering the mosque on Preakness Avenue in Paterson on Dec. 23. The full video includes repeated profanities.

Potential bias attack at Paterson mosque (CAIR NJ via Youtube)
Potential bias attack at Paterson mosque (CAIR NJ via Youtube)
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The video footage switches to a different camera, which shows him walking across a carpeted room and then eventually walking back, followed by someone from the mosque who is also recording him on a cell phone.

Potential bias attack at Paterson mosque (CAIR NJ via Youtube)
Potential bias attack at Paterson mosque (CAIR NJ via Youtube)
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Not seen in the video, witnesses said to police that Wright shoved and hit a prayer leader while yelling in a threatening manner.

Wright is accused of pushing the man from the back, slapping a microphone from his hand and hitting his shoulder.

"Everybody's not Muslim here," the man yells on the video footage taken on a phone, with profanities laced in between. “I don’t want to hear that **** every day.”

"Go somewhere, in their community,” he also says as he walks out of the mosque's front door, pushing the door closed.

Potential bias attack at Paterson mosque (CAIR NJ via Youtube)
Potential bias attack at Paterson mosque (CAIR NJ via Youtube)
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The man taking the video then says he'll call his boss, to which the man says, "Call him and I'll talk to him."

Wright has been charged with simple assault and bias intimidation and was released, pending a court hearing.

The Passaic County Prosecutor's Office has asked anyone with additional information about the incident to reach out to their tips line at 1-877-370-PCPO or tips@passaiccountynj.org or the Passaic County Sheriff’s Office at 973-389-5900.

Loudspeaker calls to prayer in Paterson

In 2020, Paterson City Council adopted changes to existing noise regulations, permitting a call to prayer via loudspeaker, church bells "and other reasonable means of announcing religious meetings, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., for a maximum of five minutes at a time."

Mosques in Paterson make the call to prayer five times a day.

Paterson mosques in 2022 (Google Maps)
Paterson mosques in 2022 (Google Maps)
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According to the Islamic Center of Passaic County, the city is home to "one of the largest Muslim communities in the U.S." with a congregant base of more than 25,000 people.

There are more than 12 mosques in the city, according to Google Maps.

Erin Vogt is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at erin.vogt@townsquaremedia.com

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