In New York's Little Pakistan, Subdued Joy in the Days After Osama's Death
Tuesday, May 03, 2011
Along the short stretch on Coney Island Avenue, home to many people who were born in the same country in which Osama bin Laden was captured and killed on Sunday, subdued joy prevailed two days after it was announced the terrorist mastermind was dead.
Residents of Little Pakistan, in the Midwood section of Brooklyn, said they were surprised to hear that America's No. 1 enemy had been captured in Abbottabad, which has a large military base and a military academy of the Pakistani Army.
But even with all the scrutiny that their homeland’s government might face in the weeks to come, they said bin Laden’s end could only bring positive things for New York’s Pakistanis.
"I'm glad they got him," said Riaz Saleemi, 60. "We've been getting backlash over time. People think we are also terrorists, and perhaps that will stop now."
Saleemi, a sales associate at 7-Eleven, said it was hard to avoid conflation of responsibility after September 11. He was yelled at on a few occasions by people who expressed anger with Muslims, but bin Laden's death has the power to put an end to perceptions people have, he said.
His sentiment was shared by Asif Mahmod, 34, taxi driver, who was getting his coffee before the 5 p.m. shift: "This is the most hunted criminal who killed thousand of people in 9/11," he said. "This guy should be killed."
Mahmod also said he was convinced the Pakistani government played its role in providing a safe haven for the world's most-wanted terrorist. "I'm 100 percent sure they helped him hide," he said. "Everyone here knows that."
But on a street dotted with halal butcher shops and grocery, jewelry and apparel stores, some, such as Sharib Muhammad, disagreed.
"Pakistani government has too many problems of its own to be helping bin Laden," Muhammad, 82, said as he walked along Coney Island Avenue. "Besides, the Pakistani people also suffered because of what bin Laden did."
While disagreements like these continue to persist, everyone agreed they had paid extra attention to the news in the past few days.
Everyone that is, except one man, who works in a restaurant on Coney Island Avenue. Somehow all the hubbub had passed him by.
"So they caught him?" he asked. "I'm happy."
For more, listen to WNYC's Arun Venugopal's report below.