Shia-Sunni communities hold joint press conference after Albuquerque Muslim killings

Shia-Sunni communities hold joint press conference after Albuquerque Muslim killings
Following days of tension in the US Muslim community following the killings of Muslim men in Albuquerque by a serial killer, a man was arrested on Tuesday in what appears to be murders by a Sunni motivated by anti-Shia hatred.
3 min read
Washington, D.C.
10 August, 2022
CAIR held a joint Sunni-Shia press conference Tuesday following the arrest of a Sunni man who allegedly killed four Shia men in Albuquerque, New Mexico [screen grab]

Following the arrest of the main suspect in the killing of Muslim men in Albuquerque - an Afghan Sunni immigrant who allegedly murdered four Shia Muslims - the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) held a press conference Tuesday evening in Washington hosted by leaders of local Sunni and Shia organisations. 

The gathering took place just hours after the suspect, Muhammad Syed, 51, was announced by law enforcement in New Mexico to be charged with two of the four murders, due to bullet casings found at the crime scene connected to a gun found at his home.

He is also the prime suspect in the two other killings, which continue to be investigated. He was taken into custody following a traffic stop the previous day. 

The murders have put Muslims in Albuquerque and across the US on edge, particularly with the last three of the four killings occurring within the past two weeks.

After the fourth murder overnight on 5 August (announced on the 6th), CAIR raised its reward for information leading to the perpetrator to $10,000. With the news that the main suspect is also Muslim, Sunnis and Shias in the US are coming together to try to create better understanding between the two communities. 

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Speaking at the press conference, Rahat Husain, with the Maryland-based Shia Muslim Foundation, described the murders as anti-Shia hatred.

He emphasised, however, the "love and friendship" between Shia and Sunni Muslims in the US that he described as a model and something that isn't always seen around the world.  

"We cannot let this incident or any other incident harm or destroy that love and that respect we have for one another,” said Husain. He added that any anti-Shia hatred needs to be addressed.  

The two sects tend to enjoy warm relations in the US, including in Albuquerque. Tensions, however, arise from time to time, particularly in immigrant communities where they experienced differences in their countries of origin.

When asked if Syed was angry that his daughter had married a Shia Muslim, Deputy Police Commander Kyle Hartsock said that "motives are still being explored fully to understand what they are", according to a report Tuesday by the Associated Press. 

Speaking with The New Arab after the press conference, CAIR executive director Nihad Awad expressed his gratitude to Albuquerque's law enforcement for their response to the crimes, following days of fear among Muslims.  

"We are grateful for the heroic efforts in the past few days, and for the resources provided from the state and the federal government," he said. 

Imam Johari Abdulmalik, a member of the CAIR National Board, told The New Arab: "An attack on people, to murder people senselessly, just because their religious understanding is different than yours puts one under the purview that CAIR has an obligation to stand up and say to the community: We will not be divided with a capital W, meaning we as Americans, as citizens, as neighbours, as people of faith, and then what our faith, in particular, calls us to do, which is to say according to the Quran, that life is sacred, saying that if one takes the life of one person unjustly it is as if you had slain all of humanity."