Story of ‘Islamophobic’ Attack on New Jersey Imam Takes a Surprising Twist

Mugshot: Passaic County Prosecutor's Office

It happened early on Sunday morning. The imam Sayed Elnakib was leading the pre-sunrise fajr prayer at Omar Mosque in South Paterson, N.J., when suddenly everything went tragically wrong. According to a Sunday CNN report, mosque spokesperson Abdul Hamdan recounted that in the middle of the prayers, a man “lunged forward with a knife and stabbed Imam Sayed multiple times – at least twice.” One of his lungs was punctured. The CNN story went on to speak about hate crimes and “anti-Muslim prejudices,” and the implication was clear: “Islamophobia” had come to South Paterson. It was a perfect story for the Left’s narrative — at least until the suspect was apprehended.


The story got big play in Pakistan, where what CNN implied was spelled out explicitly and insistently. The Pakistani publication The Current ran the headline: “Islamophobia? Imam stabbed while leading Fajr prayers in American mosque.” Another Pakistani news outlet, The News International, was far more certain, calling the attack “yet another Islamophobic incident.” Pakistan Observer went with “yet another act of Islamophobia.” In America, however, there was scant coverage, and claims that this was an “Islamophobic hate crime” were muted, as in CNN’s report.

Even CNN didn’t run wholeheartedly with the “Islamophobia” angle. It included in its report Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh saying that a suspect had been caught, but that “their motive is not clear.” He did not, of course, mean that there were multiple suspects. He was just bowing to today’s fashionable torture of pronouns. South Paterson Councilman Al Abdel-aziz added, “While it is unclear what motivated the attacker, there is no justification for violence of any kind, especially in a sacred space.” CNN also noted that the New Jersey chapter of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations “called for a hate crime investigation after a separate incident in Paterson,” but strikingly, not in connection with the stabbing of Imam Elnakib.

If this had really been an “Islamophobic” attack, the outcry would have been full-throated, with nothing about the motive being unclear. The reason for all this reticence became clear when the suspect was apprehended. The attacker turned out to be not an “Islamophobe,” much less one of those elusive “white supremacist terrorists” that the Biden regime keeps telling us constitute the biggest terror threat the nation faces today, but a Muslim named Serif Zorba. According to a Tuesday report on, Zorba explained to the police that “he planned the attack the night prior at his home on his own due to his disagreeing with the mosque and its leader collecting money in the name of Islam.”


Zorba was himself an observant Muslim, although he attended a different mosque in the area. added that Zorba “had been attending prayer services at the Mevlana Cami, a mosque on Sussex Street, every day since the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month that began March 22, according to the vice president of that congregation, Hasan Oren… After prayers, Zorba allegedly approached the imam and pointed at his tie, asking him, ‘Why are you wearing a tie? In our religion, you should not wear a tie.’” That’s fairly clear as to the motive: not so much the tie, as the differences in understanding Islam of which the tie or lack thereof was one manifestation.

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It’s unclear whether or not Sayegh knew this as he continued to give the impression that the mosque faced some external threat, saying, “We appreciate the efforts of those here who were able to apprehend the assailant and we also want to reassure the family, the congregation at the mosque, that there will be extra police attention. This is the holiest month in the Islamic calendar year and we want to make sure that the safety of those that are just coming to pray is a priority for us and that we take this situation very seriously. We want to let anyone who is coming to worship know that they can do this in peace without any fear of being attacked.” That’s great, but the fact that Elnakib’s attacker also considers this the holiest month of the year puts the whole thing in a different light, and Sayegh has been resolutely mum about that.


And so we see it yet again. “Islamophobia” is, as the Left insists, closely akin to “white supremacism,” but not in the way that they mean. What they actually share is being virtually nonexistent except in the rhetoric of those who keep telling us what big threats they are and vowing to do whatever it takes to stamp them out. The stabbing of Imam Sayed Elnakib reminds us of this yet again.


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