Lackawanna leaders: Terror arrest does not reflect wider community

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The arrest of Arafat Nagi on terror-related charges Wednesday morning has left many people in the Lackawanna community shocked and shaken. And, now, some are also worried about how others will think this reflects on the wider community.

“It’s an individual person who did a crime, did something wrong. They should not picture everybody the same,” said Lackawanna Councilman Abdulsalam Noman.

Just about everyone News 4 crews spoke to in Lackawanna this week had positive things to say about the community. They called it quiet, safe, and close-knit. But many in the area, especially in the Muslim community, say they’re are concerned that what Nagi is accused of doing is painting the whole area and its residents in a bad light. “I don’t want them to picture us like they did in the Lackawanna Six,” Noman said.

It’s been more than a decade since the men who were part of the Lackanna Six group were arrested and ultimately pleaded guilty to providing material support of terrorism after taking part in an Al Qaida training camp before 9/11. But, some of those men were living just up the street from the home the FBI searched on Wednesday, and Nagi is facing similar charges for his alleged support of a terrorist organization, so there is a painful sense of déjà vu here.

And local leaders are once again having to call for some perspective. “If Mr. Nagi did something wrong, then it is Mr. Nagi. It is not the whole community or the Muslim community at large,” Noman said.

“No true religion of God, especially the Islamic religion, supports, teaches, or calls for terrorizing or the plan to terrorize innocent people of any religion or nationalities,” pointed out Anwar Alkalai, the president of the Lackawanna Islamic Mosque.

People in Lackawanna also say Nagi was not active in this community and he hadn’t attended the mosque there in years. “So we don’t really know who he is in terms of what he does these days. Nobody knows,” said Khalid Qazi, the founding president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York.

But somebody in the community had their suspicions about Nagi, and shared their concerns to the authorities. That’s something local leaders encourage. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement agencies to make sure our community is safe,” Alkalai said.

Even so, local Muslim leaders say they’ll also continue to work with local civil rights agencies to protect the rights of everyone in the community. One terror arrest doesn’t give anyone the right to treat anyone else like a terrorist.

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