The man accused of trying to blow up the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan repeatedly espoused the peaceful nature of Islam.
He was convinced Osama bin Laden had nothing to do with the 9/11 terror attacks, saying "a good Muslim wouldn't do that."
At the same time, Quazi Mohammad Rezwanul Ahsan Nafis condemned Israel and contended that American pop culture was defiling his native Bangladesh.
Nafis' fellow worshippers, friends and classmates at Southeast Missouri State University offered those views in interviews here Friday.
Nafis, 21, was arrested by federal agents Wednesday after he allegedly attempted to detonate a fake 1,000-pound bomb hidden in a van parked outside the federal facility.
Entering the country on a student visa, Nafis enrolled in a cybersecurity study program in January and took classes until May, when he moved to Jamaica, Queens, sharing a duplex with a cousin and his family.
Almost every day, Nafis prayed at the Islamic Center of Cape Girardeau, where he also volunteered, members said.
"He was a gentle guy," said Dion Duncan, who met Nafis at the mosque. The two became friends and often had long talks, usually about Islam.
Duncan, a new convert, credits Nafis with helping him learn Muslim rituals and prayers.
Duncan, a 21-year-old junior at Southeast Missouri State, said Nafis often talked about how he felt Israel was discriminating against Palestinians.
Nafis also held strong opinions about America's influence on Bangladesh, claiming American music, clothes, movies and politics were ruining his nation's culture and way of life, Duncan said.
"He told me he didn't like it . . . that people in Bangladesh were losing their Islamic faith," the student said.
Jim Dow, 54, of nearby Sikeston, Mo., said he was stunned by the arrest of Nafis, his physics classmate. They had classes together twice a week last semester, and Dow said he often drove Nafis home.
Dow said Nafis told him once that he didn't believe bin Laden was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks because he was a good Muslim. On a few occasions, Dow said Nafis insisted that Islam doesn't support such violence.
"He believed that Islam was the pure word of God," Dow said.
Dow said Nafis gave him a Koran. He said he thought Nafis wanted to convert him to Islam, which at the time he found "kind of flattering."
Dr. Ahman Sheikh, a mosque member, said Nafis volunteered for the center's Feed the Hungry program.
He said Nafis couldn't drive and was struggling financially. Nafis was trying to find a job on campus because his student visa restricted other options, Sheikh said.
Sheikh said he never heard Nafis support violence of any kind.
"We perceived him as being very gentle and kind," he said.
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