🔴 An imam was stabbed while leading prayers Sunday morning

🔴 The suspected attacker has been arrested and charged with attempted murder

🔴 Authorities have not revealed a possible motive for the stabbing

PATERSON — A 32-year-old man rushed an imam during prayers at a Passaic County mosque early Sunday morning, according to officials.

Serif Zorba is charged with first-degree attempted murder among other offenses. He is being held pending a court appearance Monday afternoon.

The victim, a 65-year-old imam, was leading prayers Sunday around 5:30 a.m. at the Omar Mosque in South Paterson when he was rushed by a man with a knife, according to Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes.

Serif Zorba (Passaic County Prosecutor's Office)
Serif Zorba (Passaic County Prosecutor's Office)

Zorba managed to stab the imam more than once but he was stopped and subdued by worshippers at the mosque, Valdes said. Paterson cops got to the scene at the mosque on Getty Avenue and found the stabbing victim. He was taken to a local hospital.

Paterson Councilman Al Abdel-aziz identified the victim as Sayed Elnakib. He is in stable condition and is expected to make a full recovery.

"I was deeply saddened to hear about the stabbing incident that took place during prayer at Omar’s mosque earlier this morning, and my heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragic event," the local official said on social media. "While it is unclear what motivated the attacker, there is no justification for violence of any kind, especially in a sacred space."

Omar Mosque in South Paterson. (Google Maps)
Omar Mosque in South Paterson. (Google Maps)

Along with attempted murder, Zorba is charged with two weapons offenses. Authorities have not publicly revealed a possible motive for the attack.

Abdul Hamdan, a spokesman for the mosque, told the Paterson Press that the stabbing was an "isolated incident." He said the congregants were able to catch the attacker as he tried to flee.

The stabbing on Sunday morning is the second incident in recent days involving the Paterson Muslim community. New Jersey's chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations is calling for a bias incident investigation after an unknown vandal smeared a public school sign.

Vandalized Paterson school sign. (CAIR-NJ)
Vandalized Paterson school sign. (CAIR-NJ)

The vandal used an "unknown dark substance" to block out the letters forming the word "Allah" on the sign for the Dr. Hani Awadallah school, according to CAIR-NJ. Allah is the Arabic word for God.

In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut called it part of an upward trend.

“While the circumstances surrounding the incident remain unknown, the smearing of the word ‘Allah’ in Dr. Awadallah’s name is apparently intentional, with the remainder of the sign left untouched, making an immediate hate crime investigation into this incident necessary," Maksut said.

New Jersey 101.5 on Sunday reached out to the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office and a spokesperson for Paterson Public Schools for comment.

Rick Rickman is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at richard.rickman@townsquaremedia.com

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