U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the federal terror investigation in Flushing one of the most significant since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but leaders from the borough’s Muslim and South Asian communities are alarmed by the increase in suspicion and fear they say has resulted.
Speaking outside the Flushing Library, some 50 representatives from several organizations and Muslims in the area registered their displeasure with what they said was indiscriminate profiling of minorities in their community.
“There has been a wide casting of a net over the entire Muslim community,” said Monami Maulik, executive director of Desis Rising Up and Moving, a Jackson Heights-based group that advocates for the rights of South Asians.
Maulik noted the groups present recognized the need for terrorism investigations, but “they should happen in a manner that respects people’s dignity and due process rights.”
Thus far the investigation has focused on Najibullah Zazi, a 24-year-old former Flushing man who moved to Colorado. Federal prosecutors say he was trained in weapons and explosives at an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan last year, bought large amounts of beauty products that could be used to build a bomb and recently visited Queens with bomb-making instructions in his laptop.
But The New York Times reported officials were also looking at two other Queens men suspected of traveling with Zazi to Pakistan: cab driver Zarein Ahmedzay, 24, and Adis Medunjanin, 25, who recently graduated from Queens College.
Naiz Khan, the Flushing man who was initially detained and released by the FBI several weeks ago in connection with the current terror investigation, also spoke up, though he declined to discuss the specifics of his own case.
Khan said several rows were empty at his mosque because Muslims are afraid to come out to worship.
“My life has so been affected by this,” he said, noting he is currently looking for work. “The people who hired me before, if they heard about me, they will not hire me again.”
Imam Ayub Abdul Baki of the Tahuid Center for Islamic Development in Jamaica, emphasized that the Muslim community opposes terrorism.
“We stand against all forms of terrorism,” he said, but warned against racial profiling. “These people should not be continually victimized.”
Sultan Faiz, who attends Flushing’s Abu-Bakr Siddiq Mosque, said the number of parishioners attending Friday prayer service has gone down from 500 to 100 over the past three weeks.
DRUM organizer Ayeesha Mahmooda said she spent three weeks canvassing neighborhoods around Flushing. She said many women have told her their husbands complain of being questioned by law enforcement officials as they are leaving for work.
“They’re putting many residents in the Flushing community in fear,” she said.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community News Group
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