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Uzbeks In New York React To Attack

Nov 2, 2017
Originally published on November 2, 2017 10:08 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And we are learning more this morning about Sayfullo Saipov, the 29-year-old man accused of carrying out that deadly attack in New York City Tuesday. One of the things we know about him is that he is an immigrant from Uzbekistan. That's an economically struggling republic in Central Asia that is predominantly Muslim. Brooklyn happens to be home to a large population of Uzbeks, and many of them are now trying to make sense of Tuesday's violence. Beth Fertig of member station WNYC has more.

BETH FERTIG, BYLINE: Brooklyn is home to the nation's largest concentration of immigrants from Uzbekistan. On the day after the terror attack, several community leaders were invited to Brooklyn Borough Hall to talk about solutions to radical Islam. Sixty-six-year-old Abdullah Kwaja blames the Internet.

ABDULLAH KWAJA: They are putting on misinformation and disinformation to blame everything, every misery happening in the world, to United States.

FERTIG: Kwaja heads a group for Uzbek Americans that's based in New Jersey.

KWAJA: We always talk about these problems against radicalization and what Islam says, what the true Islam is.

FERTIG: But he says there's no such organization in Brooklyn, no Uzbek mosque to welcome newcomers and counter radical messages. At Wednesday's meeting, they suggested asking a Turkish mosque to collaborate with an Uzbek-speaking imam. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also called for a community center and posters in Uzbek offering support services so the Internet isn't as much of a draw.

ERIC ADAMS: Our goal is counterbalance that with institutions with cultural centers, with information to really allow a young person to know that that hate speech shouldn't radicalize him.

FERTIG: He's worried because two years ago, four Brooklyn men were charged with plotting to provide support to ISIS, three of whom were Uzbek. Brooklyn's Uzbeks are hardly monolithic. They include Jewish and Muslim immigrants who came during the Soviet era and newer immigrants who left an authoritarian country for freedom. Shahha Madi is Muslim. She came here to study this year.

SHAHHA MADI: A lot of Uzbek people lives and works here. The people is very welcome. Everybody nice, you know, friendly. I don't think so, no, it's not hard.

FERTIG: She's dubious about whether the Internet inspired Tuesday's attack. Like a lot of people, she's at a loss to explain what would motivate such a horrific act. For NPR News, I'm Beth Fertig in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF CATACOMBE'S "ZENITH") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.