Bangladeshis rallied Sunday night in Jackson Heights, Queens, to condemn the student accused of plotting to blow up the Federal Reserve building in lower Manhattan, and to caution against condemning their community "for the actions of one man."
The leaders of several Bangladeshi immigrant organizations led the rally of about 100 people on a small pedestrian plaza.
Many demanded swift justice for Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis, 21, a Queens man from Bangladesh who was arrested Wednesday in a sting operation after, federal prosecutors said, he attempted to detonate a fake 1,000-pound explosive just blocks from the World Trade Center.
Their mood Sunday night was much like many other Bangladeshis in the New York metro area and beyond who have expressed puzzlement as to why a young man from a middle-class family would plot to detonate a bomb outside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
"Believe me, I was crying. I couldn't sleep several nights," said Sharmin Reza, 37, a Bangladeshi-American teacher in Jackson Heights, who found out about Nafis from her colleagues. "He is not one of us. If I climb a tree, I don't attack that tree, I don't chop that branch. We must investigate this fully. If it's really his crime, he must be punished."
Rally participants said they were not concerned about the community's standing with law enforcement, but said they wanted to remind other Americans not to blame the entire Bangladeshi community. Many pointed out that Nafis was at best young and foolish and at worst mentally ill.
"One deranged individual does not represent our community as a whole. He's not the face of our community; the face is here," said John Uddin, president of the Jalalabad Association of America, gesturing at the people with banners around him.
Bangladeshi immigrants in New York and Washington said they wonder how Nafis became an extremist.
"We have been talking about what is wrong with this boy," said Sajda Solaiman, vice president of the Bangladesh Association of America Inc., a group based in the Washington area.
"We never heard of anybody from Bangladesh being involved with anything like this," Solaiman said. "It's like something is wrong with his head or something."
With Mackenzie Issler, Jo Napolitano and Víctor Manuel Ramos