Flushing Afghanis march in unity against terrorism

“Death to Bin Laden!” chanted…

By Alexander Dworkowitz

A group of nearly 100 Afghani Muslims from Flushing marched through the downtown area Friday afternoon, passionately proclaiming their support for the United States and their disgust at the attack on the World Trade Center.

“Death to Bin Laden!” chanted the crowd, referring to Saudi Arabian national Osama bin Laden, who has been harbored by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and is believed to have ordered the Sept. 11 terrorist strikes on the United States. “Death to Bin Laden terrorist!”

The march was organized by Iman Mohammad Sherzad and the Afghani mosque of Masjid Hazrat-I-Abubaker, located on 33rd Ave. in Flushing. The marchers carried signs putting forth one unified message that “Islam is a religion of peace and justice” and “We condemn the terrorist acts on the WTC and the Pentagon”

The group stopped traffic on Northern Boulevard for several minutes as they crossed the thoroughfare to reach the 109th Precinct.

“This march is to show support to the victims’ families and to tell the world they have the wrong image of Islam and Afghanis,” said Wais Chardiwal, a member of the mosque who works as a fire safety director.

“Why don’t you believe us?” screamed a woman at the front of the march to the crowd, carrying a crying baby in her arms. “We are not terrorists!”

The woman’s desperation was not unfounded. Many of the marchers said they had been harassed in the days since the attack, and they hoped that the march would help lead to an end to the bias incidents.

“The people bother me because of my scarf,” said Farieda Karimzada. “They tell me I’m a terrorist.” Karimzada said her husband, concerned for her safety, no longer let her walk to work but instead drove her from door to door.

As the marchers turned down Union Street, a crowd gathered, staring at the sight of men and women dressed in traditional Islamic garb screaming for the death of Osama bin Laden.

At the end of the march, most of the participants were taken back to the mosque on city buses.

“We don’t want them to get hurt on their way back,” said a police officer from the 109th Precinct as he called for the buses.

A Flushing man who wished to remain anonymous said he was not surprised to see members of the Flushing Muslim community march against terrorism.

“Some of them live in my house,” he said. “They’re just people.”

Others, however, were more suspicious.

“They got their rights too,” said Natalia Martinez, a Flushing resident who works as a nurse’s aid. Pointing to the marchers, she added, “but you don’t even know who’s an enemy there.”

The march was a decisive display by the imam amid reports that several members of the Afghani mosque had split from the main group because of their support of the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group. For the members of the mosque, a denunciation of Osama bin Laden goes beyond a stand against terrorism and enters into the politics of their homeland.

“Osama bin Laden killed our leader,” said Neptune Qubadi. Qubadi referred to Ahmed Shah Massoud, who led the Afghani Northern Alliance opposition against the Taliban in Afghanistan until he died as the result of an assassination attempt only three days before the World Trade Center American and Russian diplomats are currently in contact with the Northern Alliance seeking possible cooperation.

“My mind is not together,” said Chardiwal. “We just lost one of our biggest heroes.”

Although several marchers were from other countries, the majority were Afghani, and there was some resentment toward Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, which has supported the Taliban and still maintains diplomatic ties with the regime.

“Pakistan and Taliban out of Afghanistan!” chanted some members of the crowd.

“The problem is that the mosque is not just Afghani,” said Chardiwal. “The military regime of Pakistan does support terrorists.”

Reach Reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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