Categorized | Bangladeshi, Featured, Politics, Queens

Bangladeshis Rally to Condemn “That Action”

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About 50 Bangladeshis, surrounded by scores of curious onlookers, waved placards proclaiming “No to Violence,” in a quiet Jackson Heights protest Sunday evening that was designed to distance the city’s Bangladeshi community from the 21-year-old student, charged with plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

The demonstrators stood mostly silent for two hours in the cold evening breeze, huddled on 37th Road’s crowded pedestrian plaza, behind a banner draped with images of American and Bangladeshi flags. There were no shouts or chants, just a silent display of placards proclaiming “We Are Against The Terrorism,” and “We Love to Live With Peace and Harmony.” Only a few posters made a veiled reference to Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, the Bangladeshi man arrested by the FBI last week. “We Condemn That Action,” or, “We Reject That Action,” read the posters, without specifying that the “action” referred to the Nafis case.

“We are not naming names because we condemn every terroristic act by any individual or group,” said Taiyabur Rahman Tony, a rally participant. “But it is obvious what brought us out here.”

Bangladeshis display placards during a silent, anti-terrorism protest. Credit: SRILA NAYAK

Many in the crowd said they had come in order to emphasize that the allegations against Nafis were not in keeping with what they cited as the immigrant community’s reputation in the U.S.: hard-working, honest and non-violent.

“When I heard it was someone from Bangladesh, I was shocked. It was completely unbelievable. But one deranged individual does not represent the community as a whole,” said John Uddin, who plans to run for next year’s City Council elections.

Some within the community worry that the Nafis case could cast suspicion on all Bangladeshi immigrants, subjecting them to racial profiling.

“One objective for holding this rally is to discourage any other Bangladeshi from contemplating such an action,” explained Bedarul Islam Babla, president of the Bangladesh League, which organized Sunday’s event. “Previously these operations involved some other nations. Now, because a Bangladeshi has been caught, people might look at us and think differently.”

Bangladesh, generally regarded as a moderate Muslim country, has not received nearly as much attention as its South Asian neighbor Pakistan in the arena of global terrorism. But Syed Haque, who attended the rally, worries that image could change.

“I felt some embarrassment in my office,” after the Nafis arrest, said Haque. My colleagues want to know what happened. They say, ‘Bangladeshi people are so nice and quiet; how come this guy did this kind of thing. ’”

Federal law enforcement officials have been increasingly criticized for their role in apprehending terrorism suspects across certain communities. While most activists at the rally said they supported the FBI’s methods, some suggested sting operations like the one that caught Nafis were unfair. FBI arrested Nafis Wednesday after he tried to detonate a bomb hidden in a van he parked outside the bank. The bomb was actually a fake, assembled by Nafis, with materials and help supplied by an undercover federal agent, according to the FBI’s account.

“I feel there should be a different technique that ought to be adopted by the FBI,” said Babla. “But the person concerned is a 21-year-old adult. He is responsible for his own actions and should have known the difference between wrong and right.”

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