Flushing Afghanis face vandalism, harassment

By Alexander Dworkowitz

While Flushing is one of the most diverse communities in the most diverse county in the nation, it is not free from hate crimes.

Two days after the attack by Arab terrorists on the World Trade Center, Karin Afghanzadah came to work last Thursday to find the outer concrete wall of his restaurant smashed.

“They broke the wall last night,” said Afghanzadah, owner of the Choupan Kabab Restaurant on Main Street in Flushing. “Today I came and found this.”

Afghanzadah is Muslim and Afghani. His restaurant serves food typical of Afghanistan, which has been harboring Osama bin Laden, who is suspected of ordering the Sept. 11 terrorist raids against the United States.

Afghanzadah neglected to report the damage to the police.

“They’re busy. I don’t want to bother them,” he said.

Afghanzadah said the incident increased his already strong sense of fear.

“Of course, we are scared. I have a daughter. She goes to school in Long Island. They hate the Muslim people, so I wouldn’t let her go.”

At Masjid Hazrat-I-Abubaker, an Afghani mosque in Flushing, members discussed the problems last Thursday they have faced in recent days.

“Someone asked me yesterday if I worked for Osama bin Laden,” said Nori Abdul, a Flushing mechanic and member of the mosque. Basir Raja, another member of the mosque, said his daughter had been teased at school.

Iman Mohammad Sherzad said some members had even received “death threats.”

Nevertheless, Director Ahmad Wais Afzali said the mosque, which was guarded by police, had not been a target.

“There have been isolated incidents throughout the tristate area, but not here,” said Afzali.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown reported Monday that there were two arrests involving a bias incident after the attacks.

“What we can do among other things is to continue to show respect and concern for our neighbors, co-workers and anyone with whom we come in contact — especially those in the Arab-American community,” said Brown.

Shots were fired into a deli owned by an immigrant from Yemen in Cambria Heights and the Jordanian owner of a newsstand in Ridgewood was verbally harassed in two incidents under investigation by police.

Violence against Arab-Americans has sprung up throughout the country over the last week. The Sikh owner of a Mesa, Ariz. gas station was shot to death and mosques in at least six states have been attacked.

But discrimination against Arab-Americans does not only take the form of violence. Afghanzadah noted that in the days since the destruction of the World Trade Center, business has fallen off at his restaurant.

“Business is very slow,” he said.

Less than a block down the street from Afghanzadah’s restaurant, Ashwali Sherman, manager of the Chatkhara Kabab House restaurant, also said his restaurant has seen a decline in business. He said the establishment had not been vandalized, however.

“We’ll be okay, God save us,” he said.

Sherman expressed grave regrets over the attack as well as a concern for the safety of the Muslim community in Queens.

“What’s going on is very bad,” he said. “My sympathies are with those who died and their families.”

“Other people are scared,” he said of the Muslims who live in Flushing.

“I’m not scared.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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