PATERSON, N.J. (PIX11) — The man accused of stabbing an imam during prayer at a New Jersey mosque Sunday has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges, including attempted murder.
Serif Zorba, 32, appeared before a judge virtually from jail and spoke through an interpreter on Monday. He entered a plea of not guilty to charges of attempted murder and unlawful possession of a weapon following an incident in which he allegedly stabbed an imam during a prayer service at Omar Mosque on Getty Avenue in Paterson.
Officials said the 65-year-old victim is in stable condition and is expected to be OK following the attack inside the mosque.
Local and federal officials said uniformed and plain-clothes police patrols will be stepped up at mosques in the city. Police would not comment on a possible motive behind the stabbing.
“A very thorough investigation is going on,” said Maj. Fred Fife of the New Jersey State Police. “No stone will be left unturned.”
Police believe the stabbing to be an isolated incident, saying repeatedly the mosque is safe for congregants to attend.
“There’s a lot of work to be done by all of us, I think, in terms of local government, us as a community,” said Abdul Hamdan, spokesman for mosque. “We all have to remain vigilant and we all have to understand things like this do happen.”
The attack comes during the final ten days of Ramadan, a holy period in Islam for fasting and spiritual growth. Signs outside the mosque that were present prior to the incident say no weapons are allowed inside. Officials said worship will go on as usual.
“This is a mosque. People come here to worship,” said Hamdan. “We don’t want to turn this into a TSA checkpoint.”
Zorba remains behind bars. He is due back in court for his next hearing on Thursday.