Just weeks after their imam, or spiritual leader, was arrested last fall by federal agents and stripped of his work authorization, members of the Islamic Center of New England in Sharon found themselves standing around a body in the mosque, wondering who would lead the prayers for the deceased.

“Many members said Imam Masood should lead the prayer; half said he shouldn’t,” said Omar Abdala, who attends the center. “At the end of the day, he took someone aside and reminded him how to do a funeral prayer, and that person did it. But that whole issue is just an example of the type of resentment that is fostering.”

It has been half a year since Hafiz Muhammed Masood was arrested on visa fraud charges. The most serious charges against him have been dropped. But he is still not allowed to work, leaving the Islamic Center struggling to find ways to continue without its leader.

The situation poses daily difficulty and frustration not only for the mosque, say those familiar with the situation, but also for Masood, a Pakistan-born father of eight.

“The effect on the community has been terrible, especially for Friday prayer and social gatherings. We are missing him,” said Khaled Attia, who is on the board of directors for the Islamic Center of New England.

“He’s a very honorable man, and it’s not easy for a man like him to be put in a position where he can’t support his family,” said Hossam AlJabri, Boston chapter president of the Muslim American Society and a member of the mosque. His children attend the adjacent school, where Masood taught before his arrest. Community members and local organizations have been providing financial assistance.

Masood was arrested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in November during a nationwide sweep of an alleged scheme to provide religious-worker visas for immigrants working secular jobs. The charges stirred rallies of support for him outside of the courthouse in Boston during a bond hearing, and criticism from leaders of churches and temples in Sharon.


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