An Imam Was Shot Dead on the Streets of Queens. We Spoke to the Man Who Washed His Bullet-Ridden Body.
The brazen murder of Alauddin Akonjee terrified New York’s Muslim community. As his chaplain prepared the holy man for burial, he wondered what comes next.
Photo by Emilie Richardson
At seven a.m. on Monday, August 15, Abu Taher Chowdhury put down a cup of black coffee and drove seven miles to a funeral home in South Ozone Park, Queens, to wash the corpse of his friend, Alauddin Akonjee. Two days earlier, Akonjee, an imam, and his associate, Thara Miah, had been shot dead while they were walking home to eat lunch after midday prayer. While the shooter’s motive is still unknown, many in the Muslim community have called it a hate crime. Chowdhury, an emergency room technician and a chaplain, had washed corpses before. But he had never washed a body with bullet wounds. Chowdhury and Akonjee both grew up in Sylhet, in northeastern Bangladesh, and were introduced at the Al-Furqan Mosque in Queens. Akonjee was the mosque’s resident imam and Chowdhury, an expert on the Koran, was invited to lead the tarawih, special prayers performed during the holy month of Ramadan. The night they first met, they ended up taking a long walk together, talking ab…