Seeking peace, fair portrayals
By Shomial Ahmad
August 12, 2006
Pakistani-Americans on Friday tried to distance themselves from the suspected terrorists arrested in the foiled airline plot, stressing that while many of those picked up by authorities are of Pakistani origin, they are British-born.
"They are British," said Asghar Choudhri, a resident of the Midwood section of Brooklyn since 1969. "We are all Americans. ... We will stay here as Brooklynites. We are a very peaceful community."
At the same time, many expressed frustration with how they said the American media consistently linked terrorism with Muslims and the teachings of Islam.
"People in the media openly say things about Muslims. They openly say 'Muslim terrorists,'" said Habeeb Ahmed, president of the Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury. "Why do you have to say 'Muslim terrorist?' Just say 'terrorist.'"
Ahmed said that at Friday's prayer at the mosque, the imam addressed the issue, saying the plot to blow up the airliners runs counter to the philosophy of Islam. He said he was afraid of a backlash from the arrests, saying he feared Muslim men with beards and women with headscarves could be targeted.
"The whole 1.2 billion Muslims are treated like they're all terrorists," Ahmed said. "Put them in jail and punish them severely, but don't punish the whole community."
In Midwood - which has a heavy Pakistani immigrant population - many people expressed similar frustration. American flags floated outside a strip of Pakistani businesses. Many store windows had fliers for an upcoming rally that said "U.S. Troops out of the Middle East."
Nouman Khan, 28, who was walking along the strip wearing traditional dress, said that he was appalled by the news of the plot.
"It's hard to make sense of it," said Khan, who teaches Arabic at Nassau Community College.
"I've never heard that rhetoric from extremely religious people, factions, scholars and public figures," referring to what may have inspired the terrorist plot.
But Hamid Hussain, a physician from Port Jefferson who has been writing on security issues for a Pakistani military journal in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, said terrorism is fueled by the anger that young, disenfranchised Pakistanis have against the British government.
"There is extreme anger and frustration with the wholesale carnage in Iraq," Hussain said. He said a recent study said eight out of 10 British Muslims thought that the government's foreign policy was anti-Muslim.